Josef Salvat needed a good five years to overcome a case of writer’s block following the release of his sprawling debut, 2015’s Night Swim. It only took him one week in late August last year to complete songwriting for his new EP, The Close / Le Réveil. The difference between now and then? Salvat disclosed that this time around he used music to process emotion, instead of waiting to unpack his feelings long after the deeds.
If last year’s modern anxiety was mostly about Salvat overcoming identity barriers, this new collection of tracks is more concerned with the specifics of one formative relationship: first love. As its title suggests—“le reveil” is French for “the awakening”—The Close / Le Réveil is the end of a chapter and the beginning of another. It’s Salvat holding up a mirror as he grieves a now-defunct relationship, flaws and all.
Emotions are progressively decanted across the eight tracks. In ‘First Time’, Salvat half-heartedly admits the end of the attachment was inevitable, his voice quivering as he assures “even the greatest ideas / have a life and die”.
A gradual instrumental build-up helps him shrug off the initial lethargy before the track swells to a breaking point. The composition ultimately morphs into an electro pop reverie that spreads like perfume, powerful and diffuse at the same time. The syrupy scent lingers long after the track trails off in the distance.
‘Swimming Upstream’ boils with resentment, subdued at first but rapidly more overt when the initial self-reassuring “I’m nothing like the ones you’ve been with” turns into the accusatory “you are still with the ones you’ve been with”, before its closing realisation: “You are like the ones you’ve been with”. It’s from those not-quite–full circle moments that Salvat seems able to move forward.
There’s also the all too familiar post-breakup recklessness in ‘One More Night’’s overflowing yearning. Desire and despair are so interwoven that they simultaneously build up to dizzying levels as Salvat fumbles for release among hushed confessions and spoken word along a crushing bassline.
Salvat accepts it will take time to get to a better place from ‘Peaches’ on. He sees his own fault in order to move on. The music follows suit, becoming significantly warmer and more accessible. “It’s time to do things differently now” he proclaims, before offering a hint of flippancy with a possible (probable) steamy Call Me By Your Name reference.
Sunnier still, ‘Carry On’ is one more step away from the ghosts of the past. There’s little of the opening emotional poignancy here; the storm has passed. Arpeggiated synth motifs constantly bring the listener out of focus, making it harder to get a clear picture of what Salvat is trying to say beyond the obvious ‘time heals all wounds’ trope. We come to feel that, as the dust settles, the final songs do too.
With The Close / Le Réveil, Salvat strives for the indelibility of the experience that gave birth to the music. The EP’s first half absolutely meets those standards. Then, when the need for catharsis subdues, songs dissolve in the ether: mostly inoffensive, never unpleasant.
The Close / Le Réveil was released on 26 March 2021 via Leafy Outlook.
Words by Red Dziri
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