14:14 min • Guilhem • April 28, 2014
Andrew Darley reviews
Annabelle Guilhem has made sure that her first record is the one that counts. After a number of years of working in theatre, directing and singing on other artists’ projects, the French native knew it was time to create a sound of her own. In figuring out how she wanted to bring her musical ideas into fruition, she contacted the London-based producer Hektagon, whom she had previously worked with, to see how an extended collaboration would play out. They instinctively found creative chemistry with a shared love of synthesizers and classic science fiction movies with the likes of Logan’s Run, Blade Runner, 2001 Space Odyssey and The Never Ending Story. Adopting the moniker Velour Modular, these commonalities form the heart of the Capsule EP.
In her interview with Polari, Annabelle explained how she broadly wanted to map the human developmental cycle of “birth, youth, maturity and death” into each of the four songs. She sought to explore this theme in her music because “nothing is certain; the world is in perpetual mutation. The only thing we’re sure about is the basic steps of development”. The four songs on Capsule observe, reflect and pose questions about our existence and our place in the universe. With this in mind, it’s clear why she reached out to Hektagon for his style of production. His approach has a shadowy and intricate quality, which drives the themes of space, technology and the future. Guilhem notes that she spent the majority of her childhood in India, where she learned the native way of singing. She delivers a range of vocal styles from earthy and rich to more extroverted capabilities. It is this background that has possibly opened up her songwriting and melodies that are unconventional and effortless.
The EP opens with ‘Esc’, a song that murkily ebbs and flows with continual drum patterns before building up momentum with stabs of beatific synthesisers, as Guilhem declares “My trajectory is right”. It’s a fitting beginning to the record, scoring two diverse artists merging and establishing a sound together. Nonetheless, the song the opener does not prepare for the is unmistakably epic-pop ‘Forward’. Creeping up with an ominous bass-line and the beat of a Japanese Taiko drum, the song bursts into the anthemic chant of “Here We Are, Chaos, Nuclear” before taking off on an arpeggiated synth pattern that feels like flashing through deep space. It sounds like a battle cry suspended in deep space. Elsewhere, the glitchy layers and mechanical noises of ‘Technology Worshippers’ is equally as thrilling and bizarre. With repeated listens, the poeticism of her lyrics become more apparent and it knocks you back with its simplicity and beauty. It’s laced with profound and abstract lines about life, our “age of ignorance” and the beyond.
Continuing with the concept of evolution, the EP closes with the bombastic ‘Sudden Motion’; a song about death and rebirth. As the music drops out, the singer asks “What is there after?”. It’s a dramatic coda, leaving you wishing for more. There is an arresting quality in the way Guilhem and Hektagon have brought their two backgrounds together, fusing them cohesively. Capsule is the first and exciting glimpse of what Annabelle can imagine and execute musically. She is already set to record a second EP with Berlin musician and producer Phon.o, on which she intends to explore a new and a wider-ranging electronic palette. Velour Modular is a keenly chosen moniker for Guilhem’s music, which comprises of rich and passionate lyrics and forward-thinking, intelligent productions.