Whether working within the visual or aural domains, the output of mysterious French artist Dehn Sora is always surrounded by a characteristic aura. Bordering between the melancholy and the aggressive, the existentialist and the nihilist, his works are hazed and plagued by suggestive grayscale and embroidered with sfumato. By focusing on sinister subjects and objects, Sora’s themes and motifs ostensibly seek to find humane linings in gruesome, surreal concepts and unearthly vignettes. There is struggle, there is pain and desolation, but there are also fragments of hope. Whether the final nature of his world is Sisyphean or not, he never answers. While I might be projecting my own expectations and imagining non-existent links, Sora’s latest solo affair, the black-cum-experimental-metal outing Throane, appears as a clear extension of his earlier works and digital art. Drawing from influences of bands like Bluts Aus Nord, whom he works closely and often with, Throane’s debut Derriere-Nous, La Lumiere takes the atmospheres and minimalist ambience of Sora’s various other projects such as Treha Sektori and pushes them forward by providing a metallic edge.
The accompanying video for “Un Instant Dans Une Torche” poses as a perfect vessel of Sora’s encompassing approach. Strangely dynamic in its exaggerated staticism, the slowly moving hand in a cutting throat motion acts simultaneously as a backdrop and a crucial canvas for the music, creating a disorienting effect and immersing the listener in an inescapable, infinite succession of the same tableau. The guitars, drums, and vocals are diffused, vacant, and their aggressiveness and harshness is made flat. The track, its roaring riffs, and the deranged growls move at misleadingly varying speeds, but all these individually potent sounds coalesce into an oblique and soundscape-like scenery. I feel compelled to listen to Derriere-Nous, La Lumiere isolated. In pitch dark. Loudly. Preferably using loudspeakers, with volume levels just short of painful. Then Sora’s vision fills spaces, real and surreal, and becomes a transportive piece of music made that much more powerful by its own lack of context and directly expressed ideas.
The tools that Throane chooses to manifest thoughts in the world of sounds are crude and sharp, with the roughness of their attack accentuated rather than hidden. They serve their purpose perfectly. There are no shrouded attempts at sophistication or convolutedness. Derriere-Nous, La Lumiere has a singular focus: inciting specific states of mind in the listener. At the same time, veering towards a more analytical view of the album will reveal several shortcomings. The hollow and tinny drums, the repetitive riffs broken only by occasional harmonies, and the fragmented song structures all leave to be desired from a formal performative and compositional aspect. Certain phrases might even appear musically stale, but, luckily, are used intelligently and result in emotionally evocative segments. Nonetheless, there’s something temptingly beautiful and dark in the music that emerges through dislocated screams that howl like a razing wind in a barren valley during “Sortez Vos Lames, Que Nous Perdions Nos Poings.” Similarly alluring are the fleshy, foreboding rumbles of the distant bass and the buzzing and droning silhouettes found on the titular track and “Nous Blâmons La Tempête De Nous Avoir Laissés En Plaies.”
Each of the tracks invites me to inject personal symbolism and psychological wounds into the their voids trimmed with nothing but sparse, lingering noises. There is rarely something, if anything at all, that is explained explicitly. The lyrics are unintelligible. The abrupt transitions between busier sections and atmospheric, haunting soundscapes are puzzling. In this composition of thoughts and concepts, the black metal riffs and destructiveness sound sanguine and yank me from feelings of endless floating and drifting induced by the tunes’ subdued parts. With everything said, there’s not much point talking about the technicalities of this record. Whether choosing to see it as lo-fi or generally deficient, it serves a purpose. There is little doubt that all aspects of production and mastering are the result of the artist’s deliberate decisions. Sora, supposedly having also played and programmed all instruments himself, had complete control over the output.
Many records of this kind end up feeling unnecessarily oppressive and labyrinthine, thus pushing away the listener. Instead, Derrière-Nous, La Lumière is cursed by an unexpectedly inviting character that sucks me back in time and again. If you’re anything like me, Throane’s demented yet optimistically contemplative nature will make for a welcome escape from everyday normalcy.