The cancellation of "all operations and tours" for 2010 is unwelcome news -- not that they'd ever tour the states, cheap bastards -- but with Nos Chants Perdus, their fifth full-length in five years, Rome has certainly earned a cache of goodwill from at least one listener. Setting aside such dour news, let's perk up our spirits with a hop, skip and jump through this dour, thus comforting, rewarding, album.
A whistle caught in a panoply of sound, tumbling water, trembling thunder, the splash of rain upon the old stone road, L'Homme Révolté walks. Les Deracines bring a horizon of apocalyptic folk closer, lush with sadness and that whistle, yet the vocal at 1:40 pitches up, a fleeting glimpse at contentment. A repeating trope, aided by parallel measures, the internal tug-of-war with which we all must deal, and find lying out of range of our fingernails.
Le Chatiment du Traitre, listen.
Next, the slow, sparse sound of passing people and pediments, the sacred and the profane of which we all are complicit, enunciated in the violin hiding behind the curtain. Each of us is L'Assassin. Let's go find a balm, however temporary. The circular chords of Le Vertige du Vide indeed dizzy, dazzle until the respite of Les Exigences de la Foi's keyboard & spoken word intermezzo.
The sound of La Commune reflects the word's rich, historical meaning through dark French chanson à la Jacques Brel, a street song strong with a bass backbone, tendons & sinews, and we all swing around, and we all sing about/my detachment, my banishment, my vagrancy, while Sous la Dague melds the last album's transcendent We Who Fell In Love With the Sea with Vittorio Vandelli-esque fretwork, topped with a wisp of Zeppelin's No Quarter.
Percussion slaps swell around Les Iles Noires waltzy, hypnotic shamble that, in time, turns down an alley of electric echoes crawling through the spaces between black and white keys, Un Adieu à la Folie. In gathering the previous four tracks, for example, one hears the overarching theme tying all twelve together, yet always through natural changes in posture, in timbre, in overt and implied hooks, a brittle dignity. The tack moves again with La Rose et La Hache, the voice declaring I never wanted you that much in a verse flush with weeping and thefts and jail, quickly becoming I never wanted you so much then back again and once more, carried away on a sweeping accordion flourish.
The quiet contentment of album closer Chansons de Geste is striking. Consider the source of the song's title: tales of dashing knights the calibre of Roland and, later in the Crusade Cycle, First Crusade hero Godfrey de Bouillon. Establishment icons, as it were. Weighty stuff, but is not each of us on our own road, however small -- certainly vast to us -- sans horse, bridle and sword, bien sûr: hide yourself in mourning, in countries far/among the snake-mouthed mothers of snow/hide yourself in mourning, on oceans wide/14 blades, 400 blows. In our own individual way, we all try to raise hell, whistling as we (pretend to) rebel, whistling while we work at locating that contentment amidst the omnipresent spectacle. Most of us fail.
Shifting further and further away from their martial roots, Jerome Reuter and Patrick Damiani have presented their darkest, most acoustic work to date, a work beyond forced strokes of matte black. The spirit of a strangely welcoming existentialism, alongside the shared sonic aesthetic of a Tom Waits, a Nick Cave, a Sonne Hagal, a Léo Ferré, runs through this Luxembourgeois duo who gift another wonderfully lugubrious album.
Another day, on a quiet road, on a safer shore
Serve no one, blame no one, awaiting the fall
This sign means you, this sign means all
Sounds nice. Good luck.