I can always count on Finders Keepers to dig through the offbeat foreign language bins and scoop out the records that need re-examining. Prior to this review I could honestly not have told you that there exists a dialect native to Southern France, Northern Italy and parts of Spain called Occitan. I could certainly not have told you that a record label (Ventadorn) that was dedicated to solely releasing records in the dialect in the ‘70s, but this gem was sprouted from the Venn Diagram of these circumstances. The record is the sole album recorded by Miquela, though it was preceded by a single and she’d go on to work with a folk-rock combo called Lei Chapacans latter on. The record was recorded in a classroom studio, but sounds like it was given over to much more monied locales than this. The austere setup belies the fact that its threaded with strings, brass, accordions, and lush orchestration – jazz and folk touches that bump against the quietude of hidden harbors.
The record, quite properly, feels like a secret. The folk songs, indecipherable to those who aren’t versed in Occitan, seem like a scripture from a long-lost enclave. Miquela’s vocals hang in the air like cold fog, weighted with sadness and sorrow. The supporting cast is no less impressive, having picked up collaborators from her surround Occitan musicians, giving this less the air of a commissioned document (which it was) and more of a treasured gem (which it also is). The record has been long out of print, but with this reissue the movement of Occitan folk and Miquela’s contribution are reignited for a new generation.
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