The production of the Montréal record label Ambiances Magnétiques always oscillated between avant-garde songwriting and free improvisation. The former was very important in the early days (1985-1990), later left aside (during the mid-'90s), and finally regained interest at the turn of the century. Ambiances Magnétiques, Vol. 5: Chante! 1985-2000 compiles songs from a broad range of artists on the label and presents them in a comprehensive and exciting way. Although this CD is made of all previously available tracks (two selections -- from Wondeur Brass and Les Poules -- were still unissued on CD), special care has been put into the running order, which makes it enjoyable as a whole. The label had to stretch the definition of the song format a lot to find enough material, though. Selections from Wondeur Brass, Justine, Papa Boa, André Duchesne, and Joane Hétu are all strong avant rock songs. The more classy contemporary song stylings of Pierre Cartier and Geneviève Letarte bring a pensive touch to the ensemble, but one can question the presence of more atmospheric or improvised pieces like Diane Labrosse's "Constellations" and "Liberté," or Martin Tétreault and Michel F. Côté's "Juin." All lyrics are sung in French, of course, but in most cases they are not essential to comprehension of the music itself. Ambiances Magnétiques, Vol. 5: Chante! 1985-2000 does not bring anything new to the table, but it reminds listeners of the label's commitment to songwriting and makes a good introduction to the more accessible portion of its catalog.
AllMusic Review by François Couture