Refuge is a debut album that doesn’t sound like a debut. Beautifully composed and presented by Sylvain Texier (Ô Lake), it’s a perfect reflection of its title, a sweet and soothing set that allows the listener to take refuge in its melodies. The combination of piano, cello and violin sings of the season in which it is released, providing shelter from the cold and the storm.
Textier’s literary inspiration is the famous French poem by Alphonse de Lamartine, from which he takes his moniker and the album’s theme. The narrative is heartbreaking ~ a lover returning to a lake where he expects to meet his beloved, only to be stood up, and later to discover that the reason for her absence is that she has died. From this we might expect an album of extraordinary sadness, but neither poem nor album allow such defeat to dominate. Love, and the memory of love extracted from time, become the cry.
O Lake, caves, silent cliffs and darkling wood,
Whom Time has spared or can restore to light,
Beautiful Nature, let there live at least
The memory of that night.
Poetry becomes the refuge of the poet, music the refuge of the composer, beauty the refuge of the reader, listener and viewer. The video for “Holocene” may unfold at an ocean rather than a lake, but the slow pan produces a feeling of contemplative loss, the waves crashing slowly from the top of the screen like tears. Soon all is ocean, vast and inconsolable, until the other side is reached. Heaven? Acceptance? Inevitability? François Dourlen’s cinematography is open to interpretation.
The album is deeply cinematic in a manner many artists aspire to, but few achieve. Texier’s success is achieved through a concentration on tone and emotion. The first piano note takes an entire minute to arrive, but it doesn’t seem late. The bereaved speak when they are ready, as do the instruments here, congregating at a kind, unhurried pace. The surprise is a light drone that works its way to the fore, suggesting the cloud of unknowing. In the third track, the cloud breaks into rain. When electronic beats arrive, they offer a shoulder of strength.
As the album progresses, one begins to feel a sense of solace. Our losses were terrible, but we have survived. We preserve our happy memories for as long as we can. Time flows forward, but our minds flow backward, offering a counterbalance, the weight of love pressed against the impassivity of fate. de Lamartine’s poem strikes a chord due to this painful dichotomy in which Love continues to win, albeit at great cost. Texier matches the poem with chords of his own, never more poignantly than on “November 17”, a date whose significance is hidden from the listener yet is crucial to the composer. Life goes on after love, but amazingly, miraculously, love goes on after life. (Richard Allen)