Roger Rodier: Upon Velveatur

Long-lost French-Canadian folk-rock album sounds like a forlornly fussing Nick Drake serving tea to Stephen Stills backstage at the Filmore.

Roger Rodier

Upon Velveatur

Label: Sunbeam
US Release Date: 2006-04-04
UK Release Date: 2006-03-06

It can be a bit of a mystery why some artists develop successful careers and other equally talented individuals never make it off the ground, languishing instead in obscurity and penury. Take Roger Rodier, for example. A French-Canadian folk-singer-songwriter who recorded a few singles in the late '60s before releasing the album Upon Velveatur in 1972. This LP created the tiniest of ripples and promptly sank without a trace, leaving Rodier little choice but to leave the music business and get on with some other kind of life.

Yet, on the strength of this album (released now on CD for the first time) he probably could have achieved a great deal more. For the most part, this is a collection of dreamy, introspective folk-rock tunes that sound very much aligned with the British early '70s folk boom. More specifically, the sound is reminiscent of Nick Drake's work circa Bryter Layter: acoustic guitar, melancholy melodies, hushed vocals and lush orchestration combine to create a sense of space and unhurried purpose. Take, for example "My Spirit's Calling" and it's evocation of the same mournful philosophising as Drakes "River Man", like a sigh and a shrug in the face of insurmountable cosmic sadness.

Unfortunately, the performance here is less gripping than Drake's commanding tenor. Rodier's vocals are slightly fey and lisping, coming across like a self-conscious troubadour doing his best despite his obvious limitations. Subject matter, too, is a little less than original, all too often sounding like a heartfelt hippy dream that now, in these more cynical times, sounds terribly wishful (note "The Key"s somewhat laughably gentle promise: "we shall indulge in a cup of tea.") It's not that he doesn't mean it, it's just that one wonders just exactly he does mean and just how important it might be in the grand scheme of things. Still, there are other moods here. "While My Castle's Burning" is an angry, despairing cry with aggressive strumming, electric guitar breaks and unhinged, wordless shouts and snorts that almost make up for the unfocussed, impenetrable nature of the theme. It's kind of like a protest song sung to oneself when no one else was meant to be listening.

To these ears, the most successful tracks are those that move away from the pastoral, tea-on-the-lawn aesthetic and embrace West-Coast American, electric folk-rock. "Am I Supposed to Let It By Again?" has an unmistakeable touch of Crosby Stills and Nash, all big harmonies in the chorus and electric fuzz guitar solos. Meanwhile "Just Fine"'s loping drums and soaring verses bring to mind some of Neil Young's most inspired moments. "Let's See Some Happyness", with it's bluesy riff and voluptuous, gospelised backing vocals, could be an outtake from Stephen Stills' first solo album.

Perhaps the comparisons are unfair. Rodier was clearly a very real talent on his own terms. Who knows... if he'd had the chance to make more records and develop his art, he could have done something really memorable. As it is, this remains an enjoyable and entertaining snapshot of early '70s songwriting and heartfelt attempts at musical expression. It's safe to say, they don't make them like this any more. Whether or not that's a good thing is, of course, entirely up to you.


From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

Subverting the Romcom: Mercedes Grower on Creating 'Brakes'

Julian Barratt and Oliver Maltman (courtesy Bulldog Film Distribution)

Brakes plunges straight into the brutal and absurd endings of the relationships of nine couples before travelling back to discover the moments of those first sparks of love.

The improvised dark comedy Brakes (2017), a self-described "anti-romcom", is the debut feature of comedienne and writer, director and actress Mercedes Grower. Awarded production completion funding from the BFI Film Fund, Grower now finds herself looking to the future as she develops her second feature film, alongside working with Laura Michalchyshyn from Sundance TV and Wren Arthur from Olive productions on her sitcom, Sailor.

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.