Montreal’s Tambour (Simon P. Castonguay) released two EPs in 2015 and 2016 that were later folded into an LP. Since then he’s been quiet, save for the exquisite winter single “Silhouettes.” As Chapitre I was one of the first releases on the Moderna label, we associate artist and label with each other; it’s good to hear them both back in action.
Another less obvious association is Castonguay’s partnership with Pietro Amato, who contributed French horn to Chapitre II, “Silhouettes” and now this EP. As the “secret weapon” in Bell Orchestre, he was largely responsible for our attraction to that sadly dormant band. The Mommies on the Run String Quartet (nice name!) also features strongly on the new release.
Constellations (ou comment arrêter le temps/or how to stop time) seems to address the time between releases. The release explores the nature of time passing, in all of its guises: time flying, time slowing to a crawl, time (as Alan Parsons once sang) flowing like a river to the sea. And what better metaphor than the stars, according to the book of Genesis placed in the sky for us to measure time? The stars so lovely and seemingly infinite; yet once in a while one twinkles out of existence, and we realize that it has been gone for some time, and we have been following its last light.
Castonguay’s pensive piano provides the starting point for these compositions, which rise into the firmament, eyes pointed to the cosmos. As we look up, we also look within. We remember choices; we examine perspective; we wish upon stars. Seeing patterns above, we wonder if there are constellations below as well: people, events and experiences, connected by invisible lines.
According to Tambour, the EP is meant to be played as a whole so that one may “lose one’s self” in the tracks. This is easiest on first play, as the listener has no idea how the EP will unfold. On subsequent plays, one gleans the shape and begins to map it out: the chimes of “Ursa Minor (Caroline’s Theme),” sparkling like the evening sky; the soft breaths of “Cassiopée (Mirror Maps),” Amato’s finest moment. Listeners may try to unmoor themselves while listening, but this set, no matter how many times it is played, remains at 26 minutes and 46 seconds. Better perhaps to underline the manner in which the music pauses or redirects time, calming the mood and slowing the thoughts. Tambour may not have stopped time, but he’s certainly captured a moment. (Richard Allen)