reviewed by Anna Alger
Enrapturing melodies capture the sound of Montreal pianist Jean-Michel Blais’ work from the first track on his debut album, Il. He creates waterfalls of sound that envelop the listener, the music trickling into delicate solo piano.
The songs on this album flow together, although Blais takes his time as he fleshes out each musical idea. His playing is crisp yet warm, with a depth and intimacy to it. Only one other instrument’s sound is explored on Il, the haunting synth that provides a backdrop to Blais’ frenzied playing on “Nostos,” which features BUFFLO.
Blais allows his recordings to retain outside noise, such as rustling (“Hasselblad 2”) and a child speaking outside (“Hasselblad 4”) allowing these elements to contextualize his work, grounding it in a rather busy city environment. His melodies are intricate, pointed, and melancholic in songs such as “Hasselblad 2.” However, Blais also has an exuberant side to his work, as heard in the playful, ever-changing rhythms of “Budapest.” He uses silence and tension in “Casa” to dramatic effect, while “Rondo majeur” trails softly back into the hum of urban life.
Jean-Michel Blais has debuted with a powerful collection of songs, which are equal parts dark and light in tone. This is a modern music that reflects the brief nature of moments in which city dwellers notice beauty around them – Blais encourages us to stay and listen for awhile.
Top Track: “Hasselblad 2”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)