It was in the Heathen Harvest archives where I discovered Montreal’s Marie Davidson. Thomas Martin Ekelund, of the eclectic death industrial project Trepaneringsritualen, had placed 2014’s Perte d’identite (Loss of Identity) at number three in his contribution to our popular Best of 2014: Artist’s Edition article. I’m often sick of male gesticulations in post-industrial music, so I searched for Davidson and tracked down her 2015 release on Austin, Texas’s Holodeck Records, Un autre voyage. Finally, with Davidson, numb pop minimalism thaws just enough to become good.
Davidson’s third album gleams from the murk as a major step in a short but significant career marked by Giallo horror soundtracks and disco. With Un autre voyage, Davidson has once again found a home in Holodeck Records, which has also leaped to the fore of the dark and minimal wave subgenres, which are so often run on drab languor and stunted crooning. Oppenheimer Analysis left me cold until recently, when I stumbled across Troller, S U R V I V E, and Davidson.
Un autre voyage (which translates as Another Journey) overwhelms niche distinctions. Davidson’s songwriting prowess has evolved since Perte d’identite’s miasmic landscapes cracked with songs like “Shaky Leg”:
I like a shaky leg
Know what I mean
In your tight pants”
Now, Davidson has developed a style that lingers just beyond traditional song and far from dance music. One has to wonder what’s she’s been living through after Holodeck described Un autre voyage’s impetus as, “based solely on true events, providing the listener with an unfiltered primary account of Marie’s intrapersonal experiences.”
“We are all burning,” concludes of the opening track, “Boulevard Taschereau.” Davidson, a lover, and “the crazy man at the bar” reckon over weightless electronics. The BPM is set at a heart rate matching Tangerine Dream’s interstellar pulses. The melody is played over light keystrokes creating a Quebecois noir, all existential woes and fearful lust.
Un autre voyage’s descends further into its album cover—a Lynchian mise en abyme in black and red, plagued by droning sighs on “Kidnap You in the Desert.” On songs that are willing to commingle with dance such as “Exces de vitesse,” Davidson is willing to simper over nauseating and tangled melodies. Those moments are rare. Often, the record is trapped in a web of spoken-word, juxtaposed against moody ambiance. Davidson has developed her compositions by recording her life. Yet, where does it bring the listener, especially one who doesn’t understand French?
Un autre voyage is a soundtrack. We are blind to the film of her life. The breathy narration, especially on “Balade aux USA,” tells a story. Beyond this, I’m deaf to the meaning as well, because I only speak English. If one follows the only song in English, “Boulevard Taschereau,” and its sensation that persists, they will find the noir teetering on horror, especially on the climactic “Perséphone.” Such is the mood of the album: Davidson entering narrated spaces that possess a dramatic fright, whether in a mood of dread or during encounters with an other that unnerve her. Davidson steps about the lyrics, singing a line, supported always by an electronic surface that just escapes distress.
For Davidson, who describes Un autre voyage as, “a fake soundtrack with voices,” a listener is able to enjoy the music because of the ambiance. The musicianship is enough. Perhaps the cinephile is the best candidate for Un autre voyage. Davidson’s style is compelling with its relationship between soundtrack and song. The closeness between the two revitalizes the mundane grievances of so much re-hashed minimal wave.
01) Boulevard Taschereau
02) Excès de vitesse
03) Kidnap You in the Desert
05) Balade aux USA