With tracks inspired by a Terence Malick film, a Melville novel, and poems by Baudelaire and the French sailing champion Olivier de Kersauson, Le dernier présent wears its literary heart on its sleeve. Yet it is an album of few words, the most obvious being a portion of song from the French Foreign Legion. This segment, midway through the album, reminds the listener of the yearning soul behind the mechanical facade. Even when the words, first sung, are echoed in a guttural whisper, the listener can feel the tension between courageous ideal and smudged execution.
Montreal’s Georges Forget has lofty ambitions, which include the pulling back of bandages to check the condition of wounds. He is not afraid to expose the “melancholy and fatalism” of a war song, or the underbelly of a breathing city. But at times he turns romantic, underlining the brevity of a fleeting romance or the lure of the ocean; toward the end, he even allows a child’s ebullient voice. No single mood unites Le fernier présent, but the sounds – composed and recorded over the past decade – are intriguing in themselves, and hide their surprises between folds of sonic cloth.
One of the most effective pieces, “Urban Adagio”, treats the sounds of transit as both texture and percussion, augmenting the chug of trains and passing of cars with footsteps, squeaks and drones. The effect is both soothing and energizing; the more familiar the sounds become, the more comforting, stripping the terrors of night and replacing them with a siren call. Related sounds will appear later on the album, reflecting the artist’s urban background. The more rhythm one hears, the more rhythm one truly hears or ceases to hear, depending on one’s attitude toward the alluring/offensive sound.
The two “war” pieces are rougher around the edges, as befits their subject. The prize-winning “Métal en bouche” is filled with hammers and engines, but is offset by smaller noises: a laugh, a coin, a bell. “We move forward, metal in mouth,” writes Wahed Gotref. The slow march pace indicates a battalion, or at the very least, a metaphorical determination. “Orages d’acier” is less linear: a counterbalance of lulls and explosions, a nod to The Thin Red Line. Before the soldiers sing, there is again the sound of the rails, connecting this piece to “Urban Adagio”, albeit with a different connotation.
A secondary theme is that of water, lapping at the hulls in “Une île” and anchoring the quotes of “Seul et septembre” and “L’appel”. In the first composition, the water looms dark, a murky, many-fathomed ocean. But in the second, the waves and the electronic wings are more benign; and by the Moby Dick-referencing closer, the tone shifts to a summer vacation, replete with playground and child. Whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul … I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. If the tamer 21st century invites us to get to the sea instead of to sea, it’s still a pleasant reminder that the world is not all metal, transit and war. (Richard Allen)