A Deal with the Devil

Category: music 162

Fredericton musician Indigo Poirier takes a long overdue look at Victoria, the latest release from DenMother.

Indigo Poirier

Fredericton-based electronic music artist DenMother (aka Sabarah Pilon) returned this summer with a brand new release and some fresh new ideas in Victoria.

On the latest release from her project DenMother, Pilon is working with a much wider palette of sounds and ideas this time around, evident from the first track, Prayer, which sounds like a hymn from some kind of futuristic temple, built with advanced technology decades after the apocalypse. It begins with what sounds like a pan flute and some subtle, glitchy textural work, and then she begins to sing, her voice both intimate and close yet expansive and endless thanks to her thoughtful use of vocal delay. I picture white light flooding the altar and a lone, solitary figure in a black robe upon it, dancing slowly and singing mournfully about trying to find redemption and faith in a world that has very little of either to offer.

DenMother is one of my favourite electronic percussion producers and the lo-fi beat she drops partway through Closed is unexpected sonically yet perfectly fitting musically. The anger in her voice is matched by the disorienting use of ping pong delay and vocal overdubs, as if she has so many thoughts running through her head that it’s hard to keep track of them all.

When asked about her inspirations behind the album, Pilon said, “The inspiration for Victoria is the old tale of selling your soul to the devil for fame and fortune.  That’s the short version.  It goes from despair, to fame, to death and then eternity.”

The lyrical content of Victoria could be applied to any number of abusive, manipulative relationships, but knowing a bit about the theme behind the album, it’s hard not to imagine this as her speaking directly to the big guy himself, with the chorus, “The time will come Victoria”, serving as His response, both a promise and a threat.

The production is relatively low key, with the bass and drums and eventual synth that comes in leaving plenty of space for Pilon’s vocals to echo around the space. It makes me think of an impending thunderstorm, off in the distance, and if I close my eyes I can see deep purple and black clouds, palpable pent-up tension and fear desperate for some kind of release.

Gala sounds just like its name, the bell harmonies working well together to conjure up an image of an opulent dance hall filled with excessively rich people with breathtakingly gorgeous ballgowns. The lyrics describe somebody who has finally gotten the fame she wanted but is disillusioned and disappointed with the superficiality of it all.

Final starts with foreboding bell harmonies that sound ripped straight from a horror movie, and the understated drums work to pull the listener in before the track starts to build (and continues to build) more and more layers and tension over the six minute runtime. The lyrics are a bit buried, leaving some of what is being said to the imagination, but her voice is tinged with regret and despair, fitting the story of somebody who sold her soul and is only now realizing the full extent of what she has done.

The album closes with a pair of instrumental tracks. Eternity conjures up an endless hellscape, all dark grays and browns, filled with rain and the distant echoes of memories of loved ones. It is quietly powerful; and followed by Séance, which has a pounding, heavy beat; its kick drum alone, appropriately enough, sounds like it could raise the dead.

Victoria is a strong outing from one of Fredericton’s most talented electronic producers that rewards repeat listens. It is sad and mournful and dark without ever coming across as forced or melodramatic. It contains an interesting array of sounds and influences, but still feels cohesive as a whole. I’m very happy to have had the chance to hear it and excited to see where DenMother takes her sound next.

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