Forêt Endormie Discusses New Album “Une voile déchirée” (Track By Track Breakdown)
It comes as no surprise that Falls of Rauros guitarist Jordan Guerette is no stranger to the delicate and quiet -- his main band has always flirted with folk passages and the stronger ends of dynamics. Forêt Endormie, Guerette's Impressionist folk project, operates at one end of that spectrum, but with that comes a sense of clarity and larger sense of adventure from within the style.
Drawing from the vast openness of Impressionism, the complexity of early polyphony, the atmosphere of post-rock, and the pastoral nature of folk music, Forêt Endormie's second album, Une voile déchirée, takes complexity from it builds a beautiful, delicate lace. Listen to a stream of Une voile déchirée below and read a track-by-track breakdown of the album by Guerette below.
Jon asked me to write a bit about the songs on Une voile déchirée to accompany its release. I decided to include a bit about the musical and lyrical themes and how the pieces came together.
I began work on Une voile déchirée in Spring 2019. Musically, each piece is intended to evoke a sense of place, most of which ended up being environments that are hostile to humans (a forest on fire, the open sea, approaching storm clouds, arid fields...), metaphors for obstacles we find on our individual journeys. All words are sung in French and are centered around the process of shedding inner negativity and fighting against the compulsion to retreat as we age, hopefully being more open to life afterward.
Bientôt cette forêt verte deviendra cendres
Soon This Green Forest Will Become Ash
I have been interested in music from the Renaissance for a long time, and during the writing of this piece I was also studying the motet "Mille Regretz" by 16th-century French composer Josquin des Prez.
Inspired by "Mille Regretz," I built a motet-esque section beginning at 3:52 starting with two vocals and adding violin and double bass at 4:07 to create 4 part polyphony. Polyphony is a style of writing music in which each part simultaneously creates its own melody, and all of these melodies fit together. I decided to foreshadow this section in what became the introduction to the album, trading vocals for organ. Bits of this melodic material show up in other sections as well.
Lyrically, "Bientôt cette forêt deviendra cendres" is about the courage that comes from remembering that everything we know is temporary, sort of a musical Memento Mori. An end is motivation.
La mer nous attend
The Sea Awaits Us
This harmonium and violin duet was written to introduce the musical and atmospheric themes in the next song "L’ancre est levée," and to conjure the feeling of departure toward somewhere new. At 1:37, the violin hints at what will become the piano’s theme in the next piece.
L’ancre est levée
The Anchor is Raised
A song about letting go of the need to control, and as such, is slow-moving and meditative. I tried to musically paint the image of being on the open sea on a vessel with no ability to control it, and specifically the calmness that comes in accepting one’s circumstances. When the violin choir enters at 4:55, the water slowly washes over us. The album’s title comes from this track.
Just after the calm acceptance of "L’ancre est levée," "Nuages orageux" examines that moment when the clouds have gathered and we must welcome the coming storm. This piece is the closest to “traditional” chamber music on the album with clarinet, guitar, piano, violin, and bass conversing with a moodiness that draws heavily on impressionism.
This was the very last piece completed in full, with clarinet being added after we had thought the album was done. The clarinet completely transformed the piece and became its protagonist.
Les champs négligés
The Neglected Fields
After the most "classical" piece on the album comes the one that most closely resembles a folk song. This piece was built around the guitar part, which uses a Travis picking pattern for almost the entire piece. We’re on land now. Lyrically, the theme is similar to "Bientôt." There is strength in our inherent temporariness, and comfort in the fact that we will one day be forgotten.
During the writing of this piece I was concurrently transcribing and writing an arrangement of Joanna Newsom’s "Only Skin" for Forêt Endormie to add to our setlist for our longer shows at a jazz club in Portland, and it had a big impact on this song and some of the rest of the record. Though I had known this piece well for over a decade, actually learning it was a masterclass in modern composition.
A solo piece for double bass. This was the last piece conceived of for the album, and came together very quickly. It is essentially a re-working of the music from "La mer nous attend," but with a new perspective; we are further along in our journey.
Lit de poussière
Bed of Dust
This was the very first piece written for Une voile déchirée, and in addition to being the most challenging to perform, it is perhaps also the darkest. The piece oscillates between 6/8 and 3/4, often with different parts interpreting the time signature differently.
It is also the first of two songs to feature Wurlitzer and Korg MS-20, as I experimented with timbres during the writing of Une voile déchirée. The violin choir beginning at 5:14 and the deep tremolo on the guitar are also worth mentioning here.
Un soleil qui se couche plus tard
A Sun that Sets Later
From the ashes and dust, new life emerges. This is a song about spring, and is maybe the most optimistic on the record. For us, I suppose that doesn’t mean too much. The song ponders hope about the future while also looking back and acknowledging the winter.
Like "Les champs négligés," this piece was built around the guitar part, which uses a modified version of Travis picking nearly throughout. It also contains some motivic references to “Lit de poussière”.
For music theory folks -- the first few sections include a series of Major 9th chords connected through modal interchange, which I felt helped create a hopeful atmosphere of silvery spring rains.
Thanks for reading and for listening to the record! Hope you enjoy it!