From Overseas & zakè ~ Demain, dès l’aube
Written by ELF Radio (Team) on 11.10.2023
On the final day of my first trip abroad, I hiked to the top of the hill above the small Italian village I’d been staying in for the previous month in order to watch the sunrise. I had promised myself I would do this before returning home, so of course I put it off until the last possible opportunity. The month had flown by, as such trips do, but once I’d reached the summit, time seemed to crawl to a standstill as I waited for the dawn to illuminate the sea. First light is not a dramatic occurrence, but on the contrary it is an almost imperceptible change. Without quite noticing, it is no longer dark. The experience of sunrise is literally quotidian—it happens every day—and yet the phenomenon retains the feeling of a miracle. After all, just because the sun rose yesterday, to paraphrase the Scottish philosopher Hume, can we ever be absolutely certain that it will do so again?
Demain, dès l’aube, a collaboration between From Overseas & zakè, offers quite a similar experience. French for “Tomorrow, at dawn,” the title might be read in any number of ways, absent any other context. Perhaps it is a threat (we ride at dawn!), a promise (we’ll meet then), or simply a statement of fact. Certainly the French title is evocative, even if we are unaware of the translation. The music itself, however, is suggestive of yet another interpretation. There is no sense of foreboding in these gentle waves of sound, but the sense of peace that follows mourning. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that in English mourning is homophonous with morning, as both speak to the promise of a new beginning, of cyclical continuity. “Demain, dès l’aube….” happens to be the opening line of one of the most famous lines of poetry penned by Victor Hugo, of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame and Les Misérables fame. Written between the publication of these two famous works, and collected in Les Contemplations, “Tomorrow, at dawn” is a poem of loss and heartbreak, all the more tragic because it is to the grave of his daughter that Hugo set out to visit at dawn.
From Overseas & zakè have previously collaborated as a duo on 2022’s Sound Space 4, Subscription Series Vol. IV, released by the Past Inside the Present imprint Zakè Drone Recordings. They also appear together as part of larger configurations, including 2022’s Valencia, a collaboration with the duo Awakened Souls, and with Marc Ertel and James Bernard for Live at the Gothic Chapel earlier this year. The opening track of the former, “131,” is credited solely to From Overseas & zakè, seemingly a generative enough encounter to warrant a deeper exploration of the pairing.
At 84 minutes, Demain, dès l’aube is a luxurious and unhurried meeting between the two artists, who, as patiently yet surely as the rising sun, proceed through a series of augmented looped arrangements, leisurely exploring subtle variations in timbre and harmony. The duo draw on electric guitar, bass, tape processing, and synthesizer, but the lack of harsh attack means that most of the instruments remain vague, their tones streaked into indistinguishability like the hues of the sky. Each composition seems to fade into the next, purposefully avoiding sudden shifts or dissonance. The results are not quite monochromatic, yet the variations change at almost imperceptible speed, as the sky can contain many colors but shifts only gradually, never with a clear point of delineation.
The first two tracks, “Faraway” and “Heather in Bloom,” are also the shortest at just under five minutes each, but their structure, both individually and as a pair, sets the tone for the record, almost a microcosm of the record as a whole. “Tomorrow At Dawn” and “Day Will Be As The Night,” each around ten minutes and with titles that are suggestive of the overarching theme, reinforce the concept of pairings; there are two artists, two sets of tracks of similar length, and both internally divided into two distinct movements, even if it is difficult to perceive on a casual listen. That may very well be the point, as the music seems less interested in asking the listener to contemplate it as to lose themselves in meditative repetition and variation. It is also a very clever approach, as the second movement of one composition could just as easily be the beginning of another, adding to the sense of pleasant disorientation we’ve come to expect from PITP.
The Indiana label launched just five years ago, quickly earning a place among the premiere contemporary ambient labels. Indianapolis might seem a surprising location, though in fact the city has been home to such talents as jazz musicians Freddie Hubbard and Wes Montgomery, and authors Kurt Vonnegut and John Green. In fact, the most interesting work is often found on the margins, and we’re happy to add Past Inside the Present to this illustrious list. Of course, zakè is just half the equation on Demain, dès l’aube, and presumably the French inflections come from Kévin Séry, who hails from the island of Réunion, an overseas department and region of France, hence the moniker. Moving between his birthplace in the Indian Ocean, the United States, and continental Europe, transit and circulation informs Séry’s creative practice of “instrumental exile stories,” though again it is difficult to suss out precisely who is doing what in these understated arrangements.
The final three tracks, comprising the second of two LPs, were originally conceived of as a companion to Demain, dès l’aube, but happily they’ve not been shorn from their origins, instead further reinforcing the concept of cyclical pairings. The first of the three,“Across Mountains,” runs 15:22, interceding between two tracks that are under ten minutes. The variety of track lengths adds dynamics to the album which is otherwise quite steady and unrushed, further playing with our sense of time. The second disc also allows space for the artists to luxuriate in slowness even further, as exemplified by the final track, “A Bouquet of Green Holly.” At over 20 minutes long, it is an elegant denouement, with the final five minutes constituting a distinct movement of its own, gradually fading out into silence.
Past Inside the Present has become synonymous with subtle beauty and high fidelity, and Demain, dès l’aube is best experienced on good speakers or listening closely with headphones, to better appreciate the range of frequencies, especially the rich low end, and the impeccable mastering from Stephan Mathieu. Many of our readers report that they often use us to find music for background listening, to help with achieving the coveted flow state for work or as an aid for meditation and relaxation. Past Inside the Present’s records are well-suited for such purposes, but like the best ambient music will continue to reward those who are willing to listen more closely. Perhaps because of the recent passing of Brian McBride (half of Stars of the Lid), I can’t help but posit the comparison, if only to honor the legacy of his work as it lives on in this generation. Not unlike Stars of the Lid, or for that matter, A Sorrow Unrequited, zakè’s 2021 collaboration with Duque, the mournful qualities of the music don’t manifest in the form of dreariness, but in a form of somber resolve, even hopefulness. Afterall, the sun will rise again tomorrow. (Joseph Sannicandro)
“Demain, dès l’aube” is an ambient music collaboration between From Overseas & zakè, exploring themes of cyclical continuity and peace.