We do love exploring the transcendent and slightly out-there here on Rainbows, but that has always been the draw of this column. I’m always looking for something that no one else is doing, and with RÏCÏNN I have definitely found that. The project’s debut album Nereïd is a successful amalgamation of the widest variety of influences, and it manages to take much of what you know and expect about how music is crafted and turn it completely on its head. It’s equal parts strange, ambitious, and breathtaking, and it’s guaranteed to be unlike anything you’ve ever heard.
In one sense, Nereïd is an album that was slowly crafted over the course of several tours over the globe, but in another sense, it’s an album that has existed for as long as RÏCÏNN’s sole member Laure Le Prunenec has been alive. Perhaps better known as the soprano vocalist of the French breakcore outfit Igorrr, Le Prunenec has contributed heavily to the international success of the band, and has spent quite a lot of time out on the road with them. It was during these stints on the road that different bits and pieces of Nereïd were conceived and recorded, sometimes solely in the mind of Le Prunenec. Even when she was not able to sit down in a studio or by a computer, she was always dreaming and creating, a trait she has carried with her since she was a child. Lots of components of Nereïd tie together dreams from when she was younger with her current desires and ideas, all with the purpose of staying true to her voice and vision. Nereïd was composed, performed and conceived almost exclusively by Le Prunenec herself, with a few notable special guests adding arrangements and instrumental touches (like her Igorrr bandmates Sylvain Bouvier providing drums and Gautier Serre arranging “Söre,” as well as Cattle Decapitation’s Travis Ryan joining the ranks of the backing choir). Nereïd is, at its core, a dark opera that tells the story of an apocalypse survivor grieving the loss of her culture amidst the wreckage in which she now finds herself, all told in a language Le Prunenec created herself.
As one might expect, Le Prunenec’s voice is absolutely the star of the show on all of these tracks. Powerful, sorrowful, full of depth and range, it’s no small wonder why she has gotten all of the recognition she has or why an album billed as a “dark funeral opera” could succeed so wildly. Her voice tells a story that you can feel and see every detail of, even though there are almost no intelligible words on the album. Every belt, every wail of agony, every scream, cry and whisper are so packed full of feeling and life that it’s impossible not to get sucked in to the story and to feel every ounce of it. Lead single “Doris” is a great example of how and why Nereïd hits so hard. The song is built around layers of Le Prunenec’s voice, each one adding on to the last and expanding the song until, with a piercing cry, the song thunders into huge electric guitars, choral screams and pounding drums. Similarly, the title track is filled with raw emotion and soulful, evocative vocals that evoke a profound sense of yearning, all over tribal sounding drums and slightly eerie strings. It should be noted that the backing arrangements of these songs also gives them a tremendous sense of vibrancy. From gentle acoustic guitars to string ensembles to electronics and analogue keyboards, the variety of instrumentation on Nereïd makes each song stand out, like a chapter in a story. “Söre” even features the breakcore elements that, doubtless, many people are hoping for, and the pulsing synth bass on “Psamatäe” adds a modern feel to a song that starts off feeling very classical. It’s the attention to detail that really lets Nereïd shine, and it’s an album that I keep discovering more about the more I listen to it.
RÏCÏNN, and Le Prunenec, have in one fell swoop managed to make some of the deepest, most interesting music I have heard all year. I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise that someone associated with a band like Igorrr would make music that is well off the beaten path, but Le Prunenec shows on this release that she deserves to stand on her own merits. From her tremendous voice to her skillful storytelling to her ability to take so many disparate sounds and styles and turn them completely on their heads, it seems like there’s almost no stopping her at this point. Here’s to another chapter in the saga that RÏCÏNN have begun spinning. I’m sure it will be even more strange and wonderful.