Welcome to Ste-Quequepart: Moonfruits duo Kaitlin Milroy and Alex Millaire guide us through a tour of this imagined town through the perspective of its inhabitants over the course of its ten songs. Cleverly marrying enthralling musical storytelling with the political, Moonfruits become a conduit for the villagers’ struggle with the all-too-common realities of small town economic hardship and the pressure to abandon their traditional ways of life in favour of big business and an uncertain future. Their music encapsulates a special kind of intimacy; it makes you feel close to Ste-Quequepart, and I think intentionally, your own community. This results in a very unique album: following the story-telling tradition of folk, but with colourful and evocative arrangements, as well as turns of musical phrase, it helps to transport the listener to Ste-Quequepart – a familiar place with a familiar plight. And while the album is sung completely in French, the sense of each character is intimated so effectively through the music, that speaking the language isn’t crucial to understanding the album.
Following their first bilingual release début in 2014, the married duo has been establishing a reputation for themselves in Ottawa and beyond. Building on the intimate two voices and one guitar on the first album, Ste-Quequepart expands its instrumentation with strings, organ, banjo, and percussion. The vocals on this album are not only an alluring medium for lyrics, but at times performed as instruments in their own right. Milroy and Millaire show their versatility as musicians and their propensity for skillful arrangements. The pair’s musical chemistry shines through so clearly, their vocal harmonies sound as though they are singing with one voice. It is at once haunting, steeped in melodrama, and a vibrant celebration of the human spirit; this an original and wonderfully diverse album.
Arresting vocal harmonies capture the listener right from the opening bars of the title track “Ste-Quequepart.” Building to a catchy chorus with full band and string quartet accompaniment, the tune ventures into different harmonic and rhythmic twists and turns that draw the listener right in. You can’t help but follow Milroy and Millaire’s journey into this imaginary world.
“La Maire” is a delightfully punchy folk tune. The banjo and hand clapping really give this song a kitchen party kind of feel. Nice little builds, maintains a sense of excitement throughout. We get some of Milroy’s beautiful, heady alto solo here. With a fantastic and driving conclusion with call and response chorus. So aptly arranged.
Organ and simple open vocal harmonies in the interlude “Ermitage” captures the spirit of sacred music. The Tierce de Picardie cadence finishing the piece is a clever device to release the of tension of the minor song. A beautiful little musical vignette.
Both voices take on an entirely different character for “Les Marins.” Simply arranged at first, the song builds to weave voice with strings and the sounds of children playing. In fact, using real world sound accents adds to the cinematic quality of this soundtrack of Ste-Quequepart throughout the album. It’s no wonder the track that won Moonfruits the SOCAN song award and the Félix-Leclerc Songwriting Residency award.
Moonfruits is on tour with Ste-Quequepart in tow, across Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick. They will be returning to the Ottawa area on June 9th with a show at the Blacksheep Inn in Wakefield. Listen to the album at Moonfruits’ Bandcamp, and follow their journeys on Facebook.