Montreal composer Simon P. Castonguay has partnered with Moderna Records to repackage excerpts from his two exceptional EPs, Chapitre I (released in 2015) and Chapitre II (2016).
The double-LP vinyl release sounds as handsome as it looks.
These recordings, featuring piano, string quartet and electronics, are sincerely moving. The exquisite opener "Waves" is one of those rainy day piano-and-strings pieces that makes whatever you're looking at seem hopelessly romantic. "Farewell Museum," featuring Pietro Amato on French horn, is another standout. Amato is best known for his work with Arcade Fire, and he brings a lot to this piece. The highlight, though, is Castonguay's quietly distorted electronic keyboard, which closes the album with a wholehearted wistfulness.
The electronics throughout are subtle and applied sparingly. When they do appear, Castonguay puts them to specific use, filling gaps or adding range to otherwise traditional neo-classical recordings. They're like finishing touches you see painters apply to great works; seemingly unnecessary until they're on the canvas, and then you can't imagine the work without them.
There is a sparseness to Castonguay's compositions that allows us to appreciate every detail, no matter how fine. The music breathes, deeply. If you don't find your heart rate winding down over the course of this double-LP, you're not paying close enough attention. (Moderna Records)