Tonality explores, analyzes and interprets music of the past and present. All opinions are that of Benjamin Monckton, not of the Colonnade.
Conceptual artist Sophie Calle is no stranger to exploring the abyss of heartbreak. Her 2003 work “Douleur Exquise” chronicled the whirlwind of emotions that accompany a breakup. From the initial agonizing stab of abandonment to the slow process of healing, Calle’s work had a way of transforming the experience into a tangible format that connects all who engage with the work.
It should be no such surprise that her recent conceptual album, “Souris Calle,” is one of the most original and daring musical experiments of the year. Named for her late pet cat, “Souris Calle,” explores the isolating feelings that accompany the loss of your most loved companion.
“Souris Calle” brings together a team of songwriters: Jarvis Cocker, Michael Stipe, Bono and Pharell, to name a few, to pay their respects to Calle’s late feline friend: Souris.
The album is a series of eulogies, an eclectic representation of each songwriter’s relationship with the cat. It is a compilation of artists not grieving as one, but articulating their relationship with absence itself.
A lengthy hour and 36 minutes’ worth of music, “Souris Calle” begins with a voicemail Bono left Sophie and ends with Sophie herself singing accompanied by a piano. Along the way, the album transitions from the synthy atmosphere and lush French lyricism on Juliett Armanet’s “Cool Cat” to the thrashing distorted metal of “Tactical Reborn.”
Fingerpicked guitars may occupy the entirety of one track, while a whispered French voice make up the next track. You never know what to expect next, which is part of “Souris Calle’s” majesty.
Pharell’s contribution, an instrumental track called “A Cat Named Mouse,” is a choir accompanied by playful marimba, followed by a delayed synth. Michael Stipe of R.E.M. and Fabrizio Moretti of the Strokes also offer instrumental reflections that sound like a sonic interpretation of a cat’s temperament.
While the majority of the album is sung in French, tracks like “On Death” included whispers in English over a strummed guitar. A high harmony sings over a natural vocal, “The space between my pillow is yours. The void, the stillness, where you used to be.”
Much like “Douleur Exquise,” Calle is able to unite songwriters and artists around a concept is as central to life: loss. A forlorn reflection on absence, “Souris Calle” is a celebration of life and a forlorn reflection on absence.
The way in which listeners connect with the work will vary based on their relationship with death of a loved one.
However, even to those that can’t develop a connection with the work, the album serves as a gentle reminder that the loss of a loved one, be it a parent, lover or friend, deserves obeisance.