Pop music is rainproof," observed René Lussier. back in 1984 on the release of his first album, Fin du Travail (Version 1).
"We are the rain" At the time, the "we" of the guitarist’s tidy metaphor was a small community of musicians in Montréal, French-Canadians who shared a similarly inquisitive perspective on contemporary music.
In the years since, during which time a few additional Lussier albums have been released—among them, the free-blowing Chants et danses du monde inaminé in collaboration with reedman Robert Lepage, and a pair of albums (the meticulous Soyez vigilant… restez vivants and the just released Le retour des granules) assembled with multi-reedist Jean Derome— his "rwe" has taken on an international dimension. Another album, a collaboration with New York guitarist Fred Frith that also involves members of David Moss’ Dense Band and the German trio Cassiber, was recorded live at the Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville, and issued under the Québec festival’s own Victo label.
Lussier, 30, has had a remarkably productive career in Montréal, initially in progressive-rock, film, theatre, and jazz, and now with a unique music that draws deeply on French-Canadian traditions. He mixes old and new freely, folk reels and rhythms with free improvisation and post-Hendrix sonics— a kind of Québécois Van Dyke Parks travelling in a material world, and on a budget at that.
His recordings, released under the co-op Ambiances magnétiques label, have a cinematic quality, with a sense of montage, of manipulated image, and of real time and place. For his recording with Frith, both the musicians and the hall were micted, and the ambient sound—the conversations back at the bar, for example—is integral to the finished work. He is careful not to lose the human element in his music; his concern extends further to the latest technology.
"We are not into industrial music. Yet. Everything is possible, of course´… " He admits that he has bought an old synthesizer, one of the earliest available commercially, but he is cautioned by the memory of recording Soyez vigilant… restez vivants. "Jean Derome had a really old synth that didn’t work all the time. We’d take it out, open it up, fix it, bring it back to the studio: it’s not the same sound as it was 10 minutes ago, but that’s okay. We have to find a place where the new technology should join our music, and not just dive in with DX-7s. "
With or without the DX-7s, though, his music would remain very specific to René Lussier and his milieu. That, surely, limits its potential audience. Lussier sees it differently "The more you are grounded in your own culture," he says now, "the more you have something to say to other people."