This album stands aside in Joane Hétu's discography. Even though the lineup is similar to the one in her avant rock group Castor et Compagnie (Jean Derome, Diane Labrosse, Pierre Tanguay, plus Guillaume Dostaler), Musique d'Hiver (Winter Music) showcases a very different approach. Pianist Dostaler was brought in so that usual samplist/keyboardist Diane Labrosse could concentrate exclusively on her accordion. Alto saxophone (both by Hétu and Derome), flute (Derome), percussion (Tanguay), vocals (Hétu), and various tapes (situational recordings) complete the all-acoustic instrumentation. Musique d'Hiver is a cycle of four pieces, one for each month from December to March, each about 16 minutes in duration. They are delicately crafted, slow-paced compositions for improvisers and include short sections with lyrics in the middle. Themes and melodies are spartan, slow, and reminiscent of Phillip Glass, and mostly played on flute and/or accordion. The atmosphere of snow, ice, and cold always remains tangible. "La Chute" ("The Fall") opens on a light, serene cascading motif announcing the arrival of winter, while "Perdu l'Nord" ("Lost the Way") is the craziest piece, with themes running into each other and free improvisation taking more room, picturing the relentlessness of one's soul as spring (and with it deliverance) approaches. The maturity found in Musique d'Hiver recalls the softer passages on Mets Ta Langue, Hétu's second CD with Castor et Compagnie. But here her approach takes a whole new dimension as she eludes any extremes, taking the listener on a one-hour trip into Québecois winter, music that oscillates between sound art, minimalist songwriting, and composition for improvisers. Strikingly beautiful, this CD could very well become Joane Hétu's finest hour. The booklet includes English translations of the lyrics. Very strongly recommended.
AllMusic Review by François Couture