Alexandre D├ęsilets: La Garde

 Although Quebec’s Alexandre Désilets has played France, his market and fan base are largely French-Canadian. Which is a pity, as his live shows are entrancing, merging Radiohead-ish rock dynamics – he has a degree in electro-acoustic music – with a textural sense and songwriting style that’s recognisably French. No indie rocker, his filter and sensibility is Gallic. 

'La Garde' is his third album, following 2008’s 'Escalader L’Ivresse'. As before, the producer is Jean Massicotte, who’s also worked with Pierre Lapointe (like Désilets, from Gatineau), Patrick Watson, Lhasa de Sala and (France’s) Arthur H. Together, they’ve created a sensitive, restrained but emotive album with subtly glitchy beats and rhythmic, squalling bursts of tonal colour. Those elements were to the fore on his 2005 debut, where he was half of the electronica duo Funami. But that was issued in Portugal only and sung in English. Back in Canada and reunited with his first language, he’s pursued a more individual path.
The entry point is Désilets’ voice. A thing of grace, it’s choirboy clear, high pitched and unstrained. Never above the instruments or arrangements, Désilets sits back, gliding in and out. There are moments when the programmed electronic beats – no matter how delicate they are – work against tones this organic: say, the opening moments of 'A Pas De Géant', but when the yearning melody takes hold, the music and atmosphere take over. Warmth is quickly re-established on this great song. 'Le Repère’s' misty psychedelic quality echoes The Beatles’ 'Flying' while the album’s closer, 'Si Loin', sparsely oozes hurt and meditation. The key track, however, is the soaring 'J’Oublierai'. Subtlety that leans towards the anthemic while retaining intimacy is a rare thing. On 'La Garde', Désilets pulls it off with grace.
© Kieron Tyler 2011