Hildegard is a collision of two stars who’ve already established their place in the firmament of the most-followed Spotify playlists, a meeting of two musicians who’ve each cultivated an aura of mystery, almost in spite themselves. When Helena Deland and Ouri create together, the whole is bigger than the sum of its parts. The result is nearly magical.
Enter Helena Deland, a folkie from the suburbs on the South Shore of Québec City, where one dreams of moving to Montréal as soon as possible. Ourielle Auvé, aka Ouri, also aspired to Old Montréal’s cobblestone streets, but from the avenues of Paris, where she grew up practising the cello, in the days when she played classical music. As a team, the two women create something as unclassifiable as it is deeply enchanting, at the junction of their respective, distinctive worlds. “I think our style of music is a bit of a question mark,” says Deland.
To her, it’s precisely this hybrid form that attracts attention beyond musical styles and city limits. Pitchfork, Stereogum, Nylon, Les Inrocks and The Fader have all noted their releases as a duo… Rare are the projects that make so many bloggers tap their keyboards from the moment they hear the first notes. “We’re lucky,” admits Deland. “I remember the moment when we released Day 2… It was really moving to see all the press it got.”
Vacuum-sealed since 2018, the songs on the album were written, and then recorded in demo format, in one go, between the four walls of a studio on the East side of the island of Montréal. It’s located above the Village des Valeurs, on the corner of Pie IX and Ontario Streets, an astonishing refuge that the girls’ managers had rented them for eight days. Eight days, and not a second more, to give birth to so many titles, pieces that seem to have kept their original minimalist identification codes. “Jour 1,” “Jour 2,” “Jour 3,” etc.
But why wait so long before sharing them with the world? Ouri says, “We both have our solo careers, and this is a project that came about so unexpectedly that it was important, I think, to let it bloom in our minds slowly, to find ways to bring it into the world. There was also a label structure that was created, and from which we were able to benefit.”
That young label is Chivi Chivi, home to Robert Robert (an amazing lyricist with house leanings), Valence (the next big thing from Québec City), Lydia Képinski (a well-established free spirit), and, now, Hildegard. “I think we wanted to have a special relationship with the label and not feel like we were just another project,” says Ouri. “We have a genuine connection with the team. It’s a first time for everyone, there’s definitely a special energy flowing.”
Hypnotic, undeniably sensual, and almost meditative, the songs of the Deland-Auvé duo are dignified heirs of their source of inspiration. Their muse? Hildegard Von Bingen. A German composer of the 12th Century, she was the architect of the Canticles of Ecstasy; an artist with feminist propensities who also devoted herself to being a lady of faith; and a nun of the Benedictine order. A fascinating character that Helena and her colleague bring to light through their own production.
“What we share with Hildegard is our feminine self-sufficiency, our stance on femininity,” says Deland. “I’m aware that we read her work through a modern lens, but at the same time… that’s what her work was about! She did after all found an abbey for women. She was incredibly ahead of her time.”
Beyond the name they give themselves, real medieval references are fluidly combined with their avant-garde musical setting. “It’s an influence you can hear a little bit in the album, even if it’s not extreme,” says Ouri. “There’s definitely a part of me that thinks about the possibility of doing a kind of modern medieval album. It would be quite an extraordinary musical adventure!”
Until then, they promise, Deland and Ouri continue their explorations without specific aesthetic intentions, carried by their intuition – which serves them and suits them so well.