The National Parcs
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The National Parcs

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Aug
02
The National Parcs @ Osheaga Festival

Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Jul
24
The National Parcs @ Sasquatch Gathering

Drayton Valley, Alberta, Canada

Drayton Valley, Alberta, Canada

Jul
17
The National Parcs @ Ness Creek Music Festival

Big River, Saskatchewan, Canada

Big River, Saskatchewan, Canada

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Music

Press


The Mirror ARCHIVES: Nov 01 - Nov 07.2007 Vol. 23 No. 20
Mirror Music


>> Cover

Sticks and stones and microphones
>> Montrealers the National Parcs break new ground with Timbervision, an audio-visual album of hinterland harmonies and beats from the bush


IT’S ONLY NATURAL: The National Parcs



by RUPERT BOTTENBERG

Roughly four hours northwest of Montreal is a ZEC—a zone d’exploitation contrôlée, or controlled harvesting zone—called Bras-Coupé Désert. The function of such a vast tract of wilderness, overseen by non-profit administration, is the wisely managed cultivation of the area’s resources, balanced with the careful preservation of its flora and fauna, and availability for recreational fishing, hunting, camping and canoeing.

Nowhere in the provincial government’s list of objectives for such spaces is there any mention of recording pop-music albums, but that didn’t stop Vincent Letellier, Chimwemwe Miller and Ian Cameron—known collectively as the National Parcs—from doing just that.

“It’s Crown land, so there’s no one there except loggers,” says Letellier, the electronic musician still technically known as Freeworm. “Even on the dirt roads, there’s barely any traffic. There can be some planes, but they’re so far away that even if you’re whispering, you can’t hear it. There was no human interference whatsoever.”

The three weren’t seeking peace and quiet for its own sake. Quite the opposite. They’d hauled a van of instruments and audio-visual gear all that way for the purpose of making a racket.

“It’s the perfect studio,” says Letellier, “because when you’re close-miking, you don’t get any room texture, which is really cool because the sound is just there, raw and really dry. Then, as soon as you turn the mic away, you get the echo from the forest—even a $10,000 reverb unit can’t reproduce that sound. So if the conditions were good, meaning wind or insects or whatever, man, it’s paradise for any studio geek.”
Seeing and hearing are believing

In late spring of this year, the National Parcs released Timbervision, an album that’s possibly a first in several respects. It’s a CD-DVD release with visual documentation of its own creation (and a fair bit of unavoidable hijinx and antics), the core of which occurred over the two previous summers up in the ZEC Bras-Coupé Désert.

The trio had already been working together under the banner of Letellier’s Freeworm persona, on and following his 2003 Solar Power album. He was of course the director of the project, with Miller stepping in as an MC/vocalist, replacing a female predecessor (“Although with a very different octave range than she had,” he says) and Cameron handling VJ duties at live shows.

Letellier hasn’t entirely shelved the moniker, which he still attaches to soundtrack and remix work. “Even as we were working on Timbervision,” he notes, “I would still sign stuff under the name Freeworm, but always as a studio rat on my own.”

Following Solar Power, the trio’s dynamic slowly began to shift. “In the past,” recalls Cameron, “it was Vincent’s direction, and then Chimwemwe and I imposed our vision on top of what was already established.”

That morphed into an “ultra-democratic” arrangement, as Letellier puts it. “Any idea, if it’s not approved by all three of us, it doesn’t fly.”

The audio-visual album was an idea that had been bubbling for some time. “I’d pitched the idea to Vince years back,” says Cameron, who directed the video component of Timbervision. “Solar Power, at one point, was going to be that, but it didn’t end up working out that way. We wanted to do something where the whole process was shot during the studio session. So it was going to be inside the studio. We were just going to set up a camera and then, more scratch-video style, have all the little samples—without a look or aesthetic, just documenting.”

Letellier had a history of using field recordings and found sounds, from both the city and the wilderness, in his electronic music, going back already to his first release, 2000’s Vegetation=Fuel. “I’m not sure exactly how the idea came together,” says Cameron, “but it was eventually to marry the two. We thought, wouldn’t it be interesting—we don’t think anyone else has made an album outdoors, and with video as well—an audio-visual album outdoors.”
Outward sounds

Initial attempts to gather raw material on Mount Royal and Mount Ste-Anne proved fruitless, due to the proximity of air and land traffic. “You can EQ out the stuff you don’t want to hear,” Letellier notes glumly, “but eventually you kill the sound.”

Way up north, things were quite different, and the real creation began—without much of a battle plan, other than shoot first and ask questions later. “Before we even had the song structures,” says Cameron, “we started shooting the video and improvising in the woods. We had video first, then we would take the audio attached to it and build songs out of that. And then we went back - Montreal Mirror


Forging nature's noises into banging beats with a club feel, Timbervision's like nothing you've heard
T'CHA DUNLEVY, The Gazette
Published: Thursday, June 21 2007

There's not much that is more antithetical to the urban spirit of hip-hop and electronic music than the calm and wide-open expanses of nature.

And yet Vincent Letellier has worked for the better part of a decade to fuse those opposing realities. He rose to prominence under the name Freeworm, releasing two albums, Vegetation=Fuel (2000) and Solar Power (2003).

But when he found himself collaborating more and more intensely with bandmates Chimwemwe Miller (percussion, and now vocals) and Ian Cameron (video), he realized it was time for a new name to reflect the new sound - and vision.

The National Parcs are an audiovisual party band with its roots firmly planted in nature. The group's debut album, Timbervision, released this month, is a CD/DVD with videos for every song, filmed in the great outdoors during the recording process.

Far from being an afterthought, the visual component was often used as a starting point in creating the music. The group spent a total of two months, over the course of two years, at the Letellier family's country home near Parc de la Verendrye.

"We were taking image and sound at the same time," Miller said, sitting down with his fellow band members earlier this week. "The environment really inspired the music."

"We would choose a location before anything else," Cameron said. "We would see what looked interesting and could make for some interesting samples, and we would start playing, banging on things. We just happened to be recording and filming at the same time."

Timbervision is a riot - a thumping, lively album driven by Miller's animated raps, sing-songy choruses, swinging rhythms, informed by African music, the blues and modern booty beats.

It is the sound of three very talented guys letting loose, a sort of hip-hop jug-band jamboree. And it is like nothing you've heard before.

"It doesn't feel like we hijacked anyone's sound," Letellier said.

"(It was about) turning the switch off in terms of our preconceptions, and really being honest about our lives, trying to put it all in a colourful way - something that would hit the imagination."

Mission accomplished. If it were just a hip-hop album, Timbervision would be the most original one to emerge from Canada since k-os's Joyful Rebellion. But it's much more, crossing so many stylistic boundaries as to make easy categorizing quite difficult.

Imagine Goodie Mob appearing on Paul Simon's Graceland, or Arrested Development working on Moby's Play. Aw, never mind. What is easy is enjoying it. The playfulness can be traced back to the process.

"Timber left for dead / is what we used to make the sounds," they sing on Twelve Word Song.

The videos on Timbervision find Letellier, Miller and Cameron scavenging lakes and woods, using rocks, tractors and duck calls to get audio snippets that become building blocks for some very groovy tunes.

"Nature is a nice place to be," Letellier said. "The sounds are isolated, rich and complex. It's fun to take something that is organic, and use it to make banging beats that have a club feel, to take things that are so alien to each other and mash them together - to take a log and bash it, then make a kick drum out of (the sound), and make a club track with it. The fun just pops out at you." - Montreal Gazette


The National Parcs
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Beat diggers
Ilana Kronick

Montreal's National Parcs find more than just their voice in nature

When a band as exotically eclectic as The National Parcs tell you that, when it comes down to it, it's all about creating fresh beats that mobilize the crowd, the overall vision comes into focus. The Afrobeat styling? It infuses a rich energy. The spiritual overlays? There to provide an extra dimension. And the elemental, at-one-with-nature aesthetic? An inspirational direction, loaded with beauty, attraction and authenticity.

"What can I say? We dig beats," says Vincent Letellier, whose relationship with all things percussive developed with his former project, Freeworm (a sometimes collaborative engagement that featured current National Parcs members Chimwemwe Miller and Ian Cameron).

The question is, with each of the National Parcs' artistic layers well represented, how do they all fit together? Which comes first, and why?

"It all starts with video," Letellier says. "Really," adds Miller. "It's part of the concept. For the last album, Timbervision, a lot of the songs, a lot of the musical element came after the video. We had the video first, and through the shots that we had from that video, we had a lead, and from there we were able to create."

They are referring to the lush, deep-woods footage shot by Cameron, in which rocks, trees, water, moss, etc. are instrumentally featured both visually and sonically. Although the choice to go au naturel was real (and not just something that happened as a byproduct of "wanting to get out of the city"), the earthy energy is featured so
centrally, it's come to represent the band - maybe even define it.

"We recorded rocks in quarries - bashing rocks together - but we had no idea why we were bashing those rocks when we were doing it. When we got back to the studio we would make songs with those images, and then go back and take some beauty shots," explains Letellier.

"But it was just part of the process," adds Miller. "It could have been anything. Yes, we are called The National Parcs, and yes, the album was done in nature - and we love nature - but the making of this album was more about bringing together our different areas of expertise. It's really about that more than branches or rocks in particular." - The Hour


The foundation of the imaginative mix of global folk and laidback ghetto grooves here is rhythms ’n’ bits cobbled out of sounds sourced way out in the woods—sticks and stones, quite literally. The process is best explained through the accompanying DVD, which offers a video for every track and doubles as an artful explanation of their M.O. The innovative process is plenty cool, but are the results a good listen? Hell, yeah—the memorable material ranges from goofy rap and folk-funk fun to poignant twilight ruminations.

Rupert Bottenberg
Music Editor
Montreal Mirror



- Montreal Mirror


Jug-band-hip-hop? Bluegrass electro? You might find yourself searching for new descriptives after hearing the debut by Montreal's The National Parcs, featuring three members of now-defunct nature-inspired electronica act Freeworm. Recorded in the wilderness (with the accompanying DVD to prove it), this disc is rife with new sounds - thumping along to Afro-Caribbean, hip-hop and techno-type rhythms, with spiritual-derived harmonies, bluesy turns, fast-talking raps and an infectious energy that makes you want to stomp your feet, clap your hands, and dance! Totally original, and thoroughly invigorating.

T'CHA DUNLEVY
Montreal Gazette - Montreal Gazette


"A deep, innovative, and remarkable record"
John K. Samson
DNTO, CBC radio - CBC Radio


Discography

Timbervision (CD/DVD album, Audiogram 2007)
Border Patrol - Buzzclip Musiqueplus, June 2007

Photos

Bio

The National Parcs, veterans of Montreal’s celebrated Freeworm, have gone into the wild – and come back with a look and sound that’s as big as the world.

The three young men were born in the backwoods of Quebec, Malawi and B.C., but bred on Montreal streets buzzing with the noise of every nation on earth. For this groundbreaking CD/DVD album, they strip back down to basics, returning to their roots in the bush. The great outdoors becomes their studio, and their songs come alive with all-natural samples of wood splitting, sand slipping, paddles slapping, water dripping. Their cameras and microphones are trained on the trackless woods around them, but their ears have been trained on Grime and Hip Hop, Afrobeat and Baile Funk, American Spirituals and Malian Blues. The resulting Timbervision tracks are an invitation for the world to dance, starting with the half-remembered hum of our own backyards and smuggling in the best that the world has to offer.

The band first joined forces for Freeworm’s 2001 live shows, which pioneered their fascination with grafting exotic and broken beats onto the rhythms of maple forests and canoeing. This was the year the city first got out of its seats for the trio’s infectious found-sound and found-image stage experience: their Club Soda performance at the Montreal Electronic Groove Festival won them the MIMI “Show of the Year” award. Two Freeworm albums later, they’re making the partnership official as The National Parcs. The French–English mash-up of the band’s new name suggests the range of their influences, while the parkland theme is a nod to preserving what matters.

Summer, fall and winter, the band went off the grid to collect the raw materials for the Timbervision album. Miles away from a studio or even a drum, they discovered echoes and ambience unlike anything heard in the city. The footage records the three-man crew in their natural environment, banging sticks, jumping on four-wheelers. The National Parcs’ new album is a reminder that freedom makes the kind of art you can move to. This is the message of Timbervision, shot and recorded in the wild: let everyone join the party, and let the party never stop.

According to Vincent Letellier (AKA Freeworm): “We wanted to throw a party that would get five continents bouncin’ – and you need more than just an album for that. You need music and video that rise up together, shot and recorded as one.” Says Chimwemwe Miller, who joins Vincent on the music and lyrics: “If you want to bring the world together, you need summer hits that ignore borders and boundaries, but you can’t close the door on the shadier stuff: Death in a bone suit, African snow like a sky full of ashes.” Ian Cameron, the visual director responsible for the videos’ nature documentary esthetic, agrees: “Most of all, you don’t just ring up six billion neighbours without knowing where you came from yourself.”

VINCENT LETELLIER (AKA Freeworm), MUSIC AND LYRICS

Vincent hails from Luskville, a tiny community in western Quebec. In 1992, as a young multi-instrumentalist intent on stretching the potential of his electric guitar, he left his first band to seek cross-cultural inspiration in Montreal. Vincent’s debut record as Freeworm, 2000’s Vegetation = Fuel (Hydrophonik/Indica), spun organic samples into an urban playlist of breakbeats, drum and bass, liquid jazz and hip hop. The Quebec music scene paid notice. He was soon doing remixes for Bran Van 3000 and Adam Chaki, and collaborated with Daniel Bélanger on Rêver Mieux. He is also sought after for his soundtrack work. He has traveled in Europe, Brazil, Vietnam and West Africa, and the talent that has accumulated around him shone through on the critically acclaimed Solar Power (2003), which featured no fewer than 27 collaborators. Timbervision marks an ambitious multimedia return to an ongoing concern: integrating the sound of the back woods with cutting-edge pop exploration.

CHIMWEMWE MILLER, MUSIC AND LYRICS

Arriving in Montreal from Malawi at the age of seven, Chimwemwe stepped directly onto the local stage – where he continues to this day. Since his teens, a variety of bands and ensembles have benefited from his drum, trumpet, piano and vocal training. In the nineties he joined the People's Gospel Choir of Montreal, where he went on to be tapped as baritone/bass soloist.Chimwemwe has pursued also storytelling for many years, and in theatre has acted, written, directed and taught, most notably with the Black Theatre Workshop. He first lent his stage presence to Freeworm’s live show in 2001, stunning audiences with his charismatic percussion and beatboxing skills, and now joins the rechristened National Parcs for their trip into the woods. He holds a BFA in Interdisciplinary Studies from Concordia University.

IAN CAMERON, DIRECTOR

Ian also lived in Africa as a child, but left Côte d’Ivoire to grow up mostly in Aylmer, Quebec, just downriver from Vincent’s hometown. On his way to a BFA in