Lesser Evil sinks into darkness with debut album ‘Subterranean’

Make pretty, smile, dance: if we talk about music, it is the essence of entertainment. And entertainment, that’s not what Lesser Evil, a Montreal duo formed by Ariane M. and Christophe Lamarche-Ledoux, offers.

“We live in a time of abuse, of questionable power relations, analyzes the latter. It’s the complex side of being human: everyone is complicit in something, somewhere, and we have to live with the feelings that come with it. It’s funny that in music, we choose to ignore that and prefer to party on a reggaeton beat. »

Let’s start with this observation that made Ariane M. and Christophe Lamarche-Ledoux, the duo forming Lesser Evil, smile: Subterranean, his first album, is good because it’s ugly. Messy drums, copious synths croaking under Ariane’s muffled — and beautiful, no doubt about it — voice, the deliberate absence of groove, the choice of « undanceable » tempos, this is what characterizes the fascinating , and disturbing, songs of the duo.

« The ugliness is a good angle to listen to the album, since it is not anchored in beautiful feelings – on the contrary », concedes Christophe who, outside of Lesser Evil, is active in several exciting musical projects, including late soft, ambient duo with composer and filmmaker Stéphane Lafleur (Avec pas d’casque), for whom he designed the soundtrack for his latest gem, the film vikingin collaboration with Mathieu Charbonneau.

The ugly in us

The title of this first album, explains Ariane, “evokes the depths, what we hide, the ugly in us. In life, we are not only what we show by walking on the sidewalk. The musician, who writes all the texts, seeks to expose our “unconscious, often linked to our animal impulses. But there’s also beauty in this expression: in the depths, there’s this humanity that we choose not to reveal, and that’s what attracts me to art”.

She grew up listening to Billie Holiday, Bing Crosby, Sarah Vaughan as well as Peter, Paul and Mary, “voices that were pure, unmannered, and tragic, too. I am drawn to voices that carry underlying emotions.” Those that we capture by interfering in the darkness of Subterranean are, on the contrary, quite clear. That’s the beauty of this ugly album: it doesn’t hide its intentions or its uneasiness.

Ariane quotes this time Dostoïevski, whose work left its mark in the texts of the album: « During the writing of the album [entre 2017 et 2020]I was visiting the unconscious in me, but also in what I was reading. Crime and Punishment, a work full of light, but which constantly immerses you in the interior monologue of someone who juggles with horrible ideas. Her lyrics are very intimate, she says. The result of “a huge introspection, mixed with a lot of events that have happened in recent years, personal events or not, but it is first of all my perspective. It’s always been in my nature to be introspective and to go and tap into those little moments when the emotion is impossible to contain that it has to be made into a song.


And yet, it’s not the weight of the words that strikes us at first listen, but their musicality, and the music that accompanies them. Ugly, icy — one of the characteristics of the sounds of Lesser Evil’s official synth, the Prophet 600, which we hear rumbling from the first to the last song — poignant. So much the better if we don’t first dwell on the meaning of the words, Ariane replies: « If I do my job, no need to dwell that much on the texts. The emotion is evoked everywhere else, in the sound design of the songs, in the melodies, in my interpretation. The strength of this album does not lie in its rationality, but in the impression it leaves. »

If some will qualify the musical style of Lesser Evil as trip hop, it’s a bit Christophe’s fault: « We wondered what kind of music we made, my answer was: ‘Well, I think it’s is trip hop.” After saying that, I started listening to playlists of trip hop to realize that I didn’t really like it », except for a few guns, Portishead and the Mezzanine of Massive Attack, the tortured aesthetic of Lesser Evil being related to it. “Except that we have things in common with the genre: the instrumentation, the tempos, and a sound centered on that of the drums”, recorded on magnetic tape at the chic Mixart studio.

After the drum recording session, says Ariane, “we played with the sound in the studio, we saturated all the sounds, we made anti-hi-fi out of it! We like that, smearing our music”.

self-produced album Subterranean from Lesser Evil is available now; the duo will be in concert on Friday evening at the Agora Hydro-Québec du Coeur des sciences, on the bill for the Festival du nouveau cinema, on November 4 at the Pantoum in Quebec City, then on the 5th at La Sotteranea in Montreal.

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