Woelv – ‘Tout Seul Dans La Forêt En Plein Jour, Avez-Vous Peur?’

July 5, 2008 § Leave a comment

Published: The Vine, July 1, 2008.

Woelv

Woelv
Tout Seul Dans La Forêt En Plein Jour, Avez-Vous Peur?
(K/Chapter)

From the hushed, snaking vocal harmony-turned violent, shattering dissonance of opening vignette ‘Drapeau Blanc’ (White Flag), Tout Seul Dans La Forêt En Plein Jour, Avez-Vous Peur? proves a curious, somewhat disquieting creature. Opaque yet sparse, quaint yet abrasive, rudimentary yet beauteously detailed and nuanced; the debut musical collection from French-Canadian visual and comic book artist Geneviève Castrée (aka Woelv) is a work of omnipresent, but never overt, tension and paradox.

Over 13 fragile sketches – sung entirely in French – Castrée gently tears at folk and pop syntax, leaving edges frayed, orientations skewed. Her sonic shapes end up beautifully asymmetrical, woven via whispered threads of nylon-string guitar, bass, tape-hiss, artefact, piano and voice. The wondrously stark guitar and vocal of ‘Réconciliation’ and ‘Arrogance’, the surging, minor key bass melody of ‘Sang Jeune’ (Young Blood) and the haunting field-recordings of the title track make for stunning moments.

But aesthetic bearings alone represent a meagre slither of the record’s worth. For Tout Seul – in English, All alone in the forest in the middle of the day, are you scared? – is an oeuvre that transcends musicality. Indeed, it is the veiled tension of Castrée’s lyrical meanderings – translated to English via the stunningly illustrated booklet – that gives this record life.

On reading, these once merely pretty songs expand into densely psychological, brutally naive chronicles of conflict and war and rape and human plight. The percussion-scored overture of ‘L’homme qui vient de marcher sure une mine’ (The Man Who Has Just Stepped onto a Landmine) and the shimmering orchestral transition of ‘Hiver Nucléaire’ (Nuclear Winter) suddenly become harrowing, heart-tearing documents.

Castrée has achieved rare polarity with Tout Seul. Whilst fragile, childlike and wondrously amorphous to the ear, delve deeper and these oeuvres echo with a guilt of privilege, a want for understanding, a need for betterment in the shadow of the contemporary.

It is a work awash with both enchanting musical undercurrents and visceral human data.

Dan Rule

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