Les Millesimes - Melisande


Contemporary artists love to fiddle with folkloric traditions, not just the rosin up your bow kind of fiddling but tinkering with organic and electronic elements to give old, mostly forgotten tunes new life and vibrancy in our modern age. Melisande (May lee Zawnd) are fiddling with traditional Quebecois music and they're winning awards for it. It's a good year for their new release Les Millesimes or The Vintages, a labour of love and life from couple, Melisande, the group's namesake and her partner Alexandre 'Moulin' De Grosbois-Garand. "(on the album) There are songs about wine-making and wine drinking," explains Moulin, " and at one point we had a neat idea to give each song a Millesimes or vintage year, because, like wine, these songs get better with age." Some have aged quite a while. Like musical archeologists, Melisande has gone into the folklore archives at Laval University, the Canadian History Museum and the vaults of the American Folklife Center - Library of Congress in Washington to dig through field recordings from the Lomax foundation and legendary Quebec folklorist Marius Barbeau who collected works on Edison phonograph grooved wax cylinders. Melisande adds, "There is so much material in the archives that if you don't go in without a game plan you can be overwhelmed by the amount of preserved material." She considers the rhythm and the lyrics, sometimes adapting an obviously male perspective to a female one to suit her voice. But, re-animating old Quebecois folklore is only half of what Melisande is bringing back to life. They call their style electro-trad, a global music offshoot that sparked a minor revolution in the late 90's and early 2000's. Bands sprung from an organic-elecro template forged by Trans-Global Underground, Afro Celt Sound System and others captivated and converted a new generation to global sounds. When Melisande and Moulin began collaborating, he was playing bass with an awesome Quebec trad band called Genticorum. Meanwhile Moulin had been programming and producing electro-trad on the side and Melisande was game to experiment with his old/new fusions. The opening track, Plantons La Vigne - Millesime 1576, a very old round about the tradition of vine planting, becomes a programmed loop in the world of Melisande and even includes a piece of mouth music they've dubbed he 'Peaty Reel' in deference to their electro-trad  Isle of Skye cousins in the Peatbog Faeries.