We loved Refuge, Sylvain Texier‘s 2019 debut under the name Ô Lake, describing it is “deeply cinematic in a manner many artists aspire to, but few achieve”. If anything, this has been amplified in Still, an album in which big emotions are laid bare.
Listening to the muted solo piano of the lead single, “Innocence”, you might be forgiven for thinking that this is another minimal neoclassical album, but if anything the opposite is true: arguably this is maximalist neoclassicism (is that a thing?) Album opener “Everest” begins with gentle string chords, but these are not sparse string quartet textures; instead Texier has employed a 40-piece orchestra. Those opening chords sound as if the titular mountain is shrouded in mist, but as the music climbs to its heady peak it becomes clear that Texier intends to make full use of his resources, layering the string with rippling synths and piano chords.
If we had any lingering doubt of Texier’s maximilist tendencies, they are quickly dispelled in the thrilling second track, “Night Moves”, which adds feverish drums to the mix, resulting in a track that cries out for a movie to soundtrack (Hollywood, take note). There’s a similar power in “Avalanche”: the live performance video below uses a mere tenth of the string forces in the album recording and it’s still got the strength to knock you off your feet. There’s an exhilarating synth-led climax to “Here” that is surely a depiction of the joy of survival, and the strings pull our heartstrings again in its successor and counterpart “Distance”, which is a perfect portrayal of yearning for a missed loved one.
In our review of Refuge reviewer Richard Allen explored the origins of the moniker Ô Lake, a poem by Alphonse de Lamartine in which a lover returns to a lake where he expects to meet his beloved, only to be stood up, later discovering that the reason for her absence is that she has died. Sadly this literary grief has now found its real-life counterpart. This is made explicit in “Funeral”, dedicated to Texier’s late father. In the album credits he writes with poignant simplicity, “Miss you Dad”. Richard wrote with eerie prescience:
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 […] Life goes on after love, but amazingly, miraculously, love goes on after life.
Listening to Still‘s life-affirming beauty, this clearly holds true. (Garreth Brooke)