Captivating, complex and genre-defying; Guilty Cloaks feels like the most genuine piece electronic music I’ve heard in a long time. This masterpiece is the fifth full length album by the multi-talented artist, illustrator, animator and musician Raoul Sinier, and it really is something to write home about.
Intense human emotion runs through the entire album – this has a great deal to do with Sinier’s subtle vocals (think Thom Yorke or Martin Grech) which form the focal point of many of the tracks, but it is much more than the vocals alone. The precise and imaginative composition of every track creates a mood which is fluctuating: unsettling at times, serene and brooding at others; even silly (take the lyric from Over The Table for example: “If you are a monkey, jump from tree to tree. If you are a pork, jump on my fork.”)
Guilty Cloaks takes many unexpected twists and turns, creating an album full of excitement. She Is Lord pummels away with an Amon Tobin-esque grittiness; Green Lights is meandering and broody with sharp crisp beats offsetting Boards of Canada undertones; Winter Days balances a delicate piano riff with detailed glitched-out beats which takes it some way down the dark path of breakcore; Summer Days contains desolate and desperate lyrics – “Everyone is dead. Bright light, dark sunshine… Sunshine’s in my mind, and darkness lives on my skin”; Walk features Raoul’s distinctive voice over pounding rhythms and orchestral melodies, and is an epic end to a monumental album.
She Is Lord:
A few weeks back I caught up with Raoul himself, and he spared me a few minutes to answer some of my questions:
You’re a painter, musician, animator, illustrator… Are you ever bored?
I’m easily bored, yes. You might think I’m into my music and my image all the time but I have huge gaps of emptiness and inactivity, especially with music, sometimes for months. But when I’m into it, I like to try a lot of different things, as long as I get some fun or good results.
Did you work in a different way or set out to achieve something different with this album?
No I always work in the same way, I don’t think too much about what I do and I let myself go with the flow. New directions always come out on their own. The only thing a bit different on this record (and this year’s EPs) is the singing. Over the years I have been more and more interested in adding vocals, but I had to work on that for a while (and still do).
“Guilty Cloaks” sounds very genuine and personal. It makes me think you set yourself no boundaries when it came to writing this album – did you have any rules?
I don’t have any rules. Again, I don’t really put thoughts into my music, I hate concept in art, I’m just looking for emotions. I think the key about this is that as an artist but also as a listener, I don’t pay attention to genres, it’s not relevant to me. For me, music goes from happy to sad, from slow to fast, from complex to minimal, and so on. I can find something that I love or hate in any given musical genre, because emotions in music are always the same, and that’s probably why I don’t enjoy some electronic music only based on technique and producers’ gimmicks. For me the composition is the real point of music, I work a lot on the sound itself, but it’s only to serve the composition.
To me it seems like a narrative – is Guilty Cloaks about anything as a whole, or is it just the individual songs that carry their own meaning?
To me it is a whole thing, like any album should be in my opinion. But of course every track has its own little story, obviously each of the songs with lyrics have something to say.
I don’t really know if the album says something precise. I guess it turns around ideas of self-conditioning – when people force themselves to think they are this or that. This is what I tried to express with the artwork, not in an obvious way because I don’t really care about having a “real” message of some sort. And the title “Guilty Cloaks” is a personal illustration of the idea of someone not happy with his life and blaming it on his disguise. Not happy with the core, blaming the shell.
Let’s talk about your art. I can tell Francis Bacon must be a huge influence on you, but who or what else influences you?
Francis Bacon is of course my biggest influence, maybe not biggest but most noticeable. But I’m influenced by anything, I could speak about artists like J-P Witkin for example, I love his work, but i’m really feeding on everything I see. Even stuff I find awful can trigger some ideas or mental images.
Estimating A Leg: 2009
Your paintings are dark and unsettling and yet beautiful – they also have a very strong narrative quality again, like Guilty Cloaks in fact, as if they are illustrations to an untold story…
I’m glad to hear that, sometimes people only see the dark side of my work, and of course it’s very dark, but it cannot be reduced to just that, it has a lot of weird humour, silliness, even poetry sometimes… I don’t really care about dark aesthetic if there is nothing beneath.
What I try to do is exactly what you said: set up untold stories, or pieces from something larger. I like to show a situation without any explanation, not because I want the viewer to understand an obscure meaning by himself or something… I just want to show something nice and unusual – almost like abstract art.
Could you recommend a film for me to watch?
To keep on this conversation’s tone, I would say “Taxidermia”, just because I felt very close to this aesthetic when I saw it.
Finally, what are you up to next?
Well the only think really planned is the new video (to be released in September) this one is animated, with a post apocalyptic/run for your life theme… very harsh. I just finished the whole thing and I have plenty of time to polish it, I like to be ready early.
Concerning music I won’t do anything new for quite some time now – usually when I finish an album I don’t write new stuff for a while, a long while. Especially here with the album and the 2 EPs earlier this year (Cymbal Rush/Strange Teeth & Black Nails on Oeuvre and The Melting Man on Tigerbeat6). I let ideas build up and grow in my head, and one day, for no apparent reason I start again, and if it’s the right time, then I become very productive again. So, stay tuned…