If you’re going to make your own sci-fi soundtrack, it’s always best to have visuals: to “put your money where your mouth is,” so to speak. Sébastien Guérive does this by enlisting the aid of Thomas Blanchard, whom our readers may recognize from his involvement in Max Richter’s SWARM, one of our Top Ten Music Videos of 2020. Stepping out on his own, Blanchard provides (literal) flesh to Guérive’s vision. “OMEGA II” is the album’s opening track, as well as its first visual representation, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see it end up on this year’s list.
The single’s cover art is a close-up of the exploding planet from the album cover, while the video offers a smorgasbord of sight and sound. A woman arrives wrapped in a sheet, like a chrysalis, interposed with images of a leaf’s veins, like lifeblood. Images shuttle by, fast and slow; the woman is freed, nature becomes unbound. The screen is inverted; and then the signature move arrives, as Alice Regnouf’s movements are multiplied until she becomes part centipede, part mandala. The effect is akin to the presence of many dancers in Thai performance art. Her body flows as the sea, which is now running backwards. All the while, Guérive’s music grows in intensity, suggesting a bursting forth, a new form, a culmination. His blend of modern composition and Frost-like electronics creates an exquisite tension. Pause the screen at 2:40; does the flower have teeth? The juxtopositions of woman and butterfly tackle the science angle; the surrealistic techniques honor the fiction.
Guérive keeps a consistency of tone throughout the set, which one can indeed imagine as a sci-fi score. Freed from the constraints of scoring scenes, he’s able to provide each piece with distinct character; though from a composer’s standpoint, creating one’s own score is more liberating than lucrative. Voices launch “NASHIRA,” like a melodic HAL, while the music is ambient, preparing for a dark symphonic lift in “OMEGA VIII.” In the next piece, the piano captures the early moments. We imagine “BELLATRIX” refers more to the warrior of Orion than to the trickstress of Harry Potter, though fewer recall the star.
Is the earth (or some other planet) really about to explode? One begins to think of recent films, from The Wandering Earth to Space Sweepers, that build on the template of When Worlds Collide. The synth aspect fits genre expectations, while interludes such as “MINKALINAN” suggest people saying farewell, with foreheads pressed together, weeping. An otherworldly ending (“OMEGA V”) sounds tentatively hopeful, but open-ended. Did anyone survive? Will they start again? What happened to “OMEGA I, III, IV and VI?” We’ll have to wait for the sequel to find out. (Richard Allen)