It took Parisian Pierre Lefeuvre four years to create Mirage, the third album for his Saycet project followingOne Day at Home in 2005 and Through the Window in 2010. Four years during which he was finally able to devote all his time to music, including multiple collaborations with the Pompidou Centre and France Culture, and a live tour that took him as far as Asia and Russia.
“I wanted to make a much more elegant, more frontal record, something less convoluted.” While embellishing his compositions for the previous tour, Pierre realised how much pleasure he took in thickening out his basslines and pushing the beats further to the front of the mix.
Mirage includes ten tracks in movement, floating somewhere between abstract pop, baroque electronica and luminous techno. For the five vocal tracks on the album, Pierre once again worked with Phoene Somsavath, the singer from his previous album who wrote her own lyrics and most of the melodies. Together, they constructed these melancholic nursery rhymes by wilfully giving them a tinge of pop. “It’s the melody that became a pretext for the arrangement, whereas before the opposite was true. Before, I was happy under the umbrella of the electronica movement, but now I try less to stay in the mould.”
The album kicks off with Ayrton Senna – harmonic, interlacing minimalist cells in a criss-cross crescendo that eventually melds them together. Pierre still remembers being in front of his TV that Sunday in 1994 when the Formula 1 pilot’s death was broadcast live. The violence of the scene and ensuing emotional shock were a sort of symbol for the passage from childhood to manhood.
On Mirages, Pierre sings for the first time in his life. His deep voice supports Phoene’s to create a new entity on the chorus, a strange ghost charged with emotion. Then comes the impact of Météores, with its heavy piano chords slowly melting into the sound of the Mellotron and finishing in something akin to a tropical storm.
“I like to form something using several instruments, but I try not to modify the sounds that I use.” On Volcanowe can see that Saycet has also lost a lot of its naivety. There is no longer a fear of frontally expressing a certain violence, with only the nostalgic vocals of Phoene to slightly soften the blow.
Half Awake was the first track that Pierre Lefeuvre wrote. On tour he will sing it himself, but for the album he used the deep, gruff voice of Yan Wagner: “Yan is a crooner. He’s Sinatra.” Although the combination of the two sounds unlikely, it actually has a rare elegance to it.
After the lyrical Northern Lights, perfect calm returns in the form of Kananaskis, once again with soft vocals by Phoene. It’s the perfect introduction to one of the album’s high points – Cité Radieuse, homage to one of Le Corbusier’s most famous buildings, and a place that Pierre Lefeuvre has been lucky enough to visit numerous times. Over the past four years he has discovered its architecture, and the building’s rigour and strength echo through every part of the album. “I never thought that a building could move me in so many ways.”
Mirage ends with Quiet Days, the last song sung by Phoene Somsavath, and Smiles from Thessaloniki, an epic number (the longest of the album) where Pierre manages to express his most intimate of feelings.
Free of its mentors, Saycet refuses to deliver the same old tired emotions. With Mirage it’s as if Lefeuvre has dug a magical tunnel between him and us, in which runs a ghost train full of enchanting creatures, bathed in a dazzling light. He gives us clues for escaping his labyrinth, and it is up to us to use them.
On stage, Saycet’s music is even more powerful, enriched by the video work of Zita Cochet who also uses abstract materials and textures. With Phoene Somsavath busy singing in Scotland, singer and violinist Louise Roam will join Pierre, adding her stellar tremolo to Saycet’s live show. “Now I want to grab people’s attention, perhaps by force,” he says. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.