Aubades by Jean-Michel Blais (Album Review)

Quebecois neoclassical composer Jean-Michel Blais has been releasing his own brand of piano-focused instrumental music since his much-acclaimed debut Il came out in 2016. His third album, aubades, sees the composer rearrange over five hundred separate improvised piano pieces into an eleven-track mission statement on the beauty of spontaneity and the importance of a search for something more.

These are searching tracks, and after a passive opener, passapied frantically looks for a theme to settle on, finding its high notes when it reveals a sadness, before ultimately stopping itself short and closing, as if declaring that melancholy shouldn't be dwelt on, that there is always an antidote to hopelessness. nina plays pizzicato strings against a progressive piano and cheeky brass, while ouessant sees mournful strings take centre stage as the piano is happy to stay in the background, running around in circles before finding a destination. 

Featuring contributions from twelve musicians (whose identities have been curiously omitted from the album information on Bandcamp), the tracks are rich with instrumentation, and sometimes regrettably so, for on tracks like album highlight if you build it, they will come and closer doux we are treated to a beautifully equanimous flirting with minimalism. 

Echoes of Yann Tiersen and Ludovico Einaudi will appease ardent fans of neoclassical, but there is enough character given to the tracks to put Blais into his own category. If you ever feel like you need a hug, but have no one to give you one, this album may be the next best thing. 


Aubades by Jean-Michel Blais
Reviewed by Jay Honeycomb on 2022 February 15
Rating: 4