After listening to her for over a decade, I found Ariane Moffatt‘s latest album incredibly brazen. Catching up with her in Paris, she was barely resting between shows on yet another French tour. While it’s been a real personal journey following an artist who has quietly come into her own, listening to MA tells us we weren’t the only ones traveling.
After months spent hopping from a 5-week visit in China, to her acquisition of steelpan drums in Tobago, to her songwriting workshop with Nunavut teenagers, she hasn’t exactly spent her break on her couch. It seems her mind needed to roam before heading back to the task at hand.
MA is an electropop record with a lot of heart. To fully appreciate it, I could not recommend seeing it performed live enough. Although her aim was to produce “a minimal and evocative body of work”, following a concert experience, listeners are greeted by a cinematically textured soundscape upon their return to the disc. Her voice drops at times warm and indulgent and at others composed and severe, an artifice of the digital effects she imposes – but never for long. A stark contrast to preceding albums, the record makes the bold move of using her voice sparingly. This absence is most notable in tracks like “Sourire Sincère“ or “L’Homme Dans L’Automobile,” the latter being her favorite. The result is an intimate dance record, elegantly whispering into our ears, her hopes, fears and brave contentment with what the future may bring.
It was a heartfelt decision to make the record bilingual – a hot topic in her native Quebec. Knowing the album would fall -just- short of qualifying for most nominations at the provincial (ADISQ) music awards, she still chose these songs, following her gut instincts over a more profitable road. An especially humble move, seeing as this is the first of her album she’s recorded, played, produced and published on her own. Although decisions like these are not taken lightly: in her inner circle of trusted advisors? Heavy sibling support. Older sister Stéphanie offers legal expertise while weighing in with sharp critical advice. Still, Ariane insists this isn’t the secret to her shamelessness. What keeps her working so closely with her sister is that their cards are always laid bare on the table, and they never step on each others’ toes.
OK, but how does one keep focused? “Keeping up with the flow.” This flow, a mascot that, Ariane admits, had her working up to 18-hour days, all alone in her studio. The process was quite different when it came to creating a remix album. She entrusted her tracks into the hands of Montreal heavyweight dj Ghislain Poirier, who introduced her to Canada’s best and finest remix artists. Under the careful scalpels of Bonjay, Nautilus, or even Poirier and Moffatt themselves, emerged an ambient collection of tunes that take a page from the originals’ lengthy instrumental parts. This time, we listen to revisit and get lost.