Le ciel est au plancher

Le ciel est au plancher

Despite the inertia that so many people experienced during the pandemic, little could slow Louis-Jean Cormier’s creative momentum. Just a year after the release of Quand la nuit tombe, the former Karkwa singer-songwriter takes a trip between his home of Montreal and his birthplace of Sept-Îles, in eastern Quebec, with his fourth solo album, Le ciel est au plancher (translation: “the sky is on the floor”)—a cathartic, dreamy offering that was deeply impacted by his father’s death. “It’s often said that there’s nothing better than being brokenhearted to write a great authentic album,” the Montrealer tells Apple Music. “Grief is pretty much the same. This album was a form of therapy for me.” The result is an intimate and poignant album, punctuated by brass and choirs, that unfolds likes a story. “I had the time to conceptualize an album with my friends [keyboardist and co-producer] François Lafontaine and [lyricist] Daniel Beaumont, and ensure it had true artistic direction,” he adds. Here Cormier takes us down the highway as he talks through each of the LP’s tracks. “50° 13’ 36.404" N 66° 23’ 4.204" W" “The title refers to the exact location of my childhood home in Sept-Îles. When we started production, we knew there’d be two long tunnels, as if we wanted to sonically express this type of transition, from life to death, and then from death to life after death. It’s full of imagery, with an impression of distance and slowness and travel. It’s got a slightly David Lynch-style mood: You know you’re going to experience something special. So, this track is the first tunnel leading to the first real scene.” “Le large” “It’s the starting point. I announce I’m going on a pilgrimage, that I’m going to meet the ghosts who recently departed, but there’s like a desire for light within the darkness. Musically, what’s really interesting is the very simple piano movement which could, in an extremely distant way, sound somewhat like Chopin. It’s comforting, mellow, and it leads towards a jazz buzz that you don’t see coming, like a passageway that lets you look through a window.” “138” “Here we are literally on the road, inside a car. I’m driving, looking out at the scenery, my vision is a bit blurred; the tears are still there and a wave of nostalgia is heading my way. Everyone who’s experienced grief will be able to understand when I say, ‘Pleurer entre deux fous rires’ ['crying between two fits of laughter']; in a split second, you go from sadness to ‘Yeah, that’s exactly how he was!’ I’ve realized that human relationships are woven together with billions of different threads.” “Bipolaire” “We’ve arrived safely at the house, and we’re in my parents’ basement and we’re rummaging through memories. It’s the song about the young Louis-Jean in elementary school, playing with a tin rocket ship in the schoolyard. There’s this idea of the quest for space when you’re a kid, which becomes one for freedom versus maturity and responsibility when you’re an adult. All that, for me, speaks of bipolarity. A very down-to-earth side and one of weightlessness. It’s also the times we’re currently living in, which is bipolarized—and polarized! I thought it’d be interesting to mix up all those different angles, but inside the mind of a young eight- or nine-year-old boy.” “Le ciel est au plancher” “It’s a stroll around the city of Sept-Îles, where I revisit my old haunts and go back through my teenage memories. It’s like walking at night between streetlamps: There’s a stretch when it’s light, a stretch when it’s dark. There are synthesizer riffs that are reminiscent of Talk Talk, Tears for Fears, and other groups from the '80s, but we didn’t fall into the trap of a pastiche or watering it down—it’s more to evoke my years growing up in Sept-Îles.” “Tout croche” “It’s the part of the pilgrimage that takes us to the cemetery. It’s a super simple song, very personal. It came from a piano-vocal combination, and is also naive in terms of the music: always the same very slow instrumental refrain. Here, we can at last hear the silence, we’re no longer in philosophical reflection, we’ve managed to touch on something more profound. There’s a certain awareness that life goes on. There’s candor in the refrain, as if there are beams of sunlight breaking through the clouds.” “L’ironie du sort” “This track dates back a long time. It was originally about Alzheimer’s, but I never managed to finish it; something wasn’t right. I felt as if I was talking to my father, but he didn’t suffer from that disease at all, so I’d set it aside. And when he died, it jumped out at me. It was at a time when I’d taken up the piano again; I was thinking about Elton John and other great composers from the '70s and '80s, with key changes in the refrain, switching from minor to major, and ascending vocals. I’m proud of this song because my father was a choirmaster, and there’s this idea of a choir and stage direction in the refrain, the curtain rises and then falls at the end. It’s an evocation of death linked to the choir, to the performance.” “Marianne” “I’ve put myself in the shoes of someone who’s in a relationship with an Anglophone, so it evokes linguistic duality. It’s very impressionistic. I make it seem as if it’s about a woman I once knew, but it’s really about my relationship with Rebecca [Makonnen], my wife, who’s Ethiopian and bilingual. She knows perfectly well that it’s a song for her, but ‘Rebecca’ didn’t sound as good. Because I wrote it at the time of Leonard Cohen’s death, it ended up being ‘Marianne,’ which is also the name of my first girlfriend.” “Les lignes de ta main” (feat. La Force) “It’s the beginning of the return trip to Montreal, a return to normal life, on our ghost island, which was in lockdown at the time. It talks of the city’s deserted streets, of the idea that I’m feeling better, that I know my sweetheart’s waiting for me and I can’t wait to see her again. Some of the sounds are reminiscent of Paul Simon; I’m a big fan of Latin and African music. We touched on that style with Quand la nuit tombe, and here we felt like injecting a ray of light.” “Silence radio” “This one was written quite a while back, and it came close to being on Quand la nuit tombe. Originally, it was supposed to be for a close friend who’d lost his older brother at a very young age, which explains the superhero part. It was based on an event, a specific image of life, but it fit in with the theme of grief, so we reshaped it to make it a bit more universal. The hero in the song clearly represents a child’s vision of their father. I really like the musical construction, which takes me back to Philip Glass, Debussy, and I think the refrain’s melody is the most beautiful one on the album.” “45° 32’ 4.924" N 73° 35’ 57.134" W" “It’s the second tunnel, meaning the return to Montreal, to normal life. It evokes a reflection on the hereafter, but anchored in the present moment. We’re leaving childhood and memories behind. There’s something really nebulous here: We’re in a blur, somewhere else, in another zone. That duality between heaven and earth is still there, and that concept of time passing by, and the idea that I’ll get used to it.” “L’au-delà” “This track was written just after [2015’s] Les grandes artères, which means it’s been on the back burner for a very long time! I’ve played it a few times on my solo tours, but I found it was incomplete. It’s a weird thing to say, but it’s like my father had to die for me to be able to finish it. It’s another one that nearly ended up on Quand la nuit tombe. I never knew when to pull it out, and that’s when we said to ourselves, if there’s one album it should appear on, it’s this one. It rounds off the project in a super simple yet moving and down-to-earth way. What I ultimately say is that the grieving has allowed me to put things in perspective and appreciate life.”

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