With a name that sounds like a Montreal back-alley on a Saturday night, Sagapool is a slice of Quebecois that puts a ripe blush on Canada’s cheeks. The Montreal-based world-fusion band’s new self-titled album is sending ripples bristling over an introverted music scene that has been busy creeping up on unsuspecting indie fans. Released earlier in 2012, Sagapool is a fanfare of atmospheric eclecticism and charisma guaranteed to leave a mark on the map.
With all of the fascination directed towards Sagapool’s proclaimed Gypsy and early klezmer influences, their new album strikes a fine balance between international sound and domestic roots. Phrases of violin, far from moody, are crucial in capturing small fractions of Canada’s geography and set their path firmly on the cobblestone of Sagapool’s Old Montreal stomping grounds. The wispy clarinet melody of “45.56°N 73.58°O -90°” (itself an ambiguous location somewhere in Cancun) and a healthy pitter-pattering of percussion are an appropriate prelude to the subsequent infusions of street-side busking joy cherished by all day-tripping Canadians. “Le Vent des Îles” is more than an allusion by name to “the wind of the isles”, with drifting accordion setting the scene for lively Maritime accompaniment.
In an unusual move for the band, Sagapool strips down to naked piano on the album’s ninth track, “Entracte“. Such intermissions could hardly be expected on previous compilations, given the ensemble’s characteristic fiery tempo. “Entracte“ is not especially memorable, and certainly does not add any level of complexity to Sagapool, but its presence alludes to a certain growth in the band’s approach to composing an album. Instead of a ballistic assault, to the likes of the 2008 album Episode Trois, Sagapool is a touch more reverent in guiding listeners from track to track. The innocent staccato of final track “Mon cousin joue du synthé” is rather effective at conjuring up the tipsy watercolors of an evening, a touch weary but waiting for the rush of night’s adventures.
The ensemble does a good job of dangling expectancy throughout Sagapool to hear somewhat whispery, somewhat chirruped lyrics. With the Italian serenade of “Eravamo Bene“ on Episode Trois, this would not have been new territory, though Sagapool unfortunately chose to avoid it in their latest release. There is also noticeably more room in the new album, emphasized with piano and suspensions of an almost Ulrich Schnauss-ien ambiance with the understated optimism of Nils Frahm. This is, of course, but a subtle background for a healthy dose of Sagapool’s buoyant energy.
Offering a competent musical reflection of Montreal’s international potpourri, Sagapool have proven to be taking themselves seriously, and following the November 2008 award naming Episode Trois the “Instrumental Album of the Year”, this is a welcome step for a low-key fusion band that earned further Canadian folk music recognition for the 2012 album. Gap-year twenty-somethings swindling Romani motifs under the masquerade of Gypsy punk make it enough of a struggle to approach world-fusion ensembles who claim similar influence. Sagapool offers a satisfying dollop of said worldly inspiration with an integrity that keeps it easy to identify with the colourful soup of Quebec’s music scene.
For more information on Sagapool:
Official Website: http://www.sagapool.com/