DERNIÈRE VOLONTÉ: Cristal
Release year: 2022
Label: Silences Et Grésillements
French one-man project Dernière Volonté are one of those acts with a truly baffling musical trajectory. They started out in the 90’s with a couple of tapes of martial industrial which sometimes even veered into a rather noisy direction. At the turn of the millennium, the project evolved towards a rather unique neofolk sound. And from there, of all things: very retro sounding synthpop.
The nicest thing about this is that the quality has never taken a hit. In fact, I think there might even be a slightly ascending direction throughout the metamorphoses of Dernière Volonté. Yes, as unlikely as it sounds: from a crude but intriguing martial industrial act, a strong synthpop act has hatched.
Cristal is the act’s ninth studio album, and if I count correctly, the fifth in the new style. Whilst some of the previous albums left me a bit wanting, on Cristal things click truly click. I can’t say the act has “finally found its sound” or anything like that, but – things just click better than before.
Essentially, this is synthpop-Dernière Volonté as it has been before: melancholic, slow, somewhat understated especially when it comes to the vocals. The synths have a decidedly retrofuturistic sound to them, echoing the archaic-but-modern stylings of synthwave – all the way to the arpeggiated bass lines. The occasional more martial element, mostly in the form of bombastic percussion or dramatic organ, brings a slight echo from the older stylings of the act.
Sole member Geoffroy Delacroix‘ somber and rather understated vocals have long been one of the most identifying factors of Dernière Volonté. So, too, on Cristal. He always sounds like he is holding back, constraining his voice a bit instead of letting go. Understated and restrained don’t, however, equal muted or expressionless: quite the contrary in fact, he manages to pack a surprising amount of power and emotion into his style. And can carry a melody.
If the sound represents a retrofuturistic take on the 80’s sound, so does the music, at least to some extent. No, this isn’t throwback 80’s retro-pop, but there are obvious moments where a certain retro aesthetic pushes through in the compositions. And at the same, perhaps in large parts due to Dernière Volonté’s musical past, I can’t help but feel a certain spiritual neofolk element to the compositions. The melancholy, the sensation of longing for something lost, of feeling out of place and time.
There’s no one thing that makes Cristal more accomplished than the previous albums, but it still is. Perhaps the melodies, both of the instrumentation and of the vocals, hit a bit better home. Maybe the sound is just a bit better than before. Maybe it’s something else. But there it is, undeniably: I like Cristal best of all. It’s the album I’d recommend anyone to start out from when checking out the current era of Dernière Volonté. Or, heck, to start with if the entire project is hitherto unknown.
Synthpop, synth-neofolk, electro-industrial, industrial pop, whatever you call it, there’s a strong magic and appeal in Cristal. Dernière Volonté have long had a dedicated and sizable cult following, and this album amply proves why.
Dernière Volonté doesn’t seem to have an online presence.