The sonic universe that Delphine Dora has created is so perfectly realised that it sometimes seems as if she has left herself no space to explore it further. The fuggy impasto of her compositions, built up from layers of organ, piano and electronics and wreathed around with wordless vocal exhortations and whispered lyrical fragments, have the gestural drama of expressionist canvases, their vivid darkness and bold strokes hinting at feverish turmoil lurking below the surface. Last year’s L’au-delà was a claustrophobic fever dream, a dark forest through which Dora’s impressionist, unsettling works marked the only possible path. Her collaboration with Sophie Cooper, Distance Future, let in some light, its airy organ and trombone pieces resembling hymns transmitted from the future, uttered by post-apocalypse humans generations after the cataclysm.
But, rather like those nocturnal landscapes in which time and space defy conventional laws, each new release opens up new routes to follow. And so it is with le fruit de mes songes, Dora’s eight pieces adding new shades and perspectives to her aesthetic without disrupting the base elements that make her work so captivating. That pellucid, slightly medicated mood persists even on ostensibly pretty and straightforward tracks like Hushed Lullaby, with its Grouper-esque piano and unusual melodica intervals (an Asian vocal scale, perhaps?), like discovering a doorway in your house you never realised was there, leading to a room you’d never seen before, but whose furnishings seem so familiar yet so alien. Or the cushioning organ lines that accompany multi-tracked spoken and sung vocals on Le Mystere Demeure, the urgent, polysyllabic rush of this multiplicity of voices evoking psychic fracture and mental breakdown.
Dora’s sound palette is, too, slightly expanded, with what could be field recordings adding spectral rustles and cries to Demain Le Chiens’ wandering piano chords. Elsewhere, harpsichord and harp add glistering highlights to the overcast mood. In Harp-psi-chord, (see what she’s done there?) the brittle lead melody seems on the verge of running out of steam, clockwork music box-style, blurring the baroque sharpness of its edges. Alpha Centuri, meanwhile, deploys the harp in all its heavenly glory, teaming up with what sounds like a xylophone to create a wonderfully lush and skewed tunnel of sound, like an angel on a helter skelter, or one of those cheeky elemental particles from Italo Calvino’s Cosmicomics hurtling through the aether. But for all that retro-futurist lushness, le fruit de mes songes, like Dora’s previous solo work, actually sets the pointer in the other direction, digging back through time to something strange and unfamiliar in the European tradition. Dora’s instrumentation mines both the classical and avant-garde worlds (Olivier Messiaen, Bernard Parmegiani, Meredith Monk), while her fragmentary poetry has echoes of Breton and Soupault’s surrealist automatism – yet the result is something that summons up the distant past. Forget Greil Marcus’s old weird America, this is Europe: older, darker and more mysterious. Dora channels the spirits of ancient folk tales before they were sanitized by the Grimms and their chums, summoning primal scenes of blood and violence, speaking of ordinary people stalked by horrors, at the edge of madness and desperation.