Notre Dame de la Colline ~ Poèmes fous pour herbes fraîches

A lot may be written about the collective Founding our own Glorious Chapels, who brought us TorqueMadra a few years back.  Remember those wondrous, glorious days when all we had to worry about were Brexit and Trump, and the pandemic was a distant dream?  Presenting solo projects and team-ups, albums and shows, the collective boasts an international flavor and breaks down borders for the greater good.  Their manifesto reads like a fever poem: chapters, chapels, secret festivals.  We suspect secret handshakes as well, passwords, coded phrases.  Even the cover is esoteric, a hint of GY!BE in the typography.  But when it comes down to it, it’s more important simply to listen to the music of Anathème’s founder and to wander to one’s own definition of holiness.

Composed in winter in a small chalet, Poèmes fous pour herbes fraîches (if Google Translate is accurate, Crazy poems for fresh herbs) presents a series of vignettes inspired by legends, although one will have a hard time playing match up due to the generality of the titles (“Chronicle of Ancient Facts,” “Beautiful Dead Saint,” “The Book of Hymns”).  Instead, the music is meant to chronicle the very idea of legends: the stories that motivate us, inspire us, warn us, provide a framework for our own tales and an explanation for our circumstances.  As many stem from religious literature and the cover art includes both cross and crown, it’s no surprise that the music feels like the chapel it implies: in this case, a chapel of one.

From the very beginning, it’s all about the bells and brass.  The bells imply carols and clocks, the brass processions and celebrations.  The slow, steady opener recalls vast curtains drawn back to reveal the arrival of the king.  The guitar and drums seem only afterthoughts.  But the horns yield the heroes’ and heroines’ themes, the trumpet of “L’Ecureuil de la Discord” an early exemplar.  One can imagine the chain mail armor, the polished sword, the noble steed.  At the midway mark, the cello becomes a primary player, assuming the role of serpent ~ though it’s unclear whether this is the serpent of the Garden or the emblem of the medical profession.  Legends can go either way.  But no matter the interpretation, the dramatic tension is increased.

The overall effect is akin to wandering the chapel of Notre Dame de la Colline (Our Lady of the Hill), stopping before each sculpture and stained glass window.  Ancient cathedrals were meant to inspire awe, as music, reverberation and light spoke in manners that words and sacraments could not.  Following in their tradition, this album serves as a reminder that we make our own legends; once upon a time, every legend was simply the news story of the day.  (Richard Allen)

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