Multidisciplinary artist Roxane Métayer’s debut album is like a dream of ageless folk music, every droning harmony an intuitive insight of the natural world as it has bloomed and died again and again under a timeframe more mineral than organic. The music shimmers and sways like a gentle breeze across a mountain pass, a dialogue of stone whose poetry is to be found not in the cold, hard features of gravel, but in the short-lived efforts of the humans that stand beneath and let their imaginations run wild in awe. They picture gods and myths, and with their hammers they connect to an earth that teaches them no silence has ever existed.
Métayer’s chosen tool is the violin, a machine whose heart is wood and metal; even though no more animal guts are used to produce the strings, the instrument is still made of the entrails of our landscapes, and as a tool, it is not only an extension of the musician but a bridge through which the sighs of matter cross, taking human shapes. The folk music-nature link is commonplace, but it is rare to find it in the form that Éclipse des ocelles gives it, as a temporal relationship in which there are no styles, in which the roots that reach towards nature grow not from a Romantic modernity opposed to the world’s mechanization but from the endless repetition of beings standing before the world and gasping at its sublimity. The violin as bridge is vast: sometimes the melodies are from the present and the recent past, sometimes they seem to come from a time far gone, juxtaposing different imaginations onto a contemporary soundscape of the natural that feels like a transcendent dream. Métayer also introduces field recordings and effects that support the seemingly chaotic logic of the music, which at turns feels like being in trance, or lost in a strange area in familiar land, or listening to the forest or the jungle at night, brimming with noise life. Together with the violin, these elements transform folk from a genre into something else, into an expressive empathy with our natural surroundings, immersed in its own history as a music that decidedly does not belong solely to the Romantic – let alone European – understanding.
As the music morphs, it leaves distinct traces of passionate sound-forms behind, as in “Plus brume, que lune” (“More fog, than moon”), where sparse percussions, wind instruments, and a muffled soft voice draw an uneven choir of seemingly unconnected strands together, like looking at a forest from a clearing within it. The chaos of their appearance is the harmony of the forest itself, a gently dispersed pattern whose sense is the result of human activity, asymmetry and noise being the staples of natural form. The patterns easily become emotional states, as in the solemn, sometimes slightly melancholic reflection in “Dans un pays de serpents” (“In a land of snakes”), where the violin surges amidst the soundscape as a guide, like a natural path across dense trees. Tracks like “Couverte de Trèfles” (“Covered with clovers”) and “Opalescentes épopées” (“Opalescent epics”) represent best the dream-like referents to pre-modern music, medieval tones and percussions melding perfectly with folk drones and bluesy winds. The run-up towards the end of the album is its most meditative, but perhaps also its most expressionist, making its drones unstable, volatile, repetitive in ways that do not depend on holding the same note, without becoming melodic either. It is a free structure, like the forest, determined mostly by the act of listening, given specific form by aural imagination. The very ending, “Au pas”, (roughly “At the pace”), rewards us with a kind of dance, like all good regular folk music does, with which to celebrate this passing through times that are not strictly our own. It is a bit like waking up – there is no traditional ending sequence, nor it feels incomplete, like the randomized order synthesized by our brains in the last moments of dreaming. Remembering what happened throughout the night is vague, forever out of our complete grasp, like the mushrooms blooming across tree trunks whose overflowing irregular shapes suggest mysterious patterns yet to be discovered. This is folk – not a genre, but a spiral path towards shared, common abundance of noise. (David Murrieta Flores)