Mélanie Auclair

Puce à l'oreille

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Puce à l'oreille is Mélanie Auclair's debut album, released soon after her appearance on the compilation CD Sang 9, a survey of the new generation of Quebec avant-garde artists curated by DAME, Ambiances Magnétiques' umbrella company. This new addition to the label's roster is not all that impressive. Consisting of one solo piece, six duets, and one final trio, the album constantly showcases the limitations of the young cellist and vocalist,by pitting her against much more experienced improvisers. The opening track (tracks are designated by drawings instead of bearing titles) is basically a drone, elegant and intimate, but lacking in character. The duet with keyboardist Vincent Réhel is interesting, Auclair again sticking to droning textures. Her meetings with tabla player Guy Thouin, saxophonist Charles Papasoff, guitarist Bernard Falaise (of Miriodor and Klaxon Gueule), and vocalist Joane Hétu feature a wide variety of approaches. Auclair is clearly dominated by the ferocious baritone sax of Papasoff, and by Falaise's ever-fascinating guitar textures, although the piece with the latter is the disc's highlight, thanks to some highly lyrical passages on the cello and a surprising use of electronic treatments. At the other end of the spectrum, the duet with double-bassist Éric Auclair is weak, failing to go anywhere as it runs from one incomplete idea to another. Measuring yourself up to established musicians on your debut album is certainly a daring move, but in this particular case it works against, not for Auclair.

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