Jean-Michel Veillon & Yvon Riou, “Deus an Aod d’ar Menez”, Bemol production 2017
The duo of Jean-Michel Veillon and Yvon Riou duo first recorded together on Veillon’s “E Koad Nizan” in 1993 and then as a duo recorded the landmark “Pont Gwenn ha Pont Stang ” in 1995 and the live recording “Beo” in 2000. Shortly after “Beo” Veillon’s next project was the reincarnation of the groups Kornog and Pennou Skoulm, but to my surprise Riou, the obvious choice for guitar, was not included. It appeared that the magical pairing of Riou and Veillon was no more.
So it was with surprise and delight that I saw Veillon and Riou begin to perform together again after so many years apart. More recently it was announced that a new CD was in the works and now here it is, “Deus an Aod d’ar Menez”.
The Breton music scene has evolved substantially in the intervening years. The influence of Irish and other ‘Celtic revival’ sounds has waned considerably, supplanted by an injection of rock and pop influences as well as a re-exploration of the twentieth century Breton early jazz-influenced chromatic accordion repertoire typified most powerfully by the legendary Yves Menez.
For better or worse, much of contemporary Fest Noz music is driven by bigger dance bands with modern instrumentation and by sonic explorations inspired by contemporary popular genres. What place would the intimate pairing of wooden flute and acoustic guitar find in this changed landscape? Would they provide a timeless, moving experience or just a nostalgic blast from the past?
Putting on the disc answered that question the way opening a window in a stuffy room does – with a feeling of freshness and vitality. With the sometimes energetic but forgettable nature of many modern Fest Noz recordings it can be hard to remember what attracted one to this music in the first place – but here it is. The tender, unearthly beauty of Breton music transmitted powerfully and honestly by two players with nothing to prove. Haunting, beautiful music that transports the listener, unencumbered by pandering sentiment or tasteless gimmickry.
This is one of the most touching recordings of Breton music to come along in many years. It is also a clean duet effort with only the most discreet and limited use of multi-tracking and on the closing track “Talvoudegezh An Dour”, vocals by guest artist Guy Laudren. Unlike their earlier recordings which included a few pieces of Irish music, “Deus an Aod d’ar Menez” offers only traditional and composed Breton music, which suites my taste exactly. It is a disc that finds itself played again and again while I drive to work, and as a musician I find myself playing some of these melody lines on the saxophone, intrigued with the idea of bringing this emotionally charged quality to a modern band which does include drums, bass, and loud woodwinds.
Bemol production : http://www.bemolvpc.com