WOELV Tout Seul dans la Forêt en Plein Jour, Avez-Vous Peur

[K; 2007]

Styles: indie pop
Others: The Blow, Julie Doiron, Phil Elverum

Born of romantic, nomadic ideals and humble ambition, Tout Seul dans la Forêt en Plein Jour, Avez-Vous Peur (translated from the French as Alone in the Forest in the Middle of the Day, Are You Scared?), the latest release from Canadian songstress Geneviève Castrée (a.k.a. WOELV), is a swirling mass of apocalyptic percussion, sputtering guitars, and feather-soft vocals. Conceived as the artist was traveling through the United States, attempting to familiarize herself with the alien yet strangely familiar country, Tout Seul represents the everyman (or, in this case, everywoman): her struggles, fears, and, most importantly, how she relates to the world around her.

Obviously reacting to contemporary, worldwide issues, Castrée crafts highly ambitious and political tracks with countless metaphors (“The Young Female Duck in a Puddle of Petrol”) and, sometimes, straightforward, often taboo issues (“Rape” and “The Man Who Has Just Stepped Onto a Landmine,” for instance).

But it’s rarely these topics that make Tout Seul so emotionally jarring. To a native English speaker, the lyrics are lost and incomprehensible, though Castrée’s vocals constantly affect and incite emotion. Reminiscent of Björk’s underspoken, esoteric spurts, Castrée’s vocals often drift along, bending in and out of the music as she croons her overly ambitious and charged lyrics — in the liner notes, there’s a long discourse ending in the terribly cliché “Or do we need TOUGH LOVE?” Maybe it’s a blessing then that I’m wholly unable to understand what Castrée is singing. If her vocals were sung in English, I suspect the deeply political statements would jar and annoy rather than inform or comfort.

But as such, it’s the construction and flow of each song that make Tout Seul truly powerful. The musicianship on the aforementioned “The Young Female Duck in a Puddle of Petrol” is shoddy at best, hinting toward the everyman idea that seems central to the disc. The percussion and lightly strummed guitars are just off-kilter, largely syncing up but often feeling a 16th-beat apart. This trend seems to run through the expansively minimalist nature of the album. The plucked guitar strings of “Arrogance” seem slightly behind the beat and Castrée's gentle moans. Whether or not these small mistakes were intended, they actually benefit the album as much as harm it, adding to the overriding dogma of Tout Seul without hindering the listenability and credibility of the record.

So, maybe it is my own ignorance that assists my listening. Being unable to understand the lyrics on Tout Seul might possibly be its most beneficial and significant point of interest. But then again, it stands as a non sequitur to the entire spirit of the recording: finding oneself and connecting with others amid a country of disparate people. Regardless, it’s this contradiction and these problems that have inspired this gorgeous pieces of work. Relatable or not.

1. Drapeau Blanc [White Flag]
2. La Fille Que S'Est Enfermée dans La Salle de Bains [The Girl Who Locked He]
3. (Réconciliation) [(Reconciliation)]
4. Deux Coqs
5. La Petite Cane Danse le Nappe de Pétrole [The Young Female Stuck in a Pudd]
6. Au Viol! [Rape!]
7. (Arrogance)
8. La Mort et le Chien Obèse [DeAth and the Obese Dog]
9. Sous Mon Manteau
10. Sang Jeune [Young Blood]
11. L' Homme Qui Vient de Marcher Sur une Mine [The Man Who Has Just Stepped O]
12. Tout Seue dans La Forét en Plein Jour

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