Published in The Link 36.11 on November 2 2015
If ever a launch party could portend the future, Renard Blanc would be the one to throw it.
The St. Hyacinthe, Quebec power-prog outfit recently did just that, as they threw a premiere for their first album, Empire Onirique, which dropped on Oct. 30. The band is made up of a dynamic trio of musicians: Alexandre Crepeau on drums, Jacob Gladu on bass and keyboard, and Vincent Lepage on guitar and vocals. The launch party was held Oct. 28. Also on the 28th: Rain and cold.
By the time the band finished setting up in the very small room on the upper floor of La Passe, those standing around were ready for the show to start. Maybe the dripping ceiling near the door heightened the effect, but there were a great deal of cold and wet people, huddled together and waiting—when the lights went down, many people lining the walls under the domed skylight hushed, everyone desperate for a pick up.
Cue a camera flash on packed room, enter a shimmering guitar riff leading into the first song, and exit the cold and wet atmosphere. There was no longer space in the room for anything but music.
Renard Blanc didn’t say the names of the songs they performed (unless I missed them), but piecing it together from the album, they lead with “Les Pendules à Leures,” and they definitely played “Psychomagie,” “Fuir Ailleurs,” “Doucement” and “La Brume.” The sonic circumstances of the room were so unique, and the band deftly folded that into their performance.
They also tuned in to the exasperation of the crowd, fueled by the bitterness of the weather and the sudden realization that winter is coming. They fed off of it, spinning the songs out and wheeling them back in with the incredible control of an already dynamic sound, playing with the emotions of the audience.
Their sound is also excellent for tackling Seasonal Affective Disorder in general. It has sinister undertones, with dark keyboard lines and minor scales hidden underneath all of the glorious noise. This comes out in the quieter moments, when the uplifting arpeggios fade into the background with a cymbal roll and a gasp of air between exalting vocals. The glitch effects help the atmosphere of it, along with the child-like voice samples. The fact that it takes a dark heart and makes such an engulfing and complete experience with it—without being, like, really sad—is cool. Case in point in song: “Fuir Ailleurs,” which carries this resonance both in the live experience and the recorded track.
Because these songs are complete packages, it’s the texture inside that will bring you back for more—subtle flourishes like a lone guitar slide that goes unrepeated for the remainder of a song, an extra beat on the hi-hat signaling a mood transition, or really good but underplayed bass parts throughout. Just watching them set up their kit was indicative of the care they put into their art. Muting sheets carefully laid over snares, pedalboards delicately arrayed below exquisite guitars, each detail was attended to.
All in all, Empire Onirique breathes the delicate tonal caresses of a band as warm as their launch parties.