Marie Davidson Un Autre Voyage

[Holodeck; 2015]

Styles: minimal synth, industrial, confessional
Others: The Knife, Felicia Atkinson, Jenny Hval

“All songs based on true events.” The liner notes for Un Autre Voyage end with that simple assertion, which is also a challenge. If Davidson’s “other voyage” is truth, or some version of it, which voyage preceded it? Maybe it’s just a coincidence that Davidson’s last album was called Perte d’identité (loss of identity), but maybe not, and even then, it’s a useful antithesis to the professed realness of Un Autre Voyage. Still, I think this is far from a bare-bones catalog of subjectivity, and I think the notion of songs “based on true events” can be problematized. I’m also interested in figuring out precisely what role I play in Davidson’s other voyage, if any. Is there another (an other, another other) voyage for me somewhere?

Parts of Un Autre Voyage approach pure, uncomposed atmosphere. The whining, octave-skipping lead synth in the last two minutes of “Kidnap You in the Desert” and the pairing of a synth arpeggio with strobing percussion throughout “Insomnie” sound and feel like John Carpenter themes. On other tracks, these textures assume a different function, paired with Davidson’s simple and expressive lyricism. Davidson is a dreaming, sultry narrator on “Boulevard Taschereau,” who begins to doubt and panic with “Excès de vitesse” and reappears in a number of dark permutations throughout the rest of the album. My French isn’t perfect, but in the case of Un Autre Voyage, the purpose of Davidson’s bilingualism may be drawing internal conflict and scrambling hermeneutic codes. Refrains of “Violence wins/ Over reason” and “We are all burning” in “Boulevard Taschereau” set a paradigm whereby Davidson as the self-disclosing raconteur is questioned and often drowned out by the immediacy of tone. Davidson the character is there, but in the background; what a listener feels is dictated by the overpowering coldness and simplicity of the composition. Un Autre Voyage is disciplined, if not particularly forgiving upon repeat listens.

The resolute voice of Davidson’s husband and perennial collaborator Pierre Guerineau appears on closer “Perséphone,” introducing dialogue to the solipsistic world Davidson builds throughout the rest of the album. The two of them work together to tell a story, speaking in slow and clear French about sadness and fear. If the tension and anxiety of the sounds on this record were supposed to reflect the difficulties involved in giving a personal account, one gets the sense that Guerineau doesn’t solve anything, and that tension seems to be deflected onto the fact that the speakers are engaged in an affective relationship with an abstract third entity. Maybe this is Davidson’s way of suggesting that l’autre voyage was a flawed enterprise. In the end, one realizes that a confession is never constituted solely by a confessor and begins to think of oneself as some neutral arbitrator judging Davidson’s personal account. That account was never of the subject, but of the world from their position. “Perséphone” is an acknowledgement of the universe outside Davidson, but doesn’t sound as self-satisfied as “Boulevard Taschereau,” making it more of a question mark than a period.

Un Autre Voyage is kind of a dismal album, but I like it, because it’s sufficiently adventurous to consider the problem of subjectivity and does so in performance for a generation running out of stories and saturated with the immediacy of electronic music. You may not like Davidson’s world, but her hospitality is undeniable.

Links: Marie Davidson - Holodeck

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