Fidelio FACD017

Thierry Pilote, René Laflamme, prods.; René Laflamme, eng. DDD. 53:40.
Catherine Audet, Fanie Chartier, François Morin: marimba, xylophone, vibraphone, glockenspiel; Yann Lévilleé: percussion, glockenspiel; Thierry Pilote: timbales, marimba, vibraphone, xylophone.

One of the things I regret most about missing the last few Festivals du Son & Image in Montreal is missing René Laflamme's demonstrations, which always feature Verity Parsifal loudspeakers, Nagra electronics, and his own Fidelio recordings. The sound is always spectacular and startlingly natural.

Laflamme's recording philosophy has always been "zero tampering, pure digital," but with Nemesis, he takes it a step further, stepping up from high-quality two-channel PCM to multichannel DSD, using six vacuum tube microphones in Montreal's Église St. Jean-Baptiste. Actually, he also recorded in two-channel PCM and both versions are accessible on the multi-layer SACD/CD. Both sound stunning.

Nemesis, the group, is a six-member percussion ensemble that interprets the compositions of Thierry Pilote. Pilote's music has a heavy pulse, which is somewhat reminiscent of Steve Reich, but with less of the Reichian drift that makes Music for 18 Musicians so popular with the new age crowd. Whether that makes Nemesis' music full of drama or less subtle will depend, I suppose, on the premium you place upon dynamic impact and galloping rhythms.

Or, like me, you might enjoy both. I think Reich's music has a deeper emotional level, but I enjoy the sonic thrill ride of Pilote's works. One of the great things about the web is that I don't have to describe Nemesis, since I can point you to their website, where you can check it out for yourself.

Actually, you'll just experience the music a little—what you'll be missing is the sound, which is spectacular in both 5.1 and stereo. Laflamme has recorded Nemesis the way surround ought to be done—with three omnis near the musicians and two at the rear of the hall to capture the church's ambiance. The resulting multichannel image is focused up front, but you're in the middle of the room, with lots of bloom behind you.

Listening to the two-channel PCM tracks in my small, acoustically treated listening room, I was more aware of the dynamic extremes and the phenomenally tight bass Laflamme managed to get on tape, so don't pass Nemesis by if you're a dedicated stereo buff.

Actually, don't miss Nemesis. It's great fun, well done.