DANS MA MAIN ALBUM ART // DOWNLOAD HIGH-RES
Post-classical composer and pianist Jean-Michel Blais has announced the release of his sophomore album Dans ma main, due out May 11 on Arts & Crafts. Blais has developed a seamless fusion of neoclassical piano and minimalist electronics, finding common ground between gorgeous piano rhapsodies and the subtly emotional qualities of classic IDM. Blais has created an album that stands as a unique document in the pantheon of contemporary piano composition both in its timbral diversity and incorporation of improvisation. Dans ma main follows his debut Il, which reached #1 on Billboard’s Classical chart in Canada and was included in TIME Magazine’s best albums of 2016, and a collaborative EP with the Grammy-nominated producer CFCF, Cascades.
Following the stand-alone singles “blind” and “roses”, Blais has now shared the album’s title track “dans ma main”.
Blais explains the influences behind the track: “‘dans ma main’ is the incipit from a Hector de Saint-Denys Garneau’s poem. In my hand, the broken end of all paths. Addressing his own solitude, the writer speaks about everyone’s universality. Beside fallen, empty, lost and distant incertitudes, the beginning of all presences, the first step of any company, lays broken in my hand. Like pieces of an unclear puzzle, a melting mirror, hope lays right there, into our singular hands, with which we love, we fail, we pray, we steal, we give, we try, we pay, we pluck, we muff, we scratch, we touch, we play, we hold each other’s hands.”
Dans ma main is an expansive album of post-classical piano with strands of electronic detail. Blending his conservatory skill and precise pop sensibility with synthetic accompaniment, Blais creates unique environments where the piano’s intimacy can be subtly disrupted at any time.
Largely composed in one week of open exploration, Blais comes closer to the improvisational source of his writing, painting impressionistic stories within the fluid, indefinite outlines of dreams. Dans ma main rolls like clouds of nostalgic fog blown away on a clear wind, at once recalling and signifying the end of Il, his critically acclaimed 2016 debut album.
By contrast, Il was written and recorded by Blais over two years, culled from rolls of accumulated experimentation into an enchanting, unignorable arrival. Il unearthed an unknown musical imagination, with overwhelmingly intimate compositions cloaked in the romantic din of Montreal city noise.
On Dans ma main, tempted by a tangent first explored on Cascades, his collaborative EP with Grammy Award nominated electronic producer CFCF – born from a featured performance at 2016’s Red Bull Music Academy – Blais steps out with an artistic statement that both reaffirms and refutes his post-classical stature. The disparate universes within Dans ma main are so seamlessly entwined that they appear borderless.
The first single, “roses”, is a binary journey, softly oscillating between despair and hope. Oblique turns meet familiar resolve, as warm chords reference Radiohead’s “Pyramid Song”, and Eric Carmen / Celine Dion’s “All By Myself”, in sharp counterpoint to Rachmaninov’s Concerto No. 2 – an unexpected, but intentional cross-hatching of high- and low-art. Its emotional arc – optimistic and funereal – closes soundly with the glint of cinematic strings.
The pulsating and elastic “blind” captures the grace with which Blais traces this genre dance. “Built as a subtle transition from acoustic to electronic, the piece blends styles, deconstructs categories, pushes back boundaries alongside a spectrum reflecting our human potential to self-transcendence,” Blais describes. “Might we be blind at night, at least we aren’t deaf.”
Borrowing imagery from the words of singer-songwriter Safia Nolin on “igloo”, Blais’ interprets the lonely nights where, “wandering like an amnesic ghost,” one can find oneself within its own shadowy reflections, a nostalgic incursion into a person’s vintage recollections.
Yet perhaps in the album’s most unexpected turn, on closer “chanson”, Blais reveals his own hidden falsetto, trilling like adjacent keys in a nearly wordless lilt. Ironically, the only discernible meaning he sings: “I speak.” Blais presents the human voice as another instrument, resting vague in its definition, so emphasizing the listener’s active role in projecting and interpreting itself. As Blais says, “What one hears becomes more relevant and telling than what is said.”
The result, as Blais’ body of work unfurls, is the creation of a new musical forum where freshly sounded notes bounce back instantly with the magic and wisdom of shared space. Dans ma main captures but one moment of this infinite lineage, but with it comes the reminder of all the energy we hold in our own hands, in this moment.
PHOTO CREDIT : John Londono // DOWNLOAD HIGH-RES
JEAN-MICHEL BLAIS PERFORMANCE DATES
Mar 24 - Église Emmanuel - Cowansville, QC
Apr 15 - Salle Pauline-Julien - Ste-Geneviève, QC
May 13 - Théâtre du Marais - Val-Morin, QC
May 14 – New York, NY – Joe’s Pub [tickets]
May 16 – Chicago, IL – Constellation [tickets]
May 22 – Los Angeles, CA – No Name Club
Jun 29 - Festival International de Jazz de Montreal 2018 - Montreal, QC
DANS MA MAIN TRACKLIST
04 dans ma main
09 a heartbeat away
MORE PRAISE FOR JEAN-MICHEL BLAIS’ IL
“…a succinct collection of minimal piano compositions that runs the gamut of human emotions: hope, sadness, joy, and fear.” – Noisey on Il
“Blais condenses two years worth of daily improvisations into a blindingly bright 28-minute release exploring piano textures influenced by Erik Satie and minimalist virtuosos like Lubomyr Melnyk and Philip Glass.” – FACT on Il
“...meditative modern classical instrumentals… stark and accessible emotionality” - The Fader
“a succinct collection of minimal piano compositions that runs the gamut of human emotions: hope, sadness, joy and fear” - Noisey
“...nothing short of stunning… This is music that makes your chest feel tight. It is music that feels like clusters of stars being born and dying. It is music that will persist.” - IMPOSE
“the blissful eight-tracker captures Blais' penchant for experimentation” - XLR8R
“...a blindingly bright 28-minute release exploring piano textures” - FACT Mag
“There's this sense of measured extemporaneity to his playing that allows my mind to wander unlike anything else this year.” - MTV, Meaghan Garvey
“Il features both astonishing flurries of notes and graceful pacing...It’s thrilling,
versatile music.” - The Verge