Based in Montréal, Simon Piché-Castonguay is a modern classical pianist and composer working for theatre and cinema. The musician is also the creative force behind the Tambour musical project whose understated and cinematic style has already proven very influential among his contemporary peers. Featuring piano, glockenspiel, a string quartet, clarinet, French horn and minimal use of electronics, Chapitre I (2015) and Chapitre II (2016) are the only two digital EPs released to date under the Tambour moniker. Re-packaged as a limited 12’’ vinyl edition, Chapitres features a selection of tracks from both EPs and was released in April 2017 last on Montréal-based label Moderna Records.
Adopting a “less is more” approach”, all compositions on Chapitres have been meticulously crafted, paced and arranged down to every minute detail. The melodies are piano-led, orchestrated for strings and wind instruments and then expanded into 5 to 7 minutes pieces. As suggested by the literary titles, each track begins like a new chapter with a short exposition, its own internal narrative in one, two or three parts and concludes with a coda (“Esquisses Oubliées en trois mouvements” or “Sleepers”).
Enhanced by stunning visuals (Anne-Sophie Mongeau), “Waves” for instance has a surreal atmosphere punctuated by sweeping strings and subtle electronic layers. As is the case with many contemporary pianists, the incidental noises from the piano mechanism were captured on purpose and preserved in the final mix, lending an endearing retro-futuristic quality to the recording.
Castonguay’s minimal, soft and twinkling piano alongside the glockenspiel – especially on “L’apostrophe” – is consistently moving, more than often shifting the listener’s mood between nostalgia and exaltation. Concluding the album, “Farewell Museum” features guest musician Pietro Amato (Arcade Fire) on French horn, expanding the sound of the chamber music ensemble even further.
A modern classical composer at heart, Tambour’s combination of gentle, unhurried and mostly acoustic music with sparse electronics means that the musician has also successfully found an audience on several YouTube ambient music channels.
Underpinned by another strong narrative element and beautifully illustrated by a short film directed by Vincent René-Lortie, the musician unveiled a new single on 26 January 2018 last – thus indicating perhaps the impending (and highly-anticipated) release of new material. The 8mn long Silhouettes introduces two carefully constructed movements arranged for piano, celesta, electronics, string quartet and horn and also features a collaboration with dancer and choreographer by Brittney Canda.