WORLD TOUR BEGINS TONIGHT WITH PERFORMANCES THROUGHOUT CANADA
DANS MA MAIN OUT NOW VIA ARTS & CRAFTS
“Another intimate masterpiece.” – Exclaim, 9/10
“As elusive as it is engrossing.” – Self-Titled Magazine
“The underlying thread throughout the Montreal artist’s evolution is unparalleled intimacy. Within his collections of poignant sounds that are, more often than not, sort of core-shaking, Blais impressively tells the stories of his own life – while leaving space and feeling for our own interpretations.” – CBC Music
“...sporadic, ever-shifting, exorcised in fluid bursts of desperation and empathy. Pockets of cold darkness are punctuated with shots of warmth, tenderness, and optimism, but nothing ever truly settles." - Dominionated
(Still From “dans ma main” Video)
Pianist and composer Jean-Michel Blais last week released Dans ma main, an album of gorgeous and poignant compositions that enmesh solo piano and lush, IDM-inspired electronics. The music is intimate and holistic, cerebral while also possessing a deep emotional immediacy. The entire album is available now on Arts & Crafts.
Today, he has shared an immersive, enigmatic 360 video for the title track to Dans ma main. The video, like Blais’ music, fuses the artificial with the human, bringing together images of people traversing different sides of a seemingly infinite cube, with strange tubules snaking around the environment.
On the creation of the images and the collaboration with Blais, filmmaker Melissa Matos says:
“After listening to the entire album, we couldn’t shake off the uncanny feeling that Dans ma main would fit a 360 video that had been conceived some time ago. After sharing the idea of this potential 2nd video with him, Jean-Michel sent us a poem which the track is named after. The poem comes from the poet’s first and only book, Regards et jeux dans l’espace, which roughly translates to ‘Looks and Games in Space’, which is essentially what this 360 video is referencing. Immediate sparks. It’s about imagining a reality suspended in nothingness, existing in the vastness of empty space yet turning on itself, a never-ending game, the play that never ends. We considered how it could look like to be trapped in this infinite cycle and what seems meaningless, repetitive is also interrupted by elements of illusion and surprise.
Technically, the video was created in two parts: an in-studio shoot followed by a lengthy post-production process. In studio, we built one single large black frame which the actors would perform behind. Rather than being shot with a 360 camera, it was shot using a typical lens on the Alexa. This means that each set was filmed individually and then stitched together in post on a ‘360’ canvas. Every scene was shot separately and was very carefully timed so each actor’s entry and exit could line up seamlessly once everything was edited together. Once it was all composited, the 3D models were added, animated and cued to highlight specific moments in the song.”
Blais’ performances have historically been sites of emotional outpouring, where a special bond between audience and performer is forged. Blais begins a world tour tonight with upcoming stops throughout Canada.
JEAN-MICHEL BLAIS PERFORMANCE DATES
05/14 - New York, NY - Joe's Pub [Tickets]
05/16 - Chicago, IL - Constellation [Tickets]
05/22 - Los Angeles, CA - No Name Club [Free]
06/29 - Montréal, QC - Montreal Jazz Festival [Tickets]
07/07 - Trois-Rivières, QC - Festivoix [Tickets]
07/17 - London, UK - Vortex Jazz Club [Tickets]
07/18 - London, UK - Vortex Jazz Club [Tickets]
07/20 - Manchester, UK - St. Michael's [Tickets]
09/06 - Québec, QC - Grand Théâtre [Tickets]
09/14 - Winnipeg, MB - West End Cultural Centre [Tickets]
09/19 - Drummondville, QC - Maison des arts de Drummondville [Tickets]
09/21 - Laval, QC - Salle André Mathieu [Tickets]
10/03 - Toronto, ON - Danforth Music Hall [Tickets]
10/05 - Vancouver, BC - St.James Hall [Tickets]
10/06 - San Francisco - Swedish Music Hall [Tickets]
10/22 - Berlin, Germany - Silent Room [Tickets]
10/24 - Hamburg, Germany - Resonanzraum [Tickets]
03/23 - Knowlton, QC - Théâtre du Lac Brome [Tickets]
03/24 - Sainte-Marie, QC - Salle Méchatigan [Tickets]
PHOTO CREDIT : John Londono // DOWNLOAD HIGH-RES
MORE ABOUT DANS MA MAIN
Dans ma main, the sophomore release by pianist and composer Jean-Michel Blais, 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. The debut album would go on to amass 50 million streams worldwide, reaching #1 on Billboard’s Classical chart in Canada 14 times, and transforming audiences globally.
On Dans ma main, tempted by a tangent first explored on Cascades, his 2017 collaborative EP with Grammy-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.
Dans ma main weaves together expressive piano with austere synths in a double-helix of acoustic and electronic arpeggiation, tethering techno, industrial, ambient, and new age music to Blais’ solo piano essence.
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.”
Dans ma main explores an everyday life awash in spirituality, stemming from Blais’ interplay with music as therapy. Compelled by the cathartic air that audiences exude in his pin-drop performances, Blais considers how music has served as a tool of wellness in his own life. From his prior career in special education, to the role classical and ambient music played soothing the Tourettic symptoms he experienced as a child, Jean-Michel’s new compositions subconsciously call upon these periods of his life, reimagining a serenity he had only experienced seated at the piano.
Decidedly not limited to the keys as his compositional palette, Blais’ music is imbued with an emotional depth that belies its wordlessness. His playing and composition are poetic in themselves, with an inspired understanding of the inherent lyricism in instrumental music.
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.”
More than Blais’ mastery of composition x improvisation, greater than his ability to touch and confront emotion – including the pain of even death (“roses” and “a heartbeat away”) – is his ability to challenge listeners. The title track, “dans ma main”, and by extension the album as a whole, is about Blais’ conscious decision to pursue the unknowns of a musical path.
Growing up in rural Quebec, Blais began writing original compositions by age 11, and by 17 was invited to the Trois-Rivières Music Conservatory. However, the constraints of formal training drew Blais off this musical course, putting aside his piano until years later, settling in Montreal, he rediscovered his love.
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. As Blais says:
“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.”