Olivier Girouard, La nuit nous déconstruit par cœur

Brief, spooky and highly effective instrumental work from composer and sound artist Girouard. It’s actually the soundtrack to a dance piece, although you’d never guess so from listening to it, both because the music doesn’t sound remotely danceable and because, unlike many soundtracks, it’s capable of being enjoyed in its own right without any reference to visual imagery.

The sleeve notes explain that Girouard’s inspiration for the piece was Marie Uguay (1955-1981), a French Canadian poet who died of cancer at the tragically young age of 26. Although it’s not confirmed anywhere, I hope the photograph on the cover is of her – a beautiful, demurely dressed young woman who holds herself rather stiffly and gazes at the viewer with a mixture of shyness and vulnerability. The notes go on to say that the choreographer Kate Hilliard created a dance piece in honour of a young friend who died of cancer. It’s not clear whether the friend was Uguay, but I assume not. Whatever the truth of the matter, Girouard has done a fine job of evoking solitude and despair through these five short pieces.

“Ici seule”, “Ne me laisse pas ici”, “Où il n’y a personne”, “D’autre que moi”: the titles (taken from poems by Uguay) tell their own desolate story. The instrumental palette is deliberately kept simple: soft, warm drones, floating acoustic guitar and ghostly clusters of piano notes. “Ne me laisse pas ici” with its dislocating snatches of backmasked guitar merges into “Où il n’y a personne”, which slips even further towards oblivion with its distant rumbles and staticky interference. Only 26 minutes long, this sombre patchwork is a fitting memorial to those who suffer and die from the living hell that is cancer.

(Originally published in The Sound Projector 19, 2011)

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