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UnSeelie - Urban Fantasy

UnSeelie - CD Review
Urban Fantasy

Urban Fantasy



CD Info
Self Released
10 tracks
English lyrics


UnSeelie is a French Gothic project from Paris. The music here was largely financed by a crowd funding effort so the band had complete control over the music and the direction of the release. Sometimes, I think, that really has a positive impact. The band answers to no one but themselves, they do what they want, the make the music that they want to make. And that seems to have resulted in an absolutely first class release here. This is one of the finer sounds I’ve heard this year, in a number of respects. Yes, there is some outstanding music, and, interestingly, this recorded material seems to be the result of just two musicians: Marc Chevallereau who does a bunch of guitars, keyboards and programming while vocals are the domaine of the enchanting Anne-Emmanuelle Fournier who does both clean and extreme interpretations of the concept. And, the two provide an inordinate amount of music; beautiful, interesting and technically as good as you are likely to encounter. But, thats just the delivery vehicle. Urban Fantasy is a themed release, it’s a commentary and the lyrics are even better than the music, at least in my opinion. Of course, that may be a minority opinion since I spend a lot of time with lyrics. But, these are as good as you’re going to encounter in the genre, they can be interpreted lyrically or you can take them down your own personal path for interpretation. And isn’t that what good art is suppose to do.

I like to think my education has prepared me to interpret music like this but, history has suggested certain deficiencies in my capabilities in that regard. So, I go to the source for things of this magnitude: “The title of the album refers to a literary genre called Urban Fantasy, which differs from classical Fantasy by the fact that it introduces imaginary and mythological creatures in a realistic modern context, or even in a post-modern future. In the album, we’re using this concept to explore the theme of the disenchantment and re-enchantment of the world. The 1st part of the album, Biocide (literally ‘homicide of life’) focuses on what I’d call the modern nihilism: the disappearance of sacredness and of all ties biding human beings to the universe, the culture of calculability and the tyranny of immediacy. The 2nd part, Things hidden since the foundation of the world, reveals breaches undermining this technical rationality by conjuring up urban legends, motifs borrowed from traditional fairy tales and literary archetypes (for instance, Ophelia’s ghost emerging from polluted waters in ‘of Water and Dreams’). Finally, the 3rd part, Heirs of the Fall, is an attempt to look at the Promethean aspects of humans in their negative as well as in their positive sides. Prometheus is a great figure of fall, and his fate can be compared to the idea of the fall in the Bible, to some extend. This last chapter of the album acknowledges the irremediable nature of modern rupture and opens the door to a quest for redemption, this time not through a return to old beliefs, but through a renewed wonderment at reality, which is in itself a mystery.”

The music, as I suggested above, is certainly a little complex to be associated with just two musicians. But, these days, nothing is beyond the capabilities of musicians with a level of technological sophistication that prepares them to do amazing things. And UnSeelie does amazing things musically. You get over the top sounds on multiple tracks, some of them presenting a sophistication hard to understand. Anne-Emmanuelle talked about the production aspects: “Indeed, everything was recorded by the two of us and that includes electronic drums, as you guessed. Marc recorded the bass, rhythm and lead guitar as well as the few acoustic guitar parts, and he did all the programming work for the drums and synths. I composed and recorded only the vocals, but it was a great amount of work too, for there are a lot of backing vocals on the album, and I tried many different vocal registers and colors. As for the production, the recording, mixing and mastering took place in a professional studio, the Studio Zoé H. , which works a lot for electro-Metal bands, as we wanted that kind of cold sound that would match the album’s concept and lyrical themes. And you’re right, we were very perfectionist about our sound, we wanted to check every detail and requested so many changes before we validated the final version that we almost drove our sound engineer crazy! So he’ll be glad to hear that you find the production solid ;-)”

Well, anyway, Urban Fantasy takes us on a sophisticated musical ride through a correspondingly interesting lyrical world; one where thoughts and dreams intermingle and provide a fertile ground for interpretation. We get this approach at times in this genre, we are fortunate in that regard. But, Urban Fantasy takes us to the top of the realm. And they use that top flight musical vehicle to drive the train of thought.

You can pretty much take any of the 10 tracks and enjoy a musical ride through sounds and thoughts that require multiple listens to begin to interpret. That ride begins with Strangers. This one begins with an electronic sound, a dark one to be sure, keyboard sounding that takes us to the crushing metal. But, as our lovely vocalist begins her work we are quickly introduced to thoughts that clearly require more close examination:

We’ve been thrown into this world / Without instructions for use
Without even a map / We don’t know where our steps are leading us

The remaining 9 tracks attempt to expand on this theme, sometimes offering suggestions to address the mystery, sometimes suggesting the reality we face is beyond our comprehension. And, in the darkest corners of our discussion, there is the hint that all is in vain.

Quantify Your Soul begins the journey, and takes us immediately to questions over a pounding metal. At this point, reality is open to interpretation:

I wonder how much my thoughts weigh / The bright ones / The dark ones
Unless they’re all the same

Am I too heavy to reach heaven? / Or too light / To really
Fully dwell on this earth (To stand on firm ground. . .)

From here, there are dark thoughts, questions for the most personal moments, addressed in tracks like The City Feeds on You and Frontier; the later a sound that seems to address the involvement of religion:

Who knows how crushed / a man can be / How exhausted
Yet the prophet spoke to us /The forgotten

However, this solution proved limited, and maybe without merit:

Many went away searching / And were found whitening in the sun
The acid rains had washed their bones / Before they could see the Frontier

So we killed the prophet / on a sweet summer night

There are always those sounds and thoughts that seem to hold special meaning to us. For me, that track was Of Water and Dreams. I’m a water person, I tend to see things in terms of water, and this one spoke volumes to me, both musically and lyrically. It’s a beautiful song, but a dark haunting one. The message is one couched in water:

Embrace me / I’ve been so deep down / I’ve seen the world drown
Please hold me / I’m weightless as a shade
I’ve seen the night where no one breathes

The thoughts take us in a darker more personal direction, the track closes:

This coldness inside / Has it always been mine?
Can you turn it to life / So I know how it feels

Won’t you hold me / And let me feel your warmth
Tell me I’ve been alive / So I know that I used to breathe. . .

There’s a quote that precedes the track, it’s in French and I had trouble figuring it out. Again, the explanation was interesting: “I’m glad you want to talk about this song, because it is, in my opinion, one of those which have the most atmosphere. The quote is taken from a book by the French philosopher Gaston Bachelard and is usually translated as ‘The call of water demands a total offering, an inner offering. Water needs an inhabitant’. Bachelard wrote a series of books about different elements (fire, air, water, earth) and how they give food for our imagination. The element water is described as something that attracts and fascinates us, something that makes us want to disappear into depth, become part of infinity, or perhaps dissolve in our own reflection. People of all times have imagined waters to be inhabited by fairy or monstrous creatures, and the Shakespearian character Ophelia can be associated with all these myths. I found this was very interesting to illustrate the possibility to re-enchant our (post)modern world. So I imagined Ophelia appearing out of the polluted waters of a futuristic megalopolis, and I let her ghost talk. At first she tries to attract a child into the water to heal her deep solitude. Then she recalls her drowning and wonders if she has always felt the way she feels now as a ghost, disembodied and shapeless. She wonders if there was something in her that had always wanted to give in to the cold embrace of water, you could say a death wish, but it’s more than just that. In the end, she’s not even sure she’s ever been fully alive, she feels she never had more consistency than the flows. I wrote a short story related to that song, which can be found in our fotobook ‘Visual Fantasy’ and explores another point of view.

Well, many will listen to this release and just be impressed with the music, which is outstanding. But, clearly, they will miss much. This is a fine femme metal release, but one done by two people who are far more than just good musical artists. With the depth of thinking found in the lyrical content, the release provides for a journey with many potential paths. It’s one that will require multiple listens, and they tend to get better and better. “Fantaisie urbaine "; en effet.