What is retro futurism if not a way of seing the future holding on what comes from the past? In Intoxidation, first shared composition between composer Vergil Sharkya’ and the experimental vocalist Sarah Albu, there is a large number of datas that were entered and reprogramed. We can feel here influences from concrete musique and electronic music from its beginning around the 60s. But we can also hear some almost classical vocal lines, as in Mâchoire de sirène for example. A ‘déjà vu’ impression which bring us back when future was bright and clean. But as we dig in the listening, we understand the two artists want to bring us much further. We understand we are facing here a reinterpretation of the classics and a collage, as in visual arts, of diverse sound schemes. Superposed in many layers, this is a very rich sound palette. The collage reminds us of the surrealism era and, in fact, there is some surrealism in the music and the titles of the pieces. Is this retro futurist surrealism? Of course.
In tracks number 4 and 5: coquillage radio vs. ancient sea receiver and récepteur de la mer antique vs. radioshell the artists play with our ears. Hard to say if this is the same tracks played differently, simply switching from one ear to the other, giving more volume to one track then to the other, but this little virtuosity trick makes you smile and makes you feel, true or not, you suddenly understand what is happening.
… merely a vehicle for the sauce is the most ambitious piece of the album. In this song, Sarah Albu uses the entire spectrum of sound a human can possibly produce with the voice. Sarah Albu’s voice is remarkably pure, she uses very little vibrato, a white voice that suddenly cracks or seem to diffract. From pure arpeggios to meows, vibration noises made with the lips to throat singing, etc. The electronic are there to accompany and amplifie. Here is what can be consider an aria from the 21st Century. This is a virtuoso music, there is a mini-drama, a story, so the technical and sensitive aptitudes of the singer are fully implied. Both the performance and the composition make this a very successful piece.
This album has a program, a beginning, an end, some vast and great moments, some funny moments, this album reflects the perfect harmony between the two artists and this harmony transcends through magnificent songs.
Joel Lavoie is a Montréal-based sound artist who’s output on Souvenir encompasses a mix of ambient, acousmatic, synth (Buchla 200), and minimalist influences. While these styles have been combined in various ways previously, Lavoie’s approach has a unique feel, making Souvenir a compelling and understated release.
Across three long tracks, Lavoie layers oscillations, gentle walls, pulses, and environmental sounds. On Souvenirs intermittents, these evolve and grow in intensity, adding cosmic synth lines. Addendum begins with a mid-range drone before moving into a theme reminiscent of Steve Roach or the Berlin School. Marche irréfléchie is a 25-minute coda that adds a double bass player as well as some light discordance. Melodies drift across deep soundscapes with distant crashing, voices, and other effects.
Despite their unconventional sources, there is a certain warmth and spaciousness to Lavoie’s compositions that give them a cinematic texture. With no shortage of ambient music readily available, it takes a strong release to turn heads these days. Souvenir fits the bill.
If one would translate the title of this album, Feu aimant, this would probably give something as ‘magnetic fire’. Indeed, as a fire, this album acts as a magnet for the ears and the eyes. Siamois Synthesis, the name of the new band, also unveils the content of the album: a synthesis of different musical influences such as experimental, rock, techno, folk, ambiant and more, where tracks alternate between a more energetic music and a more floating and meditative one. If its references are quite eclectic, the album is very coherent though, tracks flow naturally one from the other. We could evoke some Cibo Matto from the first years in a less sweetened version mostly because of the voice of Maya Kuroki, or we could also recall of a less dark Arca mostly because of the sometimes very dirty electric guitar of Simon Trottier and of the bass of Sylvain Gagné. The music is very cinematographic, we dream of a show with video, an art where Maxime Perron-Corbeil is excellent, for now you find him at the keyboards and the computer. Perron-Corbeil is a few steps ahead when talking about fire. Seen last year in Toronto, a musical video, Displacement, offered a bonfire, a mesmerizing image that still is glued to my retina since.
The fifth and sixth tracks, TriggerWarning_drumsdrumsdrums and Urizen, follow each other with no stop and are the chore of this recording: a slow but relentless crescendo in a dramatic intensity. Urizen is a mythological character from the literary universe of William Blake, an embodiment of conventional reason and law. A frightening character that Siamois Synthesis renders with a strong realism.
Available in downloadable format or in vinyl LP, Feu aimant deserves many listenings. An album with a good concept, a band of four equally talented musicians who obviously enjoy playing together, a music at the thin edge between experimental and pop which make us believe in a colorful and diverse future for music. Hybrid concepts are good change agents, catalysts for new movements, Siamois Synthesis has everything to get international recognition and we can’t wait for a second album and are impatient to see them on stage.