Persona, image and mystery are aspects that can generate a lot of interest in a music project. Audiences would like to see who or what is behind these mysterious sounds. They are curious about the gimmick of it all and want to know what it's about. Often, especially when the quality of the music reinforces this mystery and persona, the project is easily picked up as a music project and an art performance. Sound art is getting increasingly popular these days, along with a blend of modern classical music and electronics. However, if a project that mainly focuses on the surrounding mystery, produces music that is bad, plain or objectionable, the act itself will lose most of its audience and will be seen as an obnoxious, arty-farty egotrip by a lot of people.
Luckily for Le Seul Elément, that is not the case.
Hailing from France, Le Seul Elément is a mysterious project, created by an unnamed artist who sees himself only as a medium. He refuses to reveal his identity because he wants to be a total concept of music, art and emotion. On live performances, Le Seul Elèment plays piano and electronics while sitting inside a white cube, creating a bizarre shadowplay. Last september I had the opportunity to witness one of these performances at the Incubate festival. Unfortunately I wasn't able to absorb this concert well enough. As a result, I was curious but also a little sceptic about the previous mentioned 'arty-farty' feeling. Yet, when I received this album in order to write a review, curiosity won the battle and I started playing it a couple of times.
Trusting my intuition proved to be a good idea.
In some way Meradiam can be described as a dark ambient project but that label doesn't honor Le Seul Elément. Opener '01 03 47' starts as a long noisy ambient piece but quickly after, influences from classical music, post-rock and ambient (both bright and dark) appear. This results in something that indeed does not need a human element. Mainly because it's completely out of this world. My personal mental eye creates images of huge white landscapes where shadow figures appear and disappear, sometimes with a human form but mostly formless, mysterious and creepy. When the deep voices are mixed into the music, like on 'Tehee', that cold feeling gets stronger and weirder.
Gradually the album gets heavier and darker, as if the lights in the white cube slowly fade out to make place for something that is truly frightening. After a few listens, the whole concept behind Le Seul Elément finally becomes an almost finished puzzle. The medium, curator of sounds and visions from ghostly dreams, does not need a face or even a human form. It stands firmly on its own and reaches a near perfect quality. This album is recommended for everyone who is into ambient, post-rock, modern classical and other atmospherical genres. Probably depressive black metal fans will be impressed by this as well, because of the haunting mystery surrounding this act.