To say that Belgian chanteuse/violinist Aurélie Dorzée is somewhat unorthodox is akin to saying that Cirque du Soleil is a tad daring, and the circus analogy doesn’t end there. Her latest, Horror Vacui, takes its title from Italian art critic Mario Praz and translates “fear of the empty,” a term coined to describe how Victorians filled every space in their homes. It’s a double pun for Dorzée, who neither leaves silences on her album, nor fills them with what you’d expect.
She describes her material as “experimental folk,” though such a label is merely a convenient handle for an uncategorizable blend of minimalist sounds. She often merely plucks the violin strings and fills the spaces with vocal scales, keening and primal screams. Her parents were in the theater, and she honors this on an album that is often dramatic, but in the twisted way that an existential circus might present itself. (Think one of Cirque’s jongleur-based performances.)
Dorzée’s violin playing is what one might get via a mash of classical training, Roma abandon, and the darkness of Scandinavian industrial rock.
When she mixes vocals, even wilder combinations suggest themselves. “Le Roi et la Marionette,” for instance—the title is lifted from an Urbain Du Roure novel—evokes the smoky cafe melancholia of Edith Piaf, but also the whimsical theatrics of Yoko Ono. Other titles are similarly off-kilter: the album’s most conventionally lyrical tune is called “Son sexe végétal” (“His Sex Plant”) and the buzzy, Breton-like “Celle Qui a Vent dans La Tête” translates (roughly) as “She Who has an Empty Head.” In many ways, though, the title track encapsulates the album’s feel. Dorzée’s violin is haunting in both the distinctiveness of the tune and in the foreboding ambience it conjures. I cannot promise you’ll like this album—only that you’ll not hear its like elsewhere.