Published Apr 01, 2014Prior to Whitehorse's formation in 2011, married bandmates Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland toured as solo acts with a myriad of Canadian music royalty. Their newest release, a French language EP titled Éphémère sans repère, is a translated collection of previously recorded tracks from the duo's albums with one new song and a traditional French-Canadian ballad. With producer and translator Pierre Marchand, Whitehorse crafted an album that pays homage to the musical and geographical landscape that has so profoundly affected their careers.
Whitehorse's French-language saga begins with the riff-driven, title track, known to Anglophone laymen as "Devil's Got a Gun," from their sophomore release The Fate of the World Depends on This Kiss. Ironically, the record starts off with a bang and drifts into the more traditional folk-inspired "Les Oiseaux de Nuit," which typifies the sublime vocal synchronicity present throughout Éphémère sans repère.
Although the six-track record navigates from genre to genre, Doucet and McClelland never waver from the romantic nuances that shade their vocal pairing, regardless of speed or instrumentation. The final offering, "Un Canadien Errant," is a traditional anthem of exile and separation for many displaced Canadians. The hauntingly slow, finger-picked lullaby conveys the heartache of isolation and longing universally felt by the homesick. It is at this point that listeners might feel most connected to Doucet and McClleland and regret never paying attention in French class.
The patriotic Éphémère sans repère personifies this Canadian band's dichotomy. The iterations here differ between tempo and tone from song to song, from the rambling steel strings of "Brisee" to the cradling sliding slow strums of "Les Oiseaux De Nuit."
The triumphs of Whitehorse's reimagined songs on this EP belong just as much to producer Pierre Marchand as they do to Doucet and McClelland. The translated lyrics are impressively fluid and sufficiently express the poetic properties of the original versions. By combining the strengths of Canadian culture and folk music, Whitehorse's Éphémère sans repère paints a portrait of the True North's landscape with sound. Although the French lyrics may initially prove to be alienating and difficult to digest for Anglophones, the refined musical chops of Doucet and McClelland alone will be enough to feast on at Whitehorse's dinner table. (Six Shooter)