By Edward Willoughby
French composer Sylvain Texier’s recent release ‘Refuge’ is the first release for his instrumental project Ô Lake and is a finely orchestrated album of evocative, mood driven music. With hints of synth and other texture, there is a lovely sound palette that builds and develops across eleven tracks spanning a range of sonic scenes. Meditative and slightly forlorn, this album is a work of instrumental beauty: quiet but moving, silently sweeping us away in its dreamscapes.
‘Refuge’ begins with its title track: a gentle glow, delicately laced with noise, while hints of pencils running along a page create a texture with a spontaneous feel. This sets the scene for a rising, hopeful piano motif, as a brume of strings wafts gently in between, gently building before an abrupt ending, as we are left hanging on the edge. Next, ’Reveries Op. 1’ gently lulls us with its homely, meandering piano musings. A subtle lick of synth doubling adds a nice touch of depth to this old creaky piano as it wanders in its dreamlike state.
Following with ‘Portrait of Solitude’ there is a touch of cinematic cliché with the sound of raindrops, setting a backdrop for a slow pensive piano track. The track finds its feet as the minimal percussion kicks in with a woody, reverberant sound, before being washed out once more by the rain. Beginning with a reverent piano set against gradually thickening strings and a hint of haze, ‘Holocene’ is a slow builder that is a compelling, arresting listen and is a standout on the album. It is tonally rich, and with a driving rhythmic pulse that is insistent and visceral.
‘Conversation’ opens with a curious rustling sound that is slightly metallic, and strangely moody. A piano figure stretches out across this subtly undulating sound texture before strings join, lending a sense of gravitas. Like a lonely, late night walk, ’Silhouettes,’ with its blurred edges of sound and resonant old piano is a slow, pensive piece. It is dreamlike and beguiling but concludes with a slightly haunting final chord, leaving us with a sense of tension.
With a weary, tired sounding piano, ‘Morning’ is like a fragile beauty; whimsical but sad. Like turning the key on an old music box, there is a sense of intimacy that this song creates, as if this tune came to life just for you. The next track, ‘November 17th’ has a rippling, flickering surface of enchanting polyrhythm like raindrops on the surface of a still lake. When the strings kick in, it is the sweetly singing vibrato of the violin soaring above that lends this track its poignant, moving quality.
‘Interlude’ offers a moment of stasis amongst otherwise restless piano ripples, with block chords of piano echoed by string quartet, creating a sense of weightlessness before moving on to ‘The Leftovers’ which instantly draws you closer. It is intriguing with its repetitive motif broken by changes in harmony, before strings take this piece to another place entirely. Finally, ‘Epilogue’ tacks on the end as quite a different sound with a synth glow, dark pulse and an urgent electric piano. It is a driving force with a commanding presence that concludes this album with an explosive final moment: distorted guitar smeared across an ostinato that builds to a fever pitch, leaving a lasting impression long after the dust has settled.
Textier has excellent command of the instrumental forces he wields, and a terrific sense of restraint that lends his work a real maturity and ease. This album is an accomplished, polished collection of pieces that are truly transportive and transfixing. Each song is its own microcosm of mixed, complex emotions, conveyed with sincerity and integrity belying a great ideal of passion behind the crafting of each one of these songs.