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Flore Laurentienne — Volume I
(RVNG Intl. RVNGNL73, 2022, CD / LP / DL)

Flore Laurentienne — Volume II
(RVNG Intl. RVNGNL83, 2022, CD / LP / DL)

by Jon Davis, Published 2022-12-09

Volume I Cover artVolume II Cover art

It might seem like there is a huge gulf between a Baroque master like J.S. Bach and a 20th Century minimalist icon like Philip Glass, not just in time but in the techniques of music composition. Mathieu David Gagnon is a Canadian composer who seamlessly straddles this gulf, in the process demonstrating that it’s perhaps not as extreme as it may appear. I chose Glass as the modern side of the chasm deliberately, since his music is tonal, building on traditional tonalities but using them in non-traditional ways — a comparison with a composer who ventures into atonality would be less apropos. Volume I presents eight pieces by Gagnon, and while they vary in instrumentation, the underlying aesthetic is quite consistent. It starts with “Fleuve I,” a piece for strings that is reminiscent of a classic 60s movie soundtrack of the orchestral variety, with bold melodies that could nicely accompany wide establishing shots of the plains or desert in a Western film. But there are touches of modern processing, including echoes and unusual atmospheres that bring it into the present. “Petit Piano” features an electronic organ (rather than the titular piano) backed by strings, at times bringing to mind early works of Philip Glass if he’d favored strings instead of woodwinds. There are arpeggios and repeating rhythmic patterns underlying the music, but they’re not as prominent as with Glass. “Soir” injects some Bach-like polyphony into its parts, again with strings and electronic keyboards, and while some of the harmonic choices are decidedly non-Baroque, the feeling is there. It’s quite lovely, but Gagnon skillfully works in modern dissonances to heighten the impact. “1991” is a meditative piece for electronic organ with a bit of electronic weirdness for spice; “Route” features only synthesizers and has a sound a bit like Pink Floyd’s “On the Run” from Dark Side of the Moon. All of these different sounds act as a sort of continuum within which Gagnon operates, ranging from string orchestra on one end to keyboards at the other, and while the sounds and moods have enough variety to stay interesting, there’s a consistency that makes Volume I a satisfying whole.

Volume II continues with eight more selections featuring similar sounds and techniques. “Voiles” has Glass-like arpeggios from an organ and legato string parts, plus a few woodwind instruments for added color, and synthesizers move in towards the end. “Navigation III” is arranged for piano and other keyboards, while “Navigation IV” places a slow synthesizer sequence behind strings. In “Kamouraska” we have a meditative piece for solo organ, and there are two versions of “Fleuve V,” one for mixed keyboards and one for strings. In general, Volume II tends a bit towards the contemplative side, with less energetic moods, but both volumes serve to mark Gagnon as a noteworthy composer.

Filed under: New releases, 2022 releases

Related artist(s): Mathieu David Gagnon (Flore Laurentienne)

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