Monday, 1 July 2013

River Jones at Cabaret Lion d'Or (BANDSTAND)

River Jones  |  Cabaret Lion d'Or

                        PHOTOS  |  VALERIA VEGA

Before Bruno Larivière used an anglicised version of his last name to designate his project, he was calling it ‘I’m a Tiger’. You might be tempted to assume that it’s just another gimmick, but you would be mistaken.

The thing is, when the time comes to record a new album, Larivière becomes a loner. His typically very active social instincts take a break, he locks himself in the studio, and plays all the instruments, for every song. That is why he used to describe himself as a tiger, that is, an animal that lives in community, but hunts alone. He actually used his recorded album as a sort of resume, with which he recruited the musicians who now tour with him.
That is one of Larivière’s many somewhat peculiar habits.

Others include his tendency to write lyrics on the day of the recording, spontaneously, without any preparation. He claims that, “it’s automatic writing; it’s like the lyrics write themselves, and I find the theme based on the atmosphere of the song.” He even adds, “It could actually be instrumental music. However, in Western rock music, it seems that when you want to express a message, it usually needs to be done through vocals.”

The focus on atmosphere is a central part of Larivière’s project. He is very interested in the way folk and rock acts structure their songs, but he mentions that he mainly listens to electronic music at the moment. He thus builds the skeleton of his songs using his vocal chords, a harmonica and a guitar, then he records basic tracks on his laptop, before sleeping (or partying) on it.

So the partying is part of the creative process? “Undoubtedly,” he laughs. “Let us not lie to ourselves, here.”

From there, the songs are deconstructed and given a precise vibe, thanks to various instruments and devices, a lot of which are pieces of electronic gear: samplers, synths, and toys of the like. “We’re not afraid of using these things,” Larivière declares, “although they should not be used just because it’s what is being thrown in people’s ears these days; electronic music is expanding a lot. When we use machines, it is always to benefit the song or the atmosphere.”

And what might this atmosphere be? one might wonder. “We enjoy tradition,” Larivière says. “We like to be audacious when it comes to certain things, like in the use of machines, for instance, but we are very conventional in terms of our overall image. We like old stuff, we like old things, we like roots, the authenticity of things. We don’t like ‘minute modes’, and that’s why we are, perhaps, not as sped up, dynamic, and refreshing as other bands. It’s because we don’t want to have to live with the ephemeral side of what we do. We try to make things that will pass the test of time.”

Dedication & Rhapsodies, Larivière’s project’s debut LP, might just live up to his ambitious expectations. A blend of 60s folky rock and modern indie-rock, River Jones’ sound is full of original drum patterns, beautiful harmonies, steady electric guitar strumming, sweet acoustic guitar riffs, nice little keys sequences, and surprisingly good lyrics (given their last-minute quality). All but two pieces on the record are apparently dedicated to someone Larivière knows (hence the album’s title), and the overall production of it is truly stellar. Larivière mentions that he took his time recording it, devoting long moments to discussion and deliberation with his producer (Ion Dissonance’s guitarist) Antoine Lussier.

On May 29th, when River Jones performed on the second night of Bandstand, the songs of that great record were showcased in amazing fashion. Indeed, when performed live, the band’s pieces are even more effective than on its irreproachably produced record. While Bruno handled guitar and vocals with convincing precision, a keyboardist, one more guitarist/vocalist, a bassist, and a drummer backed him up superbly, sometimes accompanying him vocally to give birth to marvellous harmonies.

In the dimly lit cabaret, the music took on a cinematic aspect, thanks to very elaborate build-ups that led to astonishingly epic peaks. At the centre of it all, elevating guitar riffs would rise from the ground to explode smoothly in passionate waves of reverby goodness. It surprised me how heavy the delivery of some of the more upbeat pieces ended up being. Often, songs would shift abruptly from one atmospheric quality to another, in the space of a second, with disarming exactitude.
Jackal, a song dealing with a First Nations theme, was rendered incredibly, with a long and very intense ethereal intro, as well as highly spirited drumming. The set ended in a manic jam, showcasing the unit’s eagerness to lose it from time to time.

When asked about it, Larivière is speaking excitedly about his next moment of lonesome recording. So if you wondered, yes, there is another album in the works. Sweetness.

In the meantime, I invite you to view the band's video for its song Lifetime, produced by Ray Laver, Pierre-Luc Boucher, helped by Bruno and New Nation Creations. The keywords of the making of this video go as follow: "little sleep", "a blast", "dangerous", "lots of fun".

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