Artesia - Chants D'automne
It seems to me that darkwave is almost entirely the realm of female musicians and mostly, it appears, from France. Why that should be I don't know, but there is perhaps room for an interesting anthropological study as to why that should be. Given the nature of the music, and the connections it displays with Arthurian legend (note the Excalibur type sword on the front cover) it is entirely appropriate that the women involved in it are from Brittany.
The inspiration behind it is a forest known in French as Broceliande, and in English as Paimpont. It lies close to the home of the lead vocalist, Agathe, who draws her inspiration from this forest in terms of this album. Listening to the album is like taking a musical walk through the forest on an autumn morning as the mist, rising from the forest floor is slowly cleared by the warming sun.
I don't want to sound overly pretentious, but the album treads a very fine line between pretentiousness and atmosphere, and treads it very well. The result is that the album comes across as a coherent whole, almost as if it were a soundtrack to some as yet unwritten film, a film along the lines of some epic fantasy without the wizards and demons. If I had to use a term to describe it, that term would be pre-Raphaelite. It is the musical equivalent of a Gabriel Rossetti painting.
Now there are inherent dangers with a mimesis of nature in that it can tend towards an over-idealisation, a sort of longing for the Good Old Days which, as we all know, were not always that good. However, Artesia manage to reconcile that tendency in their music by stepping out of reality into an alternate construct of reality where everything can be made to be what you want it to be. In other words, the intention is to take you into a dream world rather than attempting to redefine the waking world in ways which don't fit. This approach is perhaps best typified by the lyrics to Le Refuge:
"Loin, au coeur de la forêt / Il n'est plus de souffrance / Pour les hommes exilés / Mais une autre existence
"Oubliés du monde ils viennent / Ici trouver la paix / Et le vent est leur seul guide / Sous le ciel étoilé"
(Afar, at the heart of the forest / There is no more suffering / For the exiles / But another existence
Forgotten to the world they came / To find peace here / And the wind is their only guide / Under the starry sky)
(Appropriate apologies for my poor French translation)
To emphasise this, there is a recurrence, throughout the album of certain musical themes. The single note guitar (or is it a lute) plucked in a four note arpeggio features on several tracks to signify the passage of time. The low, drawn-out bass note intro on a synthesiser opens many of the tracks, setting the scene for the opening into that dream world. And of course, Agathe's vocals, which at times rely on brief lyrics but mostly consist of long, ethereal chants. The vocals are truly used as an additional instrument and on most of the tracks (six in all) do not feature at all.
It is odd that darkwave, as a genre, has metal as its closest cognate for a less metal sound you could not find. But then again, there is a similarity in themes if not in presentation with the more folkish aspect of metal, mixed with a Gothic sub-stratum. The outcome is soothing and almost meditative, but I am not sure I could listen to this for too long. I am glad to have a darkwave album in my collection. It is likely to be unique in that regard.
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on 2011-02-20 CharlesMartel Said:
Gloriously atmospheric music. I am not normally into what may be called New Age Music, but this is something different. It has an appeal which, though wearing after too much, is quite unique.