A core member of the late-'70s avant-folk collective Conventum and co-founder of the "musique actuelle" collective and record label Ambiances Magnétiques in the early '80s, André Duchesne has been both quieter and louder than his acolytes. Quieter because he released albums at the rate of a trickle; louder because his guitar riffs take him closer to the essence of rock than any other AM musician. His recorded output shows interests in avant-prog, rock & roll, film music, symphonic extravaganzas, free improv, and solo classical guitar.
Duchesne is a son of Montreal. He learned the acoustic guitar like most of his teen buddies in the 1970s. But unlike them he was not satisfied with Harmonium and Creedence Clearwater Revival's strum-along songs. Teaming up with René Lussier, Jean-Pierre Bouchard, Jacques Laurin, Bernard Cormier, and poet Alain-Arthur Painchaud, he formed Conventum, an influential underground unit that blended Quebec's folk roots with absurd poetry and progressive arrangements. The group recorded two LPs (À l'Affût d'un Complot, 1977; and Le Bureau Central des Utopies, 1979).
In 1983, Duchesne, Lussier, Jean Derome, and Robert M. Lepage threw together the basis of Ambiances Magnétiques, an artist-run label devoted to avant-garde music. His first album to come out was the collection of modern rock songs Le Temps des Bombes (1984). His next project, more successful, was the four-guitar rock quintet Les 4 Guitaristes de l'Apocalypso-Bar, which included Lussier and Bouchard from Conventum, plus Roger Boudreault and ex-Henry Cow drummer Chris Cutler, from England. This group also recorded two LPs and toured Europe and the U.S. before splitting up.
The early '90s saw Duchesne active on various fronts. He recorded film music for the Gagné brothers (the soundtrack of Le Royaume ou l'Asile is the only one available) and premiered his most ambitious work ever, L' ou 'L, at the FIMAV festival in Victoriaville in 1990. The orchestral overtones of this piece were soon counterbalanced by the raucous riffs of Locomotive, still Duchesne's best album and band (with guitarists Claude Fradette and Francis Grandmont, and drummer Rémi Leclerc).
After 1992, Duchesne went very low-profile, appearing on albums by modern trad singer Michel Faubert and sporadically putting together rock bands that never recorded (Diesel, No Band's Land). His 1999 anti-climactic comeback Réflexions featured him solo on classical guitar and was not what fans had been hoping for. The 2001 offering Polaroïde is a free improv trio session. ~ François Couture