Dans la seconde

Dans la seconde

Back in 2011, when Karkwa announced their hiatus after performing together since 1998, fans figured they wouldn’t hear from the Quebec quintet again. Aside from a few occasional appearances, Karkwa didn’t release any new music until Dans la seconde, their fifth album as a group (some of the members made solo records during their break). Thirteen years since the release of Les Chemins de verre, Louis-Jean Cormier, François Lafontaine, Julien Sagot, Martin Lamontagne, and Stéphane Bergeron bring a sense of maturity to their finely worked rhythms, richly detailed production, and poetic prose. “We took our time. We were more receptive, had more experience and less pride,” keyboardist Lafontaine tells Apple Music. “We wanted everything to be created in the studio, when everyone was there, because we felt like being together again, on both the human and music level.” They approached the studio as if it were a laboratory for new experiments. “We grooved, explored beats, and philosophized a lot on what it means to create without any preconceived ideas,” says Cormier, who wrote the album’s lyrics with percussionist Sagot. Here, three of Karkwa’s members talk through Dans la seconde’s tracks. “Ouverture” Louis-Jean Cormier: “There’s something stately, elegant about it, with a deep, dark atmosphere; it could be in The Lord of the Rings. It’s imposing. Late one afternoon, we did ‘Ouverture,’ ‘Parfaite à l’écran,’ and ‘À bout portant’ all in a row, and things just started to flow, and it began to resemble an album.” Julien Sagot: “We wanted all the songs to be interlinked, so we came up with musical passages that would connect them together. This instrumental segment gave meaning and fluidity to the rest.” “Parfaite à l’écran” JS: “Frank [François Lafontaine] and I shut ourselves away in a small room away from the others to create the song. We were looking for little snatches that could be paired together, so we’d end up with a structure made of separate parts, and then finish tying up the loose ends with the band. Our songs are always a mixture of pretty unlikely ideas, which results in some kind of amazingly weird creature. That’s what’s fascinating about Karkwa: We come out with tracks that don’t really sound like anything else on the Quebec musical spectrum.” “À bout portant” LJC: “This one came about thanks to a small beatbox we keep at the studio. Julien switched it on at the end of a tune, and I flipped out on that split, that very fast part that starts up after a really gentle passage. If it hadn’t been for that moment, I wouldn’t have written ‘À bout portant.’ For the lyrics, Julien and I felt like making a collage of everything we came across in the newspaper in a single week, all the human tragedies, and to end it with a bed left unmade by two lovers, like it was the storyboard for a film. We crammed a lot of material and density into a minute and a half.” “Gravité” LJC: “One morning, Julien and I sat down at the piano. We came up with some rising chords that were a bit mechanical. [Drummer] Stéphane [Bergeron] was messing around on an electronic drum pad, and there was this Indian music with children shouting and percussion. We pasted it all together, and it started to sound like something by Dead Can Dance; it was a lot slower than the final version. For this song here, and a few others, we went and isolated ourselves in the woods at Studio Wild, by a lake in Saint-Zénon, to really play, and we managed to give it a boost of Karkwa energy, which pushes and goes around in circles. That vortex led us to the lyrics, which talk about society where everything moves too fast, and we don’t take enough time to just live, to exist. Instrumentally speaking, it talks, everyone answers each other without interrupting; it’s really cool to play live.” “Miroir de John Wayne” JS: “It’s an old lyric that had been left on the back burner. I wanted to debunk the myth of John Wayne, the macho figure with a gun associated with masculinity, and give him a fragility, a sensitivity that would be rendered through a romantic encounter with a man.” LJC: “The music has a very controlled and theatrical side to it, and we play around with a bird-related vocabulary, which gives the track an androgynous and eccentric feel. Karkwa is able to delve into those ethereal and cryptic zones.” “Nouvelle vague” FL: “It seems to me, this was the most difficult one to do. We discussed it, replayed it, reworked it, new elements were added, others disappeared—there are all kinds of things in this song.” LJC: “It was too full-on, and we gave it some breathing space. There’s a little Wagnerian edge to it, but when I listen to the verses, I can clearly hear The Velvet Underground and Lou Reed. The lyrics talk about renewal, about lightness. I’d just gone through this massive ’60s movies phase, in black-and-white.” FL: “I think one of the most beautiful phrases is ‘Et mes yeux verts ouverts regardent moins vers hier qu’avant’ [‘And my green eyes are open and less focused on yesterday than they were before’], which is a pretty good description of the state of mind all five of us were in when we decided to make the album.” “Dans la seconde” LJC: “We were at Wild. The track had this Radiohead sound to it that bothered us. It wasn’t working. We were fed up, but François insisted, and we reverted to a slower, more sensual rhythm, close to Brazilian music, which was the basis for our explorations. The track used to be called ‘Lâcher prise,’ but we changed it to ‘Dans la seconde’ because when my girlfriend [radio host] Rebecca Makonnen read the text, she pointed out that it would make a great album title.” “L’échafaud” LJC: “I was at a cigar lounge not far from my place. I’d just finished reading Haute démolition by Jean-Philippe Baril Guérard, which talks about denunciations in the comedy industry, about when life falls flat. I was thinking about rehabilitation, and I wrote down the image ‘Je rentre comme on rentre dans un mur’ [‘I’m coming in like I’m coming into a wall’]. Human beings aren’t inclined to want to better their lives when things are going well; sometimes it takes a huge stumbling block, like cancer or depression, to start afresh on better foundations and reinvent oneself.” “Du courage pour deux” LJC: “The music came to us quite simply with a beat on a Casio mini keyboard. It sounds like an old Karkwa tune like ‘Oublie pas’ or ‘Moi-léger,’ where you get the impression you’re touching on something fragile and beautiful that mustn’t be spoiled. We kept postponing writing the lyrics. We’d reached the very end of the production process, and I got a phone call from a friend who’d just been diagnosed with breast cancer. I cried a lot. My head was all over the place, and I thought to myself, ‘That’s what this song is all about.’”

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