Recording for Même Soleil, the self-taught French multi-instrumentalist Frédéric D. Oberland‘s third solo album, began in March 2020 and continued for a full 12 months, taking in the Covid pandemic at its devastating height. The resultant sticky stasis and solitude will have felt a little odd to the artist, a man whose work has always felt so redolent of a slightly wild and itinerant realm whose every nook, no matter how obscure or unpleasant, has been infiltrated by the less savoury mores of humanity. Well known for his similarly wayfaring creative mind, Oberland’s projects are many and varied, including his band Oiseaux-Tempête, and numerous instalments, photographic exhibitions and short films, not to mention NAHAL Recordings, the label he runs with Mondkopf’s Paul Régimbeau. All share themes of abandon, upheaval and unrest, whether it be political, physical or psychological, and all, without fail, are worth your time exploring.
So time alone, with his Magnum Diva home studio to hand and empty landscapes to gaze upon and wander, has seen Oberland produce perhaps his most personal collection of recordings thus far. Même Soleil, due for release via IIKKI on 19 July, is a collaboration with the photographer Gaël Bonnefon, whose ghostly work complements perfectly the feelings of enforced psychic exploration.
The first video to emerge from Même Soleil is for “Quatre Épaves D’acier” (translation: “Four Steel Wrecks”), which despite its sharp and icy title shifts focus to an almost hellish scene of flame, isolation and perma-damp Tarkovskian filth. Bonnefon’s lens flares and fizzes with a creeping sense of menace, sullen faces are severed by faults in the fabric and even grim towers of industry appear in retreat, their sickly plumes returning to the tubes that spewed them. Indicative of the spiritual turn Oberland has been forced to make, a black-clad figure navigates a treacherous rock face, atop which seems to reside a goat. The connections are easy to make, though no less powerful for it – as Oberland’s vocals are looped and warped to take on an air of incantation, woozy drones begin to faint away from their flaming central column and spin with the ritual.
As with the album’s earlier singles, particularly its lengthy opening track “Augures,” there’s a sense of intimacy to the way Oberland has been allowing his music to develop over the last tumultuous year. Whereas global unease in the past may have attracted the artist to the scene (Oiseaux-Tempêterecorded AL-‘AN! in Beirut, and their self-titled debut relied heavily on field recordings Oberland took during political discontent in Greece), here he finds himself attempting to process developments internally from an uncomfortable distance. Horns and wavering flute abound, and the rattle and stomp of ritual echoes throughout; music collapses as quickly as it can coalesce, like thought forms whose very intangibility provide a dangerous allure.
You can pre-order Même Soleil from IIKKI now in all manner of luxe and limited editions, including Gaël Bonnefon’s beautiful book of accompanying photographs. Underscore is honoured to host the premiere of “Quatre Épaves D’acier,” which you can enjoy below.