Album Review: Wendy Martinez – La Chevauchée Electrique

[Le Pop Club; 2021]

French group Gloria is more than just a band — it’s a musical microcosmos. With several active satellite projects including Grand Veymont, Onagre, and Midnight Cassette, it has produced an incredibly prolific offspring whose expertise and overall quality often owes nothing to the mothership.

The most recent release from this uncanny tribe is Wendy Martinez‘s debut EP La Chevauchée Electrique. Several times delayed due to COVID-related issues, ranging from promotional impairment and other logistical impossibilities, it’s finally seeing the light of day as an early spring offering, embodying a mix of nostalgia and future possibilities that make it one of the most exciting debut releases of 2021 yet.

Crowned with a bright melancholia in the style of a cosmic, slightly stoned Françoise Hardy, La Chevauchée Electrique serves intense sonic hypnotism through its multi-detailed layers of keyboards, vocals, and other special effects that instantly transform its tracks into vibrant short films similar to Pierre Clémenti’s or Marie Menken’s psychedelic experiments. These stimuli-filled soundscapes are enriched by Martinez’s surrealistic, at times almost spiritual lyrics, in which she tackles subjects such as “cosmic love, the dawn, old girls blossoming, and the worship of the screens.”

While “Mon Aviateur” and “La Chevauchée Electrique” are perfect examples of the EP’s cohesive pathos (which is probably the reason why they were released as singles in the first place), there’s also room for more up-tempo moments like “Ecran Triste”, a perfect post-yéyé number whose apparent popful joy conceals its lyrics’ disenchanted contemplation to create a slightly tragic aftertaste. Every instrument appears and disappears at the exact right time, so the ensemble reveals an expertly pondered poetics that makes each track work both as a standalone and as part of a whole. The only faux-pas is maybe the unexpected early ending of closer “Les Vieilles Filles En Fleur”, probably because by then we’ve been cradled to blissful oblivion and reality comes back all too violently.

Although wrapped in the much-used (and sometimes abused) patchouli-soaked vintage silky sheets of kaleidoscopical exotica-esoterica, La Chevauchée Electrique manages to escape the mere superficial mimicking of an aesthetic we’ve grown exasperated with. Instead, it employs past mythology and timeless referents like Gainsbourg, Ferré, or even soft alter-bardo Pierre Vassiliu, to fabricate a new intricate universe, full of unexplored corners and untamed blossoms that Martinez transforms into a breathtaking, immense garden. We’re left with the mute yet logical promise of being allowed to catch a glimpse of such place, since the grounds explored in La Chevauchée Electrique will rapidly prove much too fertile to be contained in a single balcony.