[Secretly Canadian; 2020]

Some say honest beauty comes from pain. Although that is obviously not always true, some of the most stunning works of art ever created have been birthed out of suffering—maybe because it’s infinitely easier to fake love than to fake pain. In Le Ren‘s case, the two became irremediably intertwined when she lost her ex-boyfriend to a car accident a couple of years ago.

Her poignant new musical offering, arriving in the form of four-track EP Morning & Melancholia, rings thus as the result of a cathartic process, with both the lyrics and the overall delivery transpiring as a projection of the many invasive thoughts she was inundated by throughout. She alternates between outpouring of her overwhelming grief and evocation of memories in what we imagine to be the panic of finding out they will one day become too distant to have ever seemed real: “The day I lose your memory / is the day I lose my mind,” she sings in the EP’s closer “The Day I Lose My Mind,” a Dallas Frazier cover.

Described in its press release as a “mediation on mourning, memory and how to live with the ellipses you’re forever left with in the wake of loss,” Morning & Melancholia manages to rise above any type of limitation that could derive from the musician’s extremely personal relationship with the process, standing firm and impeccable in its own musical right. While Le Ren’s folk and bluegrass background becomes evident through a mastery and sweetness that evoke mid-70s Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt, it’s however more the inherent tragedy that connects her to a temps jadis than the sonic references themselves. The EP is brief and to the point, like a sharp knife that trespasses the heart without previous warning.

But pain becomes distant, too. Morning & Melancholia acquires the status of a tattoo—a reference Le Ren resorts to herself when commenting on how strange and inconvenient discussing songwriting can be. It marks a specific point in her life to which she will probably return as often as she needs to, only to discover her feelings towards it also evolving with the passage of time. But the EP’s objective quality, especially as a debut release, is also undeniable—even if it might become indissociable from its catalyst.