Review on Hildegard Album
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The Review on Hildegard Album
Montreal musicians Ouri and Helena Deland recorded their debut album together in eight days; the album’s eight tracks feel like the diary of a gradual merging of the mind.
In the music of Montreal upstart Ouri and Helena Deland, the very idea of transformation can spark excitement. On the title track of her radiant album Something New, Deland wondered if kissing someone new—or even imagining kissing someone new—could be enough to trigger a transformation of the self. In recent years, Ouri has used ambient pop and rich, hot-blooded techno to explore how experiences of emigration and infatuation change identity over time. Earlier this year she described the intoxicating feeling of ‘losing' your identity for good’: Remembering her move to Montreal, she said, ‘I could be anything. I destroyed my sense of self for a moment.”
There is limitless potential in this kind of “What if?” thinking, and that manifests itself in both Deland’s music, which captures the static buzz of electronic and… drone as well as indie folk, and Ouri’s, which draws on her background as a cellist and harpist as well as on the conventions of viscerally embodied dance music. Hildegard, the pair’s first collaborative album, builds on that potential, drawing inspiration from a myriad of “What if”‘s: what if we put it on the phone, and never had to touch? What if life could only be as fulfilling and romantic as living with someone else? And, at the heart of the project itself, what if Hildegard were not a middle ground between Deland’s art and Ouri’s, but an entirely separate entity, channeling different impulses than those in their respective solo work and producing a very different result?
That is it final question that creates Hildegard’s most indelible moments. As a slightly less strict twin brother of Jenny Hval and Håvard Voldens Menneskekollektivet, released earlier this year, Hildegard feels like an opportunity for Deland and Ouri to reflect on the freedom that a musical union offers. Although Deland sings lead most often, Ouri’s voice is almost always present and after a while their voices melt into each other; due to the arrival of “Jour 8”, the album is steely, rightly pissed final track, Hildegard is her own person, calm and all-powerful as she bids farewell, over a hazy electronic drone words to a lover: “I don’t give a fuck who you dream of.” Hildegard’s eight songs were recorded over eight days and their order implies a chronology, from “Jour 1” to “Jour 8”; you can follow Deland and Ouri’s growing connection over the course of the album, with “Jour 8” representing something close to pure creative symbiosis.
On “Jour 3,” the album’s restrained, lilting climax, Deland and Ouri play id and ego, wrestling over how to interaction with an object of desire. As Ouri utters a rampant impulse (“I just wanted to ask you how was your day!”, she yells, as if giving voice to an irritated text message, before muttering “Just waiting for you,” like another text message that sent a few hours and a few drinks later) Deland offers poetic sweet words: “I’ll speak to you/In the most sensitive words/And it’ll sound like a purr/Show you what I’m made of/Be better than making love.” Someone New took place in tense, broken bedrooms, inhabited by hostile and narcissistic men. Here Deland is given the space to be amorous and mischievous, the fantastical elements of this one-sided courtship allow her to take on a different guise for one night.
Ouri, too, seems liberated by the opportunity to inhabit a new creative outlet: on “Jour 4”, on which she sings lead, the core principles of her solo music – strings, her vaporous voice, destabilizing sound design – appear in surprising formations. Where her classical training is often used to assist with ambient experiments, strings play a more traditional role here, giving pathos and cinematic splendor; in turn, her singing is immediate and prominent. Hildegard is the first project to mix and master Ouri in its entirety, and that involvement from top to bottom is reflected in the music, which is filled with unique moving parts – harp, beats that sound like bare feet crunching on dry sand , the creak of an office chair, loudspeaker-destroying bass, a kick like a log, but it never feels crowded or unfocused.
While elements of Deland and Ouri’s solo practices resonate undeniably on Hildegard, as a whole it feels like a remarkably realized whole, unlike some Frankenstein’s styles and ideologies. By the time “Jour 8” has run its course, you’ll wonder what the collaboration would sound like if they pushed it to 10 or 14 days. Yet Hildegard in its present form is a satisfying and stimulating document – the hallmark of not only instinctive cooperation, but of complete transformation.
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