AS SMALL as my cabin may be, may my home remain as grand. This is the sentence introducing the record on “A document”, a video presentation for Grande est la maison, with interviewed friends (who had not actually listened to the record yet) of Thomas Jean Henri, a Belgian composer and songwriter with much and diverse experience in the music industry.
What an incredible omen of what would actually happen shortly after the release of the record (end of February 2020), when a considerable part of the world population would be forced to stay home to decrease disease transmission in a pandemic.
Grande est la maison would turn out to be the soundtrack of this lockdown for quite a few passionate fans of the project – which, despite the low key and reach, has grand aspirations and involves a collective of prime level musicians and artists in the contemporary folk scene, such as Kate Stables from This Is The Kit and Will Oldham (Bonnie Prince Billy).
Developed over the course of five years, the record reflects the multimedia nature of Henri’s art: the songs are neat, clear but also deeply rich in tone and arrangement, as in a photograph. Soothing and contemplative, the songs were a desperate anchor to whatever feels human in months of isolation.
Opener “Tu ne jouerais plus a l’amour” (all songs are in English despite the titles, fyi) has the levity of an Iron & Wine, while “Now, Winter Comes” that of an haiku floating over a freezing lake. Henri’s songwriting is essential in its best meaning (“Sangokaku”), but it is probably with arrangements that the album gives its best. It could probably be entirely instrumental without listeners noticing (not to take away from Stables’s and Oldham’s sensible performances). Strings and Wurlitzer provide an enchanting chamber-folk scenery, full of magical openings to undiscovered worlds (“Easily We’ll See”).
Thanks to its meditative mood (‘Take Me Home, Pt 1″), Grande est la maison is soothing in the deepest meaning of the word; an understanding guide to self-exploration filled with evocative emotional landscapes (“By The Sea”).
This has been, definitely, one of the highlights of the year and, plainly speaking, has received much less attention than it deserves. To reinforce the collaborative nature of the project, Henri has now released a series of new takes by other artists.
Cabane’s Grande est la maison is available digitally now over at Bandcamp.