French musician Wilson Trouvé (nee Monochromie) seems like an optimist. He views sound as a “palpable texture that can be sculpted, modelled, blended and bended in various forms,” alluding to some alternate form of synaesthesia. While his approach might be curious, his tone when talking about his methods of creation seem inherently positive, rooted in nature, life, and living, breathing beings. The title to his previous album was Enlighten Yourself While You Sleep, and his newest effort, Behind Black Clouds, seems to bring to mind a message that even though the day is dark, there is blue sky on the way.
At the centre of Behind Black Clouds is the heart of what sounds like both Trouvé himself and his album, a ten minute glistening, pulsating, and warming track called (wait for it) “Heart Beat.” It’s a glorious piece, and there’s little disputing that. There’s something of Four Tet’s There Is Love In You swimming around the veins of the song, an upbeat energy that sounds like it could make trees blossom and the sun shine in the middle of winter. Even treated as ambient music, it sits happily in the background, shimmering away like the sound of a river beside your house.
And it’s easy to treat a lot of Behind Black Clouds as ambient music, the content nestling somewhere between providing an active and passive listening experience. Piano-led compositions like “Fade Away” and “L’envolée” become immersed in additional effects and washes of noise, the core instrument still present but now almost liquidated. Elsewhere Tim Hecker comes to mind, particularly when the noises become harsher and edges rougher. On “Noise” bursts of static protrude to the surface a few times every bar, threatening to derail the songs otherwise steady back and forth motion while “Interlude” could have fit into Hecker’s An Imaginary Country, the waves of noise forming repetitive ebb and flow patterns as stuttering effects come and go.
Indeed, Behind Black Clouds is evocative of a many styles and artists, going from classical to Explosion in the Sky-like grandeur; from Max Richter-esque feelings of sorrow to tracks that could have been culled from Sigur Rós’ Valtari. The range of styles mix comfortably, and even when Trouvé is at his most eccentric (the hyperactive drums on “Ethereal Lights”), it doesn’t sound like he’s veered to far from where he began. Even when he evokes the warm a.m. buzz of Beach House on “Hawks (Happiness Version)” with a tinny drum machine and warm bedroom guitar, Trouvé still pulls it off, the track feeling more like an homage to either the band or to waking up from a pleasant dream on a summer’s morning.
The optimistic outlook is in the feeling of these tracks. Even though they might wander into darker territory (bringing to mind those black clouds in the album’s title), they never sound overwhelmed. “I feel they become landscapes, clouds, shades and lights,” Trouvé offers about the way he hopes his music will become something more than just recording to be heard. There’s a lot of heart in a track like “We Are Not Afraid (Sometimes A Rainbow)”, both in the title and in the clattering effects of what sounds like rain of a tin roof, like he’s waiting inside, ready to breathe in that fresh rain smell. Similarly on “The Lost Victory” the looming clouds that emerge as the track develops (along with the crashing post-rock drums and guitar) don’t sound like they compromise the sharp, promising buzz. Thunderstorms will pass and soon the air will be fresher and clearer again.
The problem with Behind Black Clouds isn’t that it’s overloads on the upbeat, optimistic feeling, nor does it get dragged down to the other end too often – it’s just simply too much. At an hour long it overstays it welcome by about fifteen minutes. By the time “The Lost Victory” comes into view, it sounds like you’ve reached you destination, your holiday destination appearing to you from your window seat on the plane. The final three tracks (“Noise”, “Ethereal Lights”, and “Vertiges Part 2”) are by no means bad tracks, and if anything they are as strong as any of the material preceding, but they are wearisome for the listener when they take in the album as whole. Optimism is great, but, well, no one likes someone who’s got a sunny disposition all the time. Sometime you need a break, and Behind Black Clouds is a more than amicable acquaintance with plenty of interesting and refreshing remarks who sticks around just a little too long.