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Culture

ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Bertrand Cantat, lueur d’espoir à l’horizon

by Victor Hache

Bertrand Cantat, a Flicker of Hope on the Horizon

Translated Monday 25 November 2013, by Mia Timpano

After ten years of silence, the singer returns with Horizons, a dark, introspective album produced with bassist Pascal Humbert and their duo Détroit.

Will people welcome Bertrand Cantat back into their hearts? Since the drama of Vilnius and the 2003 murder of his partner Marie Trintignant, the former Noir Désir singer has done a lot of soul-searching. Having survived prison, media scrutiny, trial by those who will never forgive him and the hurt inflicted on everyone else, Cantat has found the strength to reinvent himself. His musical inspiration, buried under the ruins of a tragic life, has resurfaced and is more present than ever in Horizons, the first album from the band Détroit which Cantat created with bassist Pascal Humbert. This sombre, poetic and introspective album is dominated by a sense of painful fragility, of muffled rage and of being in a tunnel where the singer seems to be searching for a way out. It is not easy listening; Cantat shares his feelings honestly without trying to make us forget the irreparable past. He clings to the music, the only glimmer of hope that allows him to brave the glare of the world outside. Ma muse, the opening track, resembles a prayer invoking the presence of his guiding light: “It inspires me every time I breathe in your complicit essence / which drop by drop mixes with mine / and the gentle music fills in the cracks.”

Cantat sings in French and English, such as in Glimmer in Your Eyes, a folk song with country-blues guitars dedicated to wide, open spaces. In Terre brûlante (Burning Earth), a long, straight road runs through an arid countryside where one happens upon “smoking trucks, dead birds, the timeworn sun” under a cloud-filled sky. The style is dense, moving, as in Ange de désolation (Angel of Desolation) whose lines seem to be addressed to Marie: “You know now, on this side of existence, we’re suffocating,” he sings. “Sleep my angel sleep / Eternity is ours / It exists within each second / Tell me you remember the night-time splendours and the crazy laughter / And in our eyes planted like daggers / these shards of life which are ours alone”. Heartbreaking, melancholy lyrics characterise the prison-themed title track Horizon: “Seek your horizon between the walls / Will my head or my heart implode like a star? / Which part or remnant of me / Will join you first?” There are atmospheric rock tracks reminiscent of Noir Désir with le Creux de ta main (The Hollow in Your Hand), melancholy ballads, such as Droit dans le soleil (Straight Into the Sun), a gospel-soul choir in Sa Majesté (Her Majesty) and pop-folk numbers with big guitar riffs which give the listener space to breathe, like Null and Void.

At the end, Cantat appears to put his faith in destiny, singing along to the words of Ferré in Avec le temps (With Time). This album of solemn beauty, filled with the tears of a tragic story, will leave no one indifferent and everyone with a heavy heart.

Horizons out now through Barclay Music.


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