5 Songs, 21 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Jean-Michel Blais has become one of Canada’s most renowned pianists thanks to his fusion of neoclassical composition and electronic experimentation. But just as integral to his music is his use of natural, in-the-room sounds and surrounding street noise as subliminal textures. His 2016 breakthrough, Il, was recorded in his Montreal apartment, the ambiance of which could be felt throughout the recordings. Two years later, he was forced to move out, but before packing up his piano, he hosted the final installment of an annual apartment tradition—an (extremely) intimate performance for friends in his bedroom. The resultant five-song document, eviction sessions, commemorates the space as if eulogizing a dearly departed friend. Blais strips away the dramatic electronic ornamentation of tracks like “blind” and “igloo” (from 2018’s Polaris Prize-shortlisted Dans ma main) and combines them into an elegiac mini-suite, with his nimble keystrokes and incessant pedal taps providing the rhythmic momentum in lieu of pulsing beats. But despite its somber context, eviction sessions exudes a communal warmth: The tense minimalism of the improvised “hutchison” is gradually consumed by the sound of the audience’s cheerful chatter, suggesting that the welcoming community spirit Blais cultivated in the apartment will continue to benevolently haunt the space long after he’s gone.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Jean-Michel Blais has become one of Canada’s most renowned pianists thanks to his fusion of neoclassical composition and electronic experimentation. But just as integral to his music is his use of natural, in-the-room sounds and surrounding street noise as subliminal textures. His 2016 breakthrough, Il, was recorded in his Montreal apartment, the ambiance of which could be felt throughout the recordings. Two years later, he was forced to move out, but before packing up his piano, he hosted the final installment of an annual apartment tradition—an (extremely) intimate performance for friends in his bedroom. The resultant five-song document, eviction sessions, commemorates the space as if eulogizing a dearly departed friend. Blais strips away the dramatic electronic ornamentation of tracks like “blind” and “igloo” (from 2018’s Polaris Prize-shortlisted Dans ma main) and combines them into an elegiac mini-suite, with his nimble keystrokes and incessant pedal taps providing the rhythmic momentum in lieu of pulsing beats. But despite its somber context, eviction sessions exudes a communal warmth: The tense minimalism of the improvised “hutchison” is gradually consumed by the sound of the audience’s cheerful chatter, suggesting that the welcoming community spirit Blais cultivated in the apartment will continue to benevolently haunt the space long after he’s gone.

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