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Vieux Silence Joseph Burnett , December 21st, 2017 16:12

A travelogue into an oneiric realm, one of quiet contemplation and otherworldly atmospheres

Elodie is a band that operates at the point where silence and sound come together. When I saw the core duo of guitarist Andrew Chalk and flautist Timo van Luijk perform at London’s Café Oto some years ago, you could have heard the proverbial pin hit the deck as Chalk caressed the quietest of notes out of his acoustic six-string and van Luijk breathed softly into his flute. These days, and notably for this release, Vieux Silence, on Stephen O’Malley’s Ideologic Organ imprint, Elodie have expanded their line-up to include pianist Tom James Scott (who has already appeared on two Elodie LPs this year), Jean-Noël Rebilly on clarinet and some pedal steel guitar at times from Daniel Morris. But true to the ethos that has animated Elodie from day one, the results remain muted, quiet and, for Vieux Silence, decidedly nocturnal.

Generally regarded as a form of ambient, Elodie’s music is rich in evocative imagery. For Vieux Silence they take the listener into the deepest night, their ephemeral compositions duly carrying titles such as ‘La Nuit Voilée’ (‘Veiled Night’), ‘La Vallée du Sommeil’ (‘The Valley of Sleep’) and ‘Entre deux Mondes’ (‘Between two Worlds’). Dreams and sleep abound in the imagery of those titles but also in the music, from the blurry drones of opener ‘La Vallée du Sommeil’, which takes us into the group’s world, and the short interlude that is ‘Corridor’ to the climactic drift of closer ‘La Saison Blanche’. Presented as a whole, the album is a travelogue into an oneiric realm, one of quiet contemplation and otherworldly atmospheres.

The album’s core is taken up by a veritable triptych in the form of the title track, ‘La Nuit Voilée’ and ‘Au Point du Jour’ (‘At Daybreak’). ‘Vieux Silence’ emerges gradually from the fug of ‘Corridor’ with sparkling piano notes jettisoned gently onto a bed of shimmering guitar tones and quiet cymbal strikes. A voice - I’m not sure whose - emerges, taking languid flight over the precise drones and swirls, its tone rich with peaceful melancholy. Night is a time for introspection and imagination, and the subtle ambiguity in the voice’s emotions conveys the myriad emotions one feels in the dead of night after a long day with depth and clarity despite never articulating any actual words. There are jazzy undertones to ‘Vieux Silence’ but it’s the same jazz that animates the music of Bohren und der Club of Gore: subdued, atmospheric and emotional.

‘La Nuit Voilée’ is altogether more somber, as Morris’ pedal steel guitar pierces a gloomy ambient mood with aching gravitas. It drifts into tension and even subtle menace, as if nightmares are gently probing the sleeper’s mind. On an album dominated by shadows and darkness, ‘La Nuit Voilée’ represents the abyss of deepest sleep, a place where anything can happen, even in the quietest of musical contexts. But the deep darkness recedes into the haze of daybreak on ‘Au Point du Jour’, which features Timo van Luijk’s aforementioned whistled approach to the flute. Between it and the piano, the evocation is that of birdsong and wind rustling through leaves after a turbulent night. As the elegant, exquisitely-detailed production develops other instruments emerge into prominence, notably Rebilly’s clarinet and Andrew Chalk’s koto-like guitar. Vieux Silence could never be described as “busy”, but ‘Au Point du Jour’ presents a multi-faceted, exploratory band teasing new perspectives out of their doggedly minimal music.

Elodie is a band/duo that seems to exist in its own hermetically-sealed environment, prodigiously releasing album after album of considered, thoughtful, emotionally-resonant music. What few comparisons I could dredge up (Eno’s Ambient series, no-man, latter-period Talk Talk) woefully fail to give a good idea of the serenity, detail and subtle textures at play on Vieux Silence. Each Elodie album is like an invitation to escape, and one worth accepting every time.