Marie Davidson: Un Autre Voyage

Canadian Coldwave Queen's third heralds the rise of the machines. Quick hide!
Marie Davidson

Montreal-based synth whizz Marie Davidson is going to make a magnificent soundtrack for the silver-screen soon surely. With her self-titled 2013 début, last year’s brooding Perte d’identité and today’s Un Autre Voyage Davidson is becoming a bit of a master at building imaginary movies for the mind. Her speciality would likely be futurist noir. Dystopian (obviously) landscapes riddled with replicants, nuclear rain, blinding neon, five o’clock shadows, femmes fatale, and C-Beams glittering in the dark. Yeah, Blade Runner 2 basically. Well, that or a glitzy Giallo thriller where shadowy spectres in trenchcoats run irresponsibly with scissors whilst chasing badly-dubbed beauties across gorgeous Italian architecture. It’d be rated R, maybe unrated. Either way there’d certainly be no namby-pampy “Scenes of mild peril.”

Un Autre Voyage (“Another Journey”) takes you, the shivering listener, on a nightdrive through the city after dark. It’s a pretty short ride sadly – Davidson’s trademark six tracks again – but hell it’s a jungle out there, so let’s get in and get out. Putting one on the tongue and sliding down a kaleidoscopic worm hole through the moon we awake in “Boulevard Taschereau”. The sound of rattlesnake snares snap as synths bubble and fizz like a thousand glass elevators floating skyward. There’s a clandestine, Lynchian exchange in a lobby. A man and woman are talking. Handshakes are made. The crazy man at the bar whispers “We are all burning” to which the lady coolly replies “The nature of man is to let violence win over reason.” Our narrative spins in and out of consciousness weaving a fever dream trip à la Chris Morris’ Blue Jam. “Pushing the limits of insanity!” it commands. One mile in and you’re already thinking “Where the hell are we?”

It doesn’t get any less strange. “Excès De Vitesse” is an ode to ruin, inescapable prophecies and self-destruction. Even sans subtitles Davidson’s atmospherics speak volumes. Imagine descending into a seedy Berlin basement danceteria circa 1984. Old school drum machines kick out a hip-hop beat beneath a rolling fat bassline and car alarm glitchy FX. Occasionally Davidson barks over the Tannoy “Exces de vitesse!” like some Orwellian dance dictator. Ice cold but oddly seductive, it would’ve made the ideal accompaniment for Arnie’s sojourn into the grimy, glam n’ goth ‘TECH NOIR’ nightclub in Terminator. Elsewhere the burning wheels of “Balade aux USA” have “Intense Chase Scene #1” written all over ’em. A maze of howling guitar, relentless rhythm and clattering electronics brood to a climax so intensely hotwired it’ll leave you with a nervous twitch. A disembodied Davidson speaking in tongues — en français naturellement — high above the hoopla only makes the scene more surreal. Moviewise we’re now riding shotgun with Snake Plissken as we Escape from New York.

It’s not all foot-on-the-gas pant-fillers though. Just as Perte d’identité had its almost pop moment with “Shaky Leg” (“I want to see you in your tight pants”) Un Autre Voyage finds its easy rider in the dreamy haze of “Insomnie”. The prettiest and most delicate curiosity found on our journey it could easily have buckled up beside Chromatics, College and Desire on the Drive soundtrack. Sad eyed and heavy-hearted but free and drifting away, away. A lonely light beautifully blinking ‘S-O-S’ into the eternal black abyss. This is Un Autre Voyage‘s main attraction.

The real widescreen showcases of Un Autre Voyage though come courtesy of two eight minute epics. “Kidnap You in the Desert” is as sinister as its title. You’ve woken up alone in no-man’s land. It’s 4am and bloody freezing. Nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide. The only signs of life you see are two fuzzy headlights on the horizon slowly driving towards you. You hear a Suspiria throbbing analogue bassline. Ghostly panting and ancient chanting circle all around like vultures and jackals licking their lips, ready to tear you apart. You realise the beat is getting faster, nearer. Come the final moments you’re convinced a Ringu-type supernatural witch is gonna crawl through the speakers and swallow your soul whole…!

Ultimately though the car just drives by and you left with nothing but one dry cleaning bill for soiled underpants. Finally, “Persephone” finds our Queen of the Underworld all but reading extracts from the Evil Dead‘s ‘Necronomicon Ex-Mortis’. Warm synth pads sweep the swamp fogs and graveyard mists as Mausoleum doors bang and slam, “Wakey! Wakey!”. There’s a spooky, bonkers Scooby Doo organ, BBC Workshop torture samples, stabbing Psycho strings and ritualistic campy, vampy moaning and groaning. “Ahhh! Oooh!” However with Davidson’s loopy lullaby lilt and hubby Pierre Guerineau’s bizarre Eddie Munster impression the final result feels more Plan 9 from Outer Space than the Exorcist.

Un Autre Voyage is an entertaining yet cryptic and occasionally crazy Saturday night at the movies. Even when you haven’t a clue what the hell’s going on — which is often — it still leaves footprints on the imagination. If Voyage perhaps lacks the emotional depths that made Perte d’identité so intoxicating it’s still a sparkling showreel for Davidson’s vivid, vibrant visions and another step toward her big picture destiny. One to watch then.

RATING 6 / 10
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