Going to Chernobyl to take heed of the devastation. Visiting Auschwitz to remember. Exploring the site of a plane crash. Setting down one’s folding chair near the Gaza Strip to watch the bombings…
“Dark tourism” is booming around the globe, as a strange way to assuage our voyeuristic side and face death as a way to reassure ourselves that we, at least, are still alive. This phenomenon piqued Antoine Corriveau’s curiosity so much that it became the creative spark for the creation of his third album, the aptly titled Cette chose qui cognait au creux de sa poitrine sans vouloir s’arrêter (“The thing that beat incessantly deep inside his chest”).
“I heard about this type of tourism while reading a story by filmmaker Denis Côté in the Nouveau Projet magazine,” says Corriveau. “I was totally fascinated. Not in the sense that I wanted to visit various disaster sites, but it just made me want to reflect on this morbid attraction of humankind.”
Corriveau researched the subject. He visited the past and imagined the future. “I wrote what I imagined visiting those places could elicit inside people,” he says. “Then I wrote from the victims’ perspectives. How does a pilot feel 30 seconds before crashing? Then I imagined the future. With everything we see in the media – disasters, genocides – we can already predict what places in the world will become [dark] tourist attractions 30 years from now. That’s quite worrisome.”
“There is death itself, but there’s also the death of a relationship, or of a period in your life.”
“Croix blanche” (“White Cross”), one the first songs Corriveau wrote for the album, is about such a pilgrimage, in the footsteps of the Grim Reaper. And, just as on all the other songs on this album, one feels a personal touch, a kind of intimacy that created between the artist and the listener. Dark tourism left its influence, but there’s something more. There is a sense of daily nocturnal life, through which the narrator celebrates his existence. “‘Croix blanche’ refers to those crosses that are often erected on the site of a deadly accident as a memento,” says Corriveau. “But the more I wrote, the more I realized I needed to transcend the theme and make it mine. I didn’t want to end up sounding like all that I read on the internet. I needed it to come from me. As if I wanted to transpose these tragedies onto a more personal level. There is death itself, but there’s also the death of a relationship, or of a period of your life.”
Corriveau won the 2015 Prix de la Chanson SOCAN for his song “Le nouveau vocabulaire” and he makes no bones about it: the two years that went by during the gestation of Cette chose qui cognait au creux de sa poitrine sans vouloir s’arrêter were marked by a separation, his own personal train wreck, that he re-visited over and over. “When you end up on your own, you don’t owe anyone anything anymore,” he says. “I wanted to rub shoulders with the unknown, the same way one would visit Chernobyl. I pushed the boundaries back. I toyed with that fine line beyond which one loses any kind of stability. I was alone with myself. I was trying all kinds of stuff. I met new people. I found out how far I was willing to go, and also where I didn’t want to go. The euphoric effect of discovery acted as a counterweight to the darkness and imagery of death.”
Needless to say, this new album isn’t exactly mellow music. With his gravely voice and solemn delivery, Corriveau remains true to his subject matter. With the help of his core musicians (Marianne Houle on keyboards, Stéphane Bergeron on drums, and Nicolas Grou on guitars and production), he gave birth to ethereal, refined compositions, augmented by string and brass arrangements.
“It does sound big with those orchestrations, yet the songs are much simpler than on the previous album [Les Ombres longues, 2014],” he says. “I wanted to be able to play the album live with a limited number of musicians. On tour, Marianne plays a synth, and even without the brass and strings, the songs don’t end up de-natured. This album was written much more with the stage in mind,” he says, and it’s a place where Corriveau will spend a considerable amount of time in the coming months. A place where, once more, he’ll connect with the members of the audience, one by one, shooting a musical arrow straight through their hearts.