The Vinyl Records: Philippe Lapointe, Transcription

Lapointe Front

Artist: Philippe Lapointe
Label: Radio Canada International
Year: ca. 1980
Cat.: RCI 509

I bought this album in downtown Ottawa from the tiny classical music section of a hip record store. I bought it mostly because I’m always interested in obscure corners of Canadian music, and because the artist portrait on the back jacket was awesome.

Lapointe Back

Anyway, it turns out that this album is a little piece of behind-the-scenes radio magic, not intended for public consumption. The CBC has apparently maintained their own internal catalogue of “library music“, producing albums for use on CBC productions. These albums are released under the series title Transcriptions. Philippe Lapointe is a jazz man – at the time he recorded this record (his first) he was living in Vancouver and playing “a form of jazz with a richness and power that is inviting” (from the liner notes). What does this kind of jazz sound like? The very first track, “Hay Fever” is definitely busy and even frenetic. Synthesizers, saxophones, and electric piano dominate. Not much of a fan. I can say that my taste in jazz leans towards the more relaxed, and this song and the others that make up the A-side are not really that relaxed.

It’s on the B-side that things enter a more interesting territory. On our first listen, J. remarked that the music sounded like the soundtrack to a 1980s cop show. That wouldn’t be much of a stretch, since CBC-produced cop shows in that decade would have had access to this album for their production. Perhaps we have heard this music on TV without realizing it? This side is definitely more atmospheric, less dynamic, and easier (for me) to listen to. There are elements of Eno and Biosphere. Maybe even some elements of Sting’s “Englishman in New York” (you know that end part when things kind of mellow out and drift into the ether of your mind). I would say the highlight track from the second side is “Touak”, a song that hangs out in a very spacey zone with contrapuntal sliding synths, moaning fretless bass accents, and very little percussion (mostly a bass drum heartbeat keeping a slightly nervous tempo in keeping with the cop show aesthetic). I particularly enjoy the opening, as the instruments gradually stumble into their groove as though they were still finding their seats when the studio engineer pressed “Record.”

I can’t find a recording of Touak online for you to listen to. So for your listening pleasure I present to you the only track from this album that has been uploaded by anyone so far, “Hay Fever”: