image © Trance Of Mine | Gaļa Disk 2004
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Trance Of Mine
atmospheric progressive rock
album review and artist reflections
Review, Interview and HTML © Russell W. Elliot 2004
Photos © Jocelyn Michel and Melany Champagne
Images © Trance Of Mine | Gaļa Disk 2004
used with permission
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Last updated: 01 June 2004
Musical Discoveries first encountered the members of Montreal's Trance Of Mine when they were involved in Trancendence (feature) as one of the opening acts for Nightwish (review) at Le Medley during their Wishmaster tour in November 2000. Our review of the band's first album Eternal Stream and the limited edition CD Labyrinth was accompanied by an indepth interview with band members Christian Bertrand and Isabel Plant. Intrigued both by the Labyrinth album and Isabel's captivating on-stage performance, our editors remained in contact with the artists as the band's lineup changed and Trance Of Mine emerged.
We received a limited edition (15/150) of Trance Of Mine's Reflections in the last half of 2003 while the band were still shopping the material around and also ensured that a copy provided for the purpose was sent to a mainstream progressive label in the USA. The official release arrived this spring. With lyrics written by Phil Roberts (guitars) and sung by Isabel Plant, the album's instrumental lineup also includes Philip Laroche (bass) and Francis Fillion (drums). Christian Bertrand, originally part of Transcendence, provides additional keyboards. Phil has been in frequent contact with our editors in the months leading to the release. Our interview with the band's stunning lead vocalist, Isabel Plant, first.
Musical Discoveries: Please tell us about the journey from Transcendence to Trance Of Mine.
Isabel Plant: While still in Transcendence, we--Phil Roberts and I--realized at some point that our new songs were taking another musical direction, that we were experiencing new moods and arrangements. Trance of Mine naturally appeared to be the best definition of our creations and therefore represents our evolution since Transcendence.
And what happened to the tracks on Labyrinth?
Labyrinth is a limited edition CD, in the middle between Transcendence's Eternal Stream and Trance of Mine's Reflections, chronologically but also musically. Labyrinth was my first album with Transcendence, and could be considered as our transition between the two bands.
How would you characterize the sound of the band and this new album?
We definitively fit in the alternative rock/neo-metal markets. Although we haven't found the perfect description for our sound yet maybe somebody else will! there are four elements that are often combined in our songs: melodic female vocals, heavy/groovy guitar riffs, subtle electronic atmospheres and ethnic/acoustic instruments. They really are our own "four elements," and each of them takes its place differently in each song.
As an atmospheric progressive metal band, Transcendence was built around a concept that determined the music and the lyrics. Trance of Mine is considered to be more accessible than Transcendence, and we're always looking for the perfect balance between original melodies and instrumental atmospheres.
Although different, Trance of Mine will reach fans of Evanescence, Lacuna Coil, A Perfect Circle and Tea Party.
What bands and vocalists would you say are your musical influences?
Thinking about it, I realize that I'm not that much influenced by a vocalist's style or music, but more by how that person shares emotions musically. Tori Amos touches me with her passion and fragility, Lisa Gerrard (Dead can Dance) with her free style and experimentation, Peter Gabriel with his originality and his career achievements, Jeff Martin (Tea Party) with his intensity. I try to learn from them as they inspire me to find my own way of being passionate, fragile, free, original and intense.
Please tell us about your vocal training and singing experience.
I started to sing early on and developed my ear with the piano lessons I took before my teenage years. Being a perfectionist and quite critical for myself, I slowly developed my voice and found where my limits were, what worked and what didn't.
When I considered singing professionally a few years ago, I realized I needed more endurance and I took a few singing lessons with different teachers. The thing is, my teachers philosophy was often to learn to sing perfectly instead of singing without thinking. As I was going too much into that direction, I decided to stop the lessons and created my own "training sessions," my own "technique," based on some pointers I had received. I do realize however that I can't go beyond my own limits, so I hope to meet someday a teacher that will help me develop my voice to its full potential, without compromising the feeling part of it. I'm personally more touched by a fragile note that comes from pure emotion instead of a perfect, plastic voice that makes no difference between rage and tenderness.
Where do you draw inspiration for the music--and the long songs?
Most of our ideas will come through improvising, or jamming. This is something we do much more often than before, and we even do it more now than when we composed Reflections; someone starts something and we all go along, letting the music lead us towards moods, melodies or progressions we wouldnt have thought about if we were sitting on a couch, thinking, "ok, we need to come up with something." I would say that jamming is the equivalent of the "automatic writing," where you simply write everything that comes into your mind without thinking first.
Some jams will be amazing, others will be ordinary, but we always record what we do and then pick up ideas to build songs from what came from the heart and not from the head. I personally think its the best way to go.
"Daedalus," our 15-minute song on Reflections, was a little more cerebral as it was built around the five steps we usually go through when we are in mourning: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Its length obviously made things a little more complex, but we're proud of the result and of all the musicians and choir members who came in the studio to be part of it.
And how about the lyrics?
Phil wrote all the lyrics on Reflections; they are introspective and share one's reflections on inner confrontations, insights, and human relations. Phil starts from his own experiences and has a poetic way of describing how he feels, which often corresponds to how others feel or have already felt.
I will be writing some of our new songs, and I think the combination of our two styles will be interesting. Whether it's Phil or I who write, the process is the same than when we compose music; we start from emotions and feelings. Sometimes the sounds or words I come up with during the jams will be an inspiration themselves.
Tell us about your live performances. What is the audience reaction like?
We've played often this past year and I think it paid off as far as our comfort on stage and contact with the crowd. The audience seems to have a good time, and we're gaining a little more following each time we play. However, I believe there is always room for improvement, and during the next year we will be working hard to bring our live performances to the next level of originality and intensity.
We want Trance of Mines live performances to be a special experience for the audience instead of an uninteresting replica of an album. It takes time to develop, but it's also very stimulating.
How do the audience react to your on-stage persona?
Hard to say, as it's always those who have good comments who come and see us after the show! Before Trance of Mine, I was definitely more comfortable behind a piano than as a front-woman. I took theatre/dancing lessons to help me communicate physically what I feel inside, with the stubborn idea of not becoming an artificial mime. As simple as it may sound, I discovered that it's much more easier to let go and reach the audience once I focus on feeling very deeply what I'm actually singing. The moves and 'persona' then come out naturally.
What other bands do you like playing live with?
We're privileged to sometimes share the stage with internationally renowned bands such as Nightwish, Lacuna Coil, and Katatonia. It's always a great opportunity to show who we are to a larger audience, and those bands are class acts that are each successful in their market.
We also like playing with local/regional bands, as it gives us many occasions to play live and develops at the same time an important network of contacts and fans. There are a lot of hard-working bands in Montreal that definitely deserve to be known to a larger extent: Pacer, Plight, Red Sun and Sign of One are a few of them.
Tell us about the label and the process leading up to this release.
Phil started Gaļa Disk and Gaļa Productions in 1996. We sent Reflections' work-in-progress to labels, and received encouraging comments and interest from some of them, but nothing official. Instead of waiting for a record deal, we decided to move on and release the album ourselves via Gaļa Disk, our independent record label and production company. We're still persistent in finding a record deal for our future songs, or distribution licenses for Reflections, so we keep the labels informed of our developments but at the same time we continue our independent path.
I'm actually glad to have spent--and to still spend--that much time, money and energy on the business aspects of the music. We have to learn whatever we don't already know, develop whatever skill we don't already have, or hire consultants on certain subjects or legal procedures. It's a lot to handle in a short period of time, but the knowledge, experience, and confidence we gain are priceless.
How do you think the internet has influenced things so far?
In my opinion, the internet is an amazing tool for many things, and the promotion of music is one of them. It easily opens doors that were closed before or simply to far away. It removes boundaries, facilitates exchanges and contacts. It does all that, but, in certain cases, a little too much.
As music and the internet converge, schould the medium be regulated?
How do we control a tool made to avoid limits? If 200 persons discover Trance of Mine because of free downloads, have I really lost? Does the opinion change if its 20,000 downloads? As in every important debate, the grey area is pretty large and both parties usually have good points. I unfortunately have more questions than answers. In the meantime I'm thankful for web sites like yours!
What are your hopes, plans and dreams for 2004 and beyond?
We'd like to secure a record deal to promote our music to a larger extent; write new songs in preparation of Trance of Mine's second album; expand our musical creativity with original arrangements and instruments; reach as many people as possible without compromising who we are; ultimately live from our music, and eventually helping other musicians to do the same via Gaļa Disk.
This has been a great interview Isabel. It's wonderful to catch up with you again.
The official release of Reflections (Gaļa Disk (Canada) GD-006, 2004) is comprised of ten tracks. Produced and mixed by Yanik Daunais, the material is fronted by Isabel Plant's powerful lead vocals with supporting instrumentals from Phil Roberts (guitars), Philip Laroche (bass) and Francis Fillion (drums). Isabel also contributes piano and additional keyboard work is performed by Christian Bertrand. Various guest artists contribute notable instrumental and backing vocal parts to the compositions. Additional material produced during the Reflections sessions includes the stunning French/English track "Our Lies." It was included on the pre-release but was regrettably omitted from the final product. We're told it is being saved as a bonus track for the European release.
The almost 60-minute album opens with "Distant Ground," atmospherics giving way to powerful electric guitar and rhythm section before Isabel's vocal joins and backed by layers of harmony--especially in the chorus--soars above the pulsing progressive metal arrangement. Her wide-ranging vocalise rises above the instrumental solos during the song's bridge. The straight up rocker "Inmost" captivates not only with the lush arrangement but with the outstanding production Isabel's lead vocals and backing harmonies. The vast guitar solo by Ian Legare during the bridge adds power to the number.
"Ascend" builds on worldly instrumentals, with Djembes contributed by Frederick Lanteigne and Dudek flute played by Michel Dubeau, combining the power of metal-edged guitars with Isabel's almost continuously soaring vocal lines. "Reality" is an enjoyable rocker, blending the raw energy of guitars--especially during the extended atmospherically-styled instrumental bridge--with stunning layers of Isabel's vocals. "Blind Side" is blend of ballad featuring Isabel's piano and powerful rock from the band's guitars. The singer's tender vocal treatment during the verse is contrasted in the bridge by Philip Laroche's guitar solo.
In addition to the progressively oriented tracks, Reflections includes several accessible rock songs. "Awakening" is the first of them to emerge on the album. Isabel's lead vocals are further supported by harmonies provided by Isabelle Messier. A rhythmic guitar-based bridge provides a perfect interlude between the sung passages. While some will be drawn to the epic closing number "Daedalus," many enthusiasts will find "Asleep" to be the uptempo standout--and perhaps the most radio-friendl--track of the album. Isabel's soaring lead vocal--with notably outstanding production quality--is supported again by Isabelle Messier's harmonies in the chorus.
Two of the more metal-edged tracks are the instrumentally-oriented "Sotiria" and the pure yet brief instrumental "Hourglass." Both feature heavy guitar and bass; Eric Breton adds to the percussion playing darbukas on the tracks and keyboard effects produce choir-like sounds on "Hourglass." We especially enjoyed Isabel's soaring vocal, with lead and harmonies both performed more as instrumentals, on "Sotiria." These numbers serve as the perfect introduction to the album's final track.
The album concludes with the five-movement 15+ minute epic (rock opera) "Daedelus." The movements entitled "Denial," "Anger," "Bargaining," "Depression" and "Acceptance" and according to Isabel are meant to reflect the five steps we usually go through when we are in mourning. Lyrical content varies between Isabel's lead and backing harmonies provided by a ten-member choir and various almost spoken parts. Instrumentals include both memorable melodies and powerful guitar solos with various keyboard interludes and backdrops. The sung parts introduce each of the major sections while widely ranging instrumentals at different tempos comprise the multiple bridges between the movements. A stunning track that must be a sight to behold when the band perform it live. Isabel's powerful vocal delivery and the band's contrasting guitar solos during the closing passage are both most inspiring.
Trance of Mine's Reflections is an album of incredible depth, instrumental prowess and production quality. Isabel Plant's vocals have continued to develop since the Transcendence project Labyrinth--her power, range and evocative delivery style have all grown significantly. The album has the variety, production quality and range of styles that will draw, progressive, metal and alternative listeners to it. Clearly it is worth a journey!
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