Consider the following collaboration: Nico, Charles Bukowski and David Lynch sit together at Lynch's nightclub, Club Silencio, to discuss sound track ideas for a film titled Un Autre Voyage. After hours in which they try to decipher each other's esoteric communication patterns, an agreed-upon idea emerges: creating a travelogue from an outsider's perspective on America, except one that flirts with realism and abstraction. Like setting the Blade Runner music to Lolita.
What emerges from this psychedelic, postapocalyptic mosaic is Marie Davidson, a minimalist electronic artist from Montreal. Armed with a Miniroot, a Monotribe, MSB Step 64, a Korg Delta, a digital eight-track recorder and samples galore, she performs alone, crafting soundscapes that resemble a world not yet imagined.
Her new album, Un Autre Voyage, shares with the listener a firsthand view of Davidson's reflections on travel, both intrinsically and extrinsically. Harmonies are intermixed with pulsating drone, and narrative phrases patched over shaded motifs. It's a soundtrack for those dreading sleep paralysis.
"This new record is like a film or a story. It goes up and down," Davidson recalled from outside a club in New Orleans. "Like the title's translation, it means 'Another Trip,' but the journey is not just an outward one, but a multidimensional accounting for the darkest spaces we are afraid to navigate in our minds."
The music's textures are dark, yet darkly humorous, too. The more industrial overtones on several of the tracks, greatly attributed to her Chris and Cosi influence, provide patchworks of narration. One in particular, "Balade Aux U.S.A.," is more of an abstract commentary on American culture rather than a straightforward critique of it.
"[What inspired the song] was my tour of the U.S. last year," Davidson says. "I went on tour with these two crazy guys who partied way too much. In the song, I discuss the difficulties of having too much freedom, and a lot of that comes from the fact that there isn't a guide on how to handle yourself on the road. Things can, and often do, get out of hand."
Moreover, the song discusses how beautifully strange our culture is.
"I find it a very interesting culture," Davidson remarks on her travails through America. "It is a very diverse culture — very extreme. You find a lot of opposites. Very wealthy people living in the same community with very poor people."
"Kidnap You in the Desert" sounds like inadvertent music caught in the background of a snuff film. It horrifies, suggesting that the victim has already met his or her abductor. The victim just squirms with anticipation of what might happen next.
"I made [the song] because this is what I was hearing in my head," Davidson says, while warning listeners not to take the song's subject matter too literally.
"I like to play with humor — dark humor, mainly — and put characters in positions they never anticipated being involved with in the first place," she says.
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A clear existential thread binds her words to the music. It is a clear reflection of her performing alone onstage, which was a difficult transition from having to rely on other people during the show.
"At first it was really hard. I had played in a bunch of different bands and projects, so it was easier to blame someone else when something went wrong," says Davidson. "Now the only person to blame if something goes wrong is me."
But after several months of performing alone, Davidson says, the transition became pleasant. "The advantage of playing alone is that you don't have to deal with interpersonal problems," she notes. "You don't have to negotiate your vision."
In the end, her hard work paid off. She signed a deal with Holodeck Records, an Austin-based label founded by members of Pure X and This Will Destroy You, who came across her music by chance three years ago in Montreal. She met Jon from Silent Land Time, who heard her live performance and fell in love with the material instantly. Equipped with only a demo CD, he asked if she minded if he put it out on his label.
"When he asked me to put out my CD on his label, I was like 'Cool!' I never thought it would have that much success. But that is the beauty of music — once I put the music out there, it no longer belongs to me."
When I asked her why she chose Holodeck, considering she had been on a successful label based out of Belgium, she replied, "I went back to Holodeck because I feel like I belong there. We are going in the same direction music-wise, and in the music business, I would rather deal with friends than people whom I don't know."
Purchase Marie Davidson's new album, Un Autre Voyage, here. The album will be released April 14.
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