- Reed Rowe
- Rob Leo, Gillian Chase, Clifford Moon of Le Voir
Onstage, Le Voir's Gillian Chase cuts two different figures. Under moody lighting, the titian-haired beauty stands tall (even though she's not) on heels, and looks fit enough to administer a swift and devastating kick to the dome if anyone misbehaves. Her vocals range from seductive pouts, to wistful moans, to piercing yells. Her body language, however, betrays self-consciousness and vulnerability. She dances kinda awkwardly, as though she's battling the awareness of so many lights and eyes on her, scrutinizing her and her songs.
Such a duality makes someone who is already eminently watchable even more magnetic. You can't fake that kind of involuntary honesty. So you're even more willing to listen to her.
On a rainy day in Sugar House, the diffuse light coming through the Soup Kitchen window reveals more. Chase stands tall offstage. Understatedly radiant, she makes eye contact, smiles warmly, asks questions, listens attentively. True to her stage persona, she appears composed, even serene, but intermittently flickers anxiety—like when she admits she often wonders, "Is my voice good enough?"
Although she's not really asking, her eyes briefly reveal an interest in the answer. Like any artist, she wants to know that people like her work, and if she's connecting with her listeners.
"Le Voir" is French for "to see him." To Chase, it means "to see," signifying introspection, a desire to look "deeper into my life and the things that move me." On the band's debut album, Dualities (levoirmusic.com, 2016), you can infer that Chase also wants to be seen, and found worthy of attention and connection. "Gravity" concerns the shrinking orbit of two bodies as they're pulled toward one another: "I feel your pull in my bones like gravity/ ... / Your intent I find/ is just like mine/ when our paths/ finally align." Another song, "Tides," concerns the cosmic ebb and flow that sees connections made and lost.
These are universally relatable themes. But in their original synth-powered, night-drive, "soft-tronica" context (reference points: Com Truise, M83, the Drive soundtrack), the songs are narcotic fantasies narrated by Chase's breathy, ethereal voice. The dance beats make the tunes more physical and sensual. This all but eclipses the lyrics' emotional characteristics. As such, it somewhat impedes a connection.
Over the past year, Chase has been listening to more folk and rock music. She credits this to her ex-boyfriend, Badfeather frontdude Rick Gerber. "He introduced me to a ton of new music," she says between sips of coffee. "That really showed me that a song, the foundation of it, is the most important thing. You can add as many cool sounds as you want, but a good song is a good song, whether or not it be on a shitty old guitar from a pawn shop, or you produce the shit out of it."
Chase says that realization inspired her to tear down the curtain and expose her songs to metaphorical daylight on a new, mostly acoustic EP, Dualities After Dark. It seems like an ironic title, since "After Dark" typically signifies the things we do when the sun goes down. However, the collection (four re-recorded Dualities tracks between two new songs) can also be a morning album in that it heralds a new beginning.
The re-recordings capture the mood of the original versions while adding more emotional depth. "Gravity" has even more weight, with Chase's voice conveying exponentially more yearning—only it's for more than physical intimacy. "Tides" is more heart-rending. Likewise, "Darker in the Morning," concerns how sad days start out even sadder. "Unseen," exploring separation, retains some of its original atmosphere, with Chase finding a bright side.
But the most striking tracks on After Dark are the new ones. "Like Thunder Like Rain" is a startling opening bid, with Chase channeling Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval and Stevie Nicks over acoustic and electric guitars straight from the Ennio Morricone songbook (with a nod to Angel Olsen). The tune finds Chase distanced from a lover, retreating within herself to sort out the past while mourning the present sense of loss. "Through the White Noise" has a similar sound, and explores "ups and downs, ins and outs."
Chase says "Thunder," the newest new song, almost didn't make the EP because it's so different from everything else on the album. "It does feel like a new chapter in my songwriting style," she says. "The songs I am writing now are all of a similar sound."
It also marks Chase and her bandmates (guitarist Rob Leo, drummer/cellist Clifford Moon) settling into a comfortable creative place. "As a band, we really got into a great workflow with this last album, and lately I'm in an emotional space where writing is coming really easily."
Interestingly, Chase is most excited that Le Voir is becoming more of a group effort. "In the beginning, it was only my perspective," she says. "Then I found amazing likeminded players who took my initial vision and added so much more color and depth. Then the music kind of takes on its own life form. You stop thinking about it as an extension of you, and rather as its own entity [that] constantly shifts and changes."