Collectif9's Volksmobiles

Mar 22, 2016

...in which great graphic design does its job, and gets me to listen to an album that was in the middle of a stack that was supposed to go straight into the library.

The debut album from the Canadian string ensemble Collectif9 leaves you excited to hear what they're going to do next.

The album kicks off with an arrangement of the Rondo alla Zingarese from Brahms' first piano quartet, which the Montreal-based string ensemble plays in a much more edgy and strident way than you usually hear it. Then, after some Schnittke, comes the title track by Geof Holbrook, which the ensemble commissioned. It’s a whirlwind of a piece, with shimmering arpeggios in the first and second movements. The third movement sounds like something out of a drumline, and the group creates a surprising the variety of textures by using their violins, violas, cellos, and basses as percussion instruments. It's fun, it's propulsive, and it leaves you wanting more.

By far, though, the best thing on the album is the last track: Petit concerto pour Carignan, a classical-Celtic crossover by André Gagnon which they seem to have recorded through some sort of wizardry. It begins sounding as if it's a baroque-era concerto playing through an old radio, and quickly morphs (seamlessly) into a jig that could have been played by the Chieftains. The video below doesn't have the same engineering treatment at the beginning, but it's still excellent.

You can see more videos of their performances on their website.

Les Chaises Berc¸antes // collectif9 "Petit concerto pour Carignan" from Lesaiguillestournentàl'envers on Vimeo.