Le Rituel, the debut effort from Rimouski/Montreal duo La Fièvre (Ma-Au Leclerc & Zéa Beaulieu-Apri) plays out as a self-empowering feminist ritual. There are feverish glimpses of blood and water; dogs and wolves; hands and hair; herbs and intoxicating substances; the full moon and the cold sea and downtown Montreal. It is as much a poetry collection as it is a synth-pop album, or to use the sonic description La Fièvre use, a witch-pop album.
It begins with a lament. “La Chienne” (the female dog) feels powerless, frustrated as she realizes that she is not in fact her own master in this world, but that she is on a leash as she watches men around her access things that she cannot. In desperation, she allows men to take advantage of her, running up and down the roads they have created rather than feeling empowered to create her own path.
“Les érables rouges” (the red maples) further explores the theme of exploitation. Beaulieu-April sings of bleeding alongside oozing red maples in a forest. However, we already begin to see the female protagonist begin to lift herself off the ground as she vows not to return to this forest, moving forward to the song’s steady, repetitive beat.
Mid-way through the album is a liminal moment. “Sans rêve” (without dreams) languishes over a drone tone, heavy bells, and distorted synth bass. Bursts of intense emotion are interspersed throughout agonizing ennui (as depicted on the album cover). At the end of the song, Beaulieu-April repeats the lyrics “hesitating to give oneself and fearing what will follow”, before being delightfully taken over by an intense, brief synth solo. I’d love to hear more musical inventiveness like this from La Fièvre.
With “Gauchetière”, we go down deeper into the darkness of the occult. Here is where La Fièvre takes back their power. While Gauchetière is the name of a Montreal street, “gauche” is surely also a reference to the “left” path in Western esoterism – that is, black magic. The accompaniment is dark yet fun, holding its own while effectively keeping the focus on the sing-songy vocals.
Le Rituel ends with “Nous reculons” (we back away) which features wolf cry samples that toe the line between experimental edginess and Halloween-y camp. Poetic imagery illustrates the giving of oneself to the cold sea; the letting go of the things we hold on to; the allowing of the wind to provide new vision; the conjuring of power from the sea. The album finishes on the words “the sea freezes over/the ritual ends/we back away.”
Vivid imagery and wordplay are the album’s greatest strengths, no surprise since Beaulieu-April is a published poet. Carefully chosen synth sounds, the intimations of a unique vocal style, and depth of meaning make this is a great album for introverted feminist witches to explore.
Top Track: “La Chienne”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)