Lately, I’ve been engrossed by two works of art: Elan Mastai’s debut novel, All Our Wrong Todays and Montreal-based singer-songwriter Catherine Leduc’s new album, Un bras de distance avec le soleil.
Mastai’s story is a hyperrealistic speculative fiction tale about ‘chrononauts’, the world’s first time travellers, who follow an energy thread from the present to the past and back again, altering both, possibly not for the better (no spoilers, please, I’m half way through). Mastai’s protagonist finds himself suspended between his pre- and post-time travel realities, existing in both at the same time.
The music of Un bras de distance avec le soleil is like that, as well. Leduc’s sonically rich tapestry transcends the barriers of genre and time. Imagine what we would consider to be a ‘vintage folk’ sound if synthesizers had been invented one hundred years earlier, or if glam had happened to jazz instead of rock.
I agree with some of the descriptions I’ve read, calling the album ‘carnivalesque’, infused as it is with atmospheric twists and turns. Leduc’s musical language is phantasmagoric, but she’s grounded these nine songs with her contemplative, sombre lyrics. My French isn’t as strong as Grayowl Point’s Michael Thomas’, so I appreciate some of the more subtle turns of phrases he’s pointed out. Even the most rudimentary understanding of Leduc’s native language isn’t enough to stop the intent of her words from connecting with non-francophone listeners. The piano driven ballad “Le temps séparé” is a two- and-a-half-minute musical stunner; “Tes sommets sont mes montagnes”, an eight minute opus, is a languid lullaby that uses physical distance as a metaphor for emotional separation. Regardless of their various lengths, you’ll never want the songs of Un bras de distance avec le soleil to end.
Catherine Leduc is a chrononaut in her own right, following familiar musical threads backwards and forwards through space and time, taking familiar elements and blending them in unexpected ways. Un bras de distance avec le soleil is a musical journey that will change your future and present for the better and leave you with a new perspective on the past.