I recall Joane Hétu’s activity with Wondeur Brass – a respectable band – countless years ago, then lost track of the coordinates. Largely unaware of the Quebecois’ subsequent operations, I gladly devoted myself to the analysis of this CD, comprising a 57-minute work for an a cappella ensemble (12 voices) instructed and directed by Hétu.
This occasionally theatrical phonetic patchwork caused mixed reactions. Joker – described as a “chorale bruitiste” in the presentation – is a sort of poor man’s avantgarde choir, featuring a good number of spoken snippets (a little too many for my liking) and improvised sections merged with composed parts and out-and-out songs. You take what it gives according to your personal inclinations which, depending on the moment, could mean an elastic-minded acceptation, an approving nod, or a thorough refusal.
Genuinely praiseworthy are the tangled counterpoints (often of the involuntary kind) and a few remarkable harmonic fluctuations enriched by an indisputable human warmth. Archetypal expressions related to astonishment, playfulness or inquietude are more reminiscent of certain shopworn traditions of “cultivated avant-vocalism”, and quite ostentatious in that sense. Finding hints to newness (and real interest) in there becomes harder, although the cultural values and the overall consciousness remain intact.
Où Est-il Donc Ce Rêve? would possibly earn a better mark had this reviewer experienced Joker in a live context, where the probability of a deeper individual involvement is high; this debut album is just a recorded demonstration of what they do. Surely over average, but not necessarily one to return to in a hurry.