Jérémy Labelle’s new album NOIR ANIMA submerges itself in the darker recesses of the psyche. Labelle’s latest release is a reflective portrait of a soul enshrouded by the darkness of night, inching towards a euphoric morning. Over the last decade, the Réunion Island-based composer has made a name for himself exploring syncretic religion and philosophy throughout his work and, for his fifth studio album, his search for truth has turned inwards. On NOIR ANIMA, we are offered a glimpse into the emotional state of the artist making this extraordinary and dynamic music.
Since 2013’s Ensemble, Labelle has been dovetailing the techno that so captivated his imagination as a teenager, with traditional Maloya music – native to the French overseas department where he grew up and still lives. “I’ve always been striving to make the perfect connection between techno – and especially the Detroit techno which is my first love – and the Maloya from Réunion, which is my second love and is connected very deeply with my family and my ancestors,” says Jérémy. This distinct artistic direction has earned Labelle this thoughtful analysis from The Quietus, “Playing on the themes of universality versus individualism…[Labelle] bring[s] together a wealth of instrumentation, compositional influences and collaborations to embody the métissage, the cultural braiding, of Labelle’s heritage.”
While 2022’s Éclat won plaudits for its swerve towards the classical, NOIR AMINA is moreso a continuation of where 2017’s Univers-île left off, bringing mystical and analogue elements together with pulsating rhythmic and electronica components. Here the tracks are perfectly balanced, with a sense of equilibrium throughout. Labelle’s latest work showcases an interdependency that is rare in the streaming age, best exemplified by these three tracks that act as a de facto centerpiece: Voir le point, Entre-allée and Ciel.
These tracks take us on a progressive and slightly psychedelic journey (as does the album when played in its entirety). Voir le point elicits a brief moment of enlightenment experienced on a dancefloor, a kind of optical event horizon when a dancer enters a state of trance; Entré-Allée represents an impasse where the protagonist is enveloped by euphoric noise: “It’s a neologism in French for the very little streets between two buildings, two universes, two cultures, meeting in this unmapped space between things” explains Jérémy; and Ciel – or sky – celebrates a moment of pure ecstasy where the head lifts clean off and nirvana is achieved.
My wife taught me to dance again,” says Jérémy, proudly. “Coming out of the COVID period, she took me to parties and I rediscovered the pleasure of dancing again after many years. This can be a consequence of making electronic music because you lose that sense of pleasure when you’re involved in the mechanics of the thing. So, in my history, many women have given me things, and I understand the archetype of the woman in my way of thinking. This is why the album is called NOIR ANIMA because anima is the feminine part of human psyche.”
Jérémy cites two other women in particular who’ve given him profound offerings: his mother, who introduced him to electronic music when he was a child, chiefly through synthesizer legend Jean-Michel Jarre. And then there is the woman who gave him his family name: “When I was doing the research these past five years or so for this album, I discovered the origin of my name, Labelle. The first Labelle was a woman, and a slave, and she received her name after the slavery period. When my ancestors were freed, the French colonial administration created a lot of names for these new citizens.”
The NOIR part of the album title, meanwhile, refers to le chat noir prowling in the psyche: not the fabled nightspot of fin-de-siècle Montmartre or the Art Nouveau posters that linger ubiquitously around French cafes, but more a hypnagogic spirit animal or taliscat. “When I was a child,” remembers Jérémy, “I had a lot of dreams about a black feline, and many times in my dreams, I was the black feline. I was running not only with my feet but also with my hands, and I connected to the archetypes of femininity in the black feline. So for me, it represents what type of energy is inside me when I’m making electronic and traditional music together.”
That energy is put to good use on transcendental bangers like ‘Danse Chamane’, which recreates a ritual melody used by the San People of Namibia, and ‘Instant clair intemporel’, with a pulverizing groove that will help inveterate dancefloor abstainers find their feet again. NOIR ANIMA is Labelle’s most accomplished and profound offering to date, and proof that Jérémy Labelle is forever Jungian.