Sunday, December 24, 2006

Number Five: Eglantine Gouzy "Boamaster"

While my P.C. gently weeps.

I was a bit cruel about Eglantine Gouzy’s contribution to Monika’s “ Four Women No Cry” compilation on the old musical bear site a while ago,(now archived here: suggesting that she was over-influenced by Bjork (who I’ve never been able to bring myself to enjoy despite her obvious etc, etc) and Laurie Anderson (who I love.) She seemed a bit determinedly pigtailed and knock-kneed, a bit too intent on playing the boring Art-chick game of wilful kookiness and mildly hysterical hauteur,(laughs raucously, picks at already badly bitten fingernails, suddenly begins to dance violently then collapses pouting in a chair. See how she is driven by her strange artistic drives which we will never grasp! See how she is special and exempt from the normal rules that govern interaction, such as politeness and coherence! She is too wild and free to tolerate us. And yet we must respect her sprite-like and elfin, creaturely Otherness for the gifts of her art that it imparts to us ! Give me a break, Jesus Christ, I…………sorry where was I…. ahh, yes… Eglantine.)

So while no-one is going to suggest that Bjork Shriekersdotter and Laurie Anderson are not the spirits which preside, (nay loom!) over Eglantine’s work, my initial dismissal of her was frankly just wrong, "Boamaster" is an amazing, unimpeachable album, intensely visual, a veritable act of conjuration, the bringing into being of an enchanted space. If Joanna Noisesome’s “Ys” immediately summons up some kind of “Song of the South” cartoon rootsiness then "Boamaster’s" universe is clean, crisp and cosmic, one of those Hi-Tek chambers in which the deep space voyager wanders through crystalline, artificial gardens, a huge, mutable, ornate room, some hybrid of a planetarium, solarium and aquarium, in which the songs themselves hang suspended. A series of precise miniatures in effect, (only one track is over three minutes) as lucent and crisply colourful as a set of stained glass mobiles over the surfaces of which their ever shifting surroundings weave and warp, refracted back at the dazzled onlooker, and through which La Gouzy wanders, singing sometimes in French, sometimes in English, sometimes quietly sitting back and listening.

The record even starts, on “Eglantine Longe” with what sounds like an anouncement for all passengers to board, a sawing, cello-like tone, some skittery rhythmic tics and Eglantine's multi-tracked voice summoning us to depart. In “Cowboy” the chiming guitar serenade is slowly threaded through with bright, wisps of keyboard drone, “Strada” sounds like a hurdy-gurdy starting up in the middle of an aviary, in the rain. “Zone A” with its muted orchestral sample and gently ascending vocals is orbited by a long synth-pulse, the tail of a comet streaking past and sending waves of phosphorescent dust rippling through the track, “Come back” really is the sound of a computer crying into its beer at the bar in a Venusian zoo, and by the time we get to “ Pygmy,” a mere thirty minutes or so on from where we started out we find Eglantine swinging in a hammock and listening to two virtual birds of paradise going through an elaborate courtship ritual in the branches above her head.

The reference points are few and far between really. Laurie Anderson’s “United States” certainly, certainly the machine-melancholy of Kraftwerk circa “Radioactivity” or the urban-pastoralism of “Neon Lights,” but mostly it reminds me of certain movies, Hal’s final moments in "2001", Douglas Trumbell’s magnificent “Silent Running.” Either way it’s an amazing record, up there with (yeah, that’s right I am lumping them together for no better reason than that they’re both women) Juana Molina’s “Son.” Certainly ahead of Joanna Gruesome’s effort. Destined to sell about ten copies.

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