I remember the day you surged forth, the way my heart leapt up to meet your voice. I had been in Paris only a few months, sleeping in a cramped appartement, maybe just one room, a hovel tucked away in a corner of town, on its flipside. I was doubting, waiting, hoping… I would write all the time, and music was the force that bound my fingers as they raced over the keyboard. Pop videos flitted past, lying just beyond my vigilance, their music weaving a fluffy cocoon around me, and in that chrysalis, I took in their monotonous hum. I seldom paid attention to these walls, those made of stone, those made of sound, until one day, something emerged, broke free from the rest, until a brand-new tone with brighter hues rushed forward and took its place among the uniformity of this backdrop, radically modifying its intensity and brightness. You pushed back my horizon.
It all started with a voice, the day I met a sigh, a breath, a melody – the delicate yet powerful exhalation of a fairy, the silvery signal of a world tucked away at the periphery of ours. A caress, a breeze composed of two arms, a gentleness powerful enough to seize my mind and extract it, remove it from the frontier of my very being. Its sonic curve was so clear, that, for an instant, I mistook it for an instrument. This wave left the screen, draping the keyboard, undulating towards my ears; I cleared away my work, opened the window – you were there. You were nineteen, and a serious expression was etched onto your pale features, blue eyes giving us a wide-angled glimpse of your bewilderment, a confession – your body was indeed too narrow to encase the native emotions of your song, and physically, you were crossed by every one of its inflexions. You had no choice but to share this prayer as it spilled over, you could not keep it to yourself.
Behind you, Norway deployed its territory – its land, its sky, its waters. The world was flowing through your words, soon to be reborn through them, pure and raw, washed from our stupidity and regret. You conjured up fire trapped under ice, ancient eras and those that will never be, sap oozing under bark, cliffs slowly rising up. On my skin, I could perceive the coalescence of a story that could be experienced, but never recounted. A million frosted arrows rose up along my spine. Invisible strings pulled at my heart, my lungs, my belly. Your whisper grew, low pitched intonations preceding the most crystalline of flights, – you are the only one to do this. Your voice soon burst into an arresting clarity, a triumphant sun, there, just there, right at the bottom of this secret abyss. On “Runaway”, you spoke of a vital exodus, of the failure of a dream, of the violence of a mirage preceding a necessary wrenching from one’s own being. Facing this exile, I did not flee, instead recomposing, returning deeper into who I truly was. I observed you, followed you, mapping your ascent. Within your dramatic flight, trapped inside this emotion, I closed my eyes, and then, it felt as if I were listening to you with my flesh, my bones, every one of my cells. This is what I was to feel every time your voice was rang forth. Once the song finished, I played it again and subscribed to your page. I was but an ear, a morsel of flesh, a point in the dark among several hundred. Dazzled by my discovery, I retained the giddiness of this beauty without realizing that it was but the prelude to an intense odyssey, of the type that draws you in, ever deeper.
In the weeks and months that followed, I prolonged the exploration of your realm. I listened to your first singles, then your album, “All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend”. Every time, your voice would duck, snake, advance, retreat, thunder, soften and finally slice through the nocturnal veil your pen had cast unto the world. In each of your songs, you summoned the crawling darkness we choose to leave at the edges of society, believing it alien to our humanity. Homicide, madness, solitude, grief – these summits, so high, these edges, so rough. I slipped up, then soared. This poetry, impossible to grasp, called upon dreams, visions, and as many landscapes, cemeteries beneath the stars, submarine deserts, peaceful battlefields. “Wrapped inside a cocoon made of flesh and bones. Doesn’t really matter where you come from. We are home”. In the mingling of dawn and dusk, I found an hour, forever golden, a glimmer lighting my way. I carried it with me. Wrapped in the most freezing of shadows, fragmented in the most burning of lights, I was glad to be haunted. Glad you were there.
Two years later, you released your two-part album – “Infections Of A Different Kind – Step 1”, and “A Different Kind Of Human (Step 2)”. There were many more of us now, following your journey, summoning you into the paths of our existences, thousands of ears and souls combined. I was now devoting my life to writing and care, to a quest for meaning, meaning I found by your side, a sign amongst the yearning, an indefectible presence. Your music had become a language all to its own, one I would only share it with those I cherished the most, like a gift, a chance, a hand outstretched. Sensation carried identity away, and like you, I split myself into many pieces so that each discovery, each person I met would be an opportunity to grow, to feel alive. I became an animal capable of loving in a concrete jungle, a river in which to drown sorrow, a moon offering shelter from solitude, from the snare of abuse, a shower with which to quench the earth, forever a dreamer, a beautiful love rekindled. Like you, I also thought language could cauterise even the deepest of wounds, fill the gash, that from speech, a gentler universe would rise up one day. I opened and ended one of my books with the words ‘Soft Universe’, so that others besides me would get it. I was widening the path.
I did not manage to secure a ticket for your concert in Paris, yet wanted to celebrate this fresh lease of life alongside others, to bask in the musical double of our everyday lives. I came to see you at the Parque della Musica, in Rome. I was sat in the centre of the room, yet as soon as you appeared on stage, as soon as the first notes rose up and rang out through the blue hued penumbra of the auditorium, they exploded onto the surface of time and I felt transported back many years to the very first time I heard you, to that initial contact, to the grandiose exaltation in that minuscule appartement. I was aloft once more, high above the audience, above Italy, above myself. Yet I was very much within my own body, my breath fiery, my arteries pulsating with feeling. Where did the beating of my heart begin? Where did the sound of your voice end? I did not wish to remain sat there. It was too much, as you know well, too many emotions for just one body. I was not alone since the crowd ended up rising and pushing back the seats to get to the edge of the stage. I remember your surprise when facing this group that now formed just one silhouette, another ocean. My throat tight, I shouted something out, in French, moved, without thinking – my gratitude I believe. It seemed you looked at me, telling me that music always resembles a hearth, a hearth I had reached. I thought your generosity would be enough, that I was filled with magic, satiated with colour, that it would take several months for the expectations and defeats of ordinary life to reclaim the vivacious joy I had chanced upon in your aura. Yet a few months later, the call rang out again right when I felt bound by yearning. The desire returned, rough, intact. I returned to see you, this time in Manchester. Like in Rome, I saw your body collect the lightning bolts of your fervour, your dancing become a trance, your smile emerge, majestic, at the zenith of elation, at the point of fusion between sense and sound. Warrior or magician, princess Mononoke or Freya, electric spirit, incandescent flesh, you delivered every aspect of your psyche, all of them swirling around the epicentre of your voice. You were not playing your songs, you were an incarnation of their states, and from the atom to the angel, all of it was true, all of it had been experienced, as you called upon these tales, through your own self. And once again, there were many of us, in the shadows where the light came to rest, who synchronised our leaping hearts with yours.
Over the following years, I discovered you on film soundtracks and cover versions, on a great number of sings that have not yet been released – I hope that these incredible marvels, these demon friends and broken satellites will not remain forever caged. Yet is cover version the right term? Can one speak of covers when the canvas is loosened then rewoven with golden threads of plenitude and melancholy? In the aftermath of these successive revolutions, your new single appeared, bearing the seal of your instinctive yen for reinvention, a commitment indissociable from true creativity. On “Exist For Love”, you softly sing the power of renewing with this lost being we call love. It will never be possible to be truly whole, to heal one’s entire self, yet how can we live without this unison, without the heat of this fable, a dream which is nonetheless authentic? A little later, on “Cure For Me”, you paint the celebratory portrait of a generation, poster children of a fractured era, aware of its vulnerabilities as much as its imposture, granted, yet also aware of its inventivity in the redefinition of its individuality and its connections. This generation has no need to be guided, fostered, taught how to live or to love by those who came before it. This appeal is followed by “Giving in to the love”, a revolt of the self, obviously in love, faced with our dull contemporary rules, and especially, with “Heathens”, a Bifröst straddling tradition and modernity. With mystical remains eked out at the border of norms and models, in the matrix of the present you reveal an immortal, intemporal alcove. On the finale, “A Dangerous Thing”, you describe relationships of abuse, the scarlet tension between seduction and destruction, the knowledge we sometimes impart to a behemoth that would alienate us still. Yet you concede nothing to destruction – when all is said and done, this is not love, but it remains possible to live through the hurt, to dance through the rage, to abandon the spirit, and for the body to exult.
With each track, my impatience grew, along with my fascination for these successive metamorphoses which, in their radical transition, preserve only your demanding spirit, to become grace, a necessary luxuriance. I had become a child again, feverish with emotion and hope. I jumped through the waves, and in listening to these songs, felt myself grow, testing the ocean, then giving myself up to its swell. You were the artist capable of evoking the sad, perilous danger of having nothing left to say, since everything has already been said. After all, what is there left for us to destroy? What is there left for us to enchant?
We have arrived. “The Gods We Can Touch” is here, its music rings out and embraces every element – walls, furniture, thoughts. I see you against this new background. Here you stand, walking a tightrope between a world in tatters, and another, too frantic, bound by nothing. For too long, politics have been bedfellows with imagery, have ended up consumed by the visual, opinion has swallowed thought whole, religions alarm, nature succumbs, science ends up deceiving – everything is swallowed into the void, emptiness now reigns supreme. Where can we still find beauty to warm our days, meaning to orient our existence? How to subsist in this maelstrom of nihilism and absurdity? Which divinities can we still call forth? To carry the present out of this nothingness, you cast your gaze towards the past, towards Greece and its antique beliefs, Narcissus, Oedipus, Persephone, Artemis. All these gods, heroes, hostages of fate, they all lie by your side, powerful chimera creating what they illustrate, the very first units of meaning. To break the repetition of days, to extend the scope of a narrow view, you seize innumerable inspirations, from Asia to the 80s, from Westerns to French vocals, from electronics to strings. You combine so many references, fraction them, sculpt them anew, yet they are but materials, the new essence of the dream. To prove contemporary individualism wrong, you speak but of love, of all the possibilities to connect and leave the orbit of Me, to meet the other, to attach to them and liberate one’s self. Everything is profane. Everything is sacred. Everything is pointless. Everything has meaning, Everything is ancient, everything is lost, yet within our feelings, from passing sensuality to eternal symbiosis, everything is still to come, everything may still be reinvented. It is possible to believe, to marvel, to find our strangeness more familiar, to finally recognise our silhouettes in this human cosmogeny. Every trial may destroy us, yet every torment may be overcome, no loneliness may ever last, as long as there is someone to love. The genuine gods are those that wake in an embrace, wholly experienced, in the murmur at the edge of skin against skin, in scintillating gazes finally recognising each other, in the benediction conferred upon hands entwined. And it is not because our feelings ebb and flow that they have no consistency, not because our couples resist or lie secluded that they do not matter. One must be brave enough to come together despite a world in disarray – this is the final stab we have at its re-enchantment. You beckon, then become them, these gods without a sex, a gender, a norm, these gods that have created themselves, these gods we can touch.
I dived into the fallen, arresting romanticism of “Temporary High”, gathered up your cry with “Blood In The Wine”, listened to the whole album, anchored to its different steps like Ulysses visiting his islands. I felt the collision of eras, the hybridity of myths, supernatural forces spinning like planets. I took flight once more, divorcing myself from the ground, set for this singular Olympus. Upon leaving your postmodern world, upon returning to myself, I retained a conviction: you had made it, risen to the challenge of your time, built a new haven, right here. I am listening to you, yes, listening, again and again. And I know as well as I can feel, that the nooks and crannies of our intimacy are indestructible.
I have never managed to come see you in Paris, but I will be present in London and Amsterdam. In the multicolour night, I may express my gratitude one more. You shall be there, facing us, in your millions of incarnations, fugitive and authentic. I hope, like all the others, that time will hang suspended. I shall be an atom or an angel, a bridge among hundreds, ears, hearts and souls combined. I shall be happy in this interstice between dusk and dawn, airborne in unison, a unique pulsation. I have come a long way since the miniscule apartment, it has become the crypt of my memories, the interminable wait and hurts rest there. I carried on down my road, mapped out by your songs, basking in your voice, and it was worth it. I found my place, through writing and care, found a home at the cross-roads of time. Tomorrow forms but one with the here and now, the horizon you push back lies behind and before me. You have always been there. I am smiling, already as I remember the day you surged forth.