Saåad did not set out to make a “church organ album”, or even a spiritual album, but that’s what happened when they were given access to the Puget pipe organ in the Church of Notre-Dame de la Dalbade. It’s just not the type of organ music that most are accustomed to hearing.
Centruries of near-exclusivity have cemented the organ’s association with Christianity, muting its use in secular arenas. And yet, this powerful instrument ~ one of the most diverse and loudest ever to be invented ~ continues to be defined by its own terms.
Romain Barbot and Gregory Buffier play the notes, elongating chords into sheets of drone and enhancing them with subliminal samples. In religious terms, the effect mirrors that of plainchant or mantra, yet without obvious voice. When the human throat is heard in “The Harvest”, one barely registers its presence, like an echo from a distant monastery. As such, Verdaillon manages to be both spiritual and secular, ancient and modern.
The same principle holds true for the water in “Opaque Mirror”. It’s easy to hear the water as that of a baptismal font, or as part of a cleansing ritual. But it’s also easy to imagine the Ganges River, or settlers by a stream. And while the creaking of “Incarnat II: 1888” may remind some of church pews, it may remind others of creaking hulls. Nobody owns these sounds. They produce echoes of something primal: a spiritual state some may connect to a specific religion, but that others may just call contemplative. Ironically, the use of the organ as tonal instrument instead of note-based instrument underlines the reasons it was chosen to accompany religious rituals in the first place.
As the album develops, it also increases in intensity. A rhythmic click is added in “Eternal Grow”, suggesting direct engagement. “Incarnat III: The Invisible Steeple” is the album’s most overt piece, containing the sounds of church bells and local traffic. The fact that this specific church does seem to have a steeple suggests two things: first, that the steeple mentioned in the title may be internal, and second, the old child’s rhyme, “this is the church; this is the steeple; open the doors, and see all the people.” Saåad’s music suggests the possibility of faith even without attendance, using the pipe organ to steer the thoughts to higher imaginings, influenced by the ear rather than by doctrine or dogma. (Richard Allen)
Release date: 15 September