THE WAR INSIDE MY HEAD: AN INTERVIEW WITH FORÊT ENDORMIE
Here it is, a new installment of our The War Inside My Head interview series that focuses on some of the most exciting voices in contemporary heavy and experimental music and tries to peek behind the velvety curtain of their musical loves and influences. And while you can check out the rest of the series here, it is gives me a stupendous amount of pleasure to introduce the subject of the most recent chapter, a conversation with Jordan Guerette, the mastermind and composer behind the folky neo-classical project Forêt Endormie, which had just released its second full length, Une voile déchirée, via Red Nebula and Fólkvangr Records. While Guerette is embedded in the Portland, Maine black metal scene, with acts such as Falls of Rauros and Feral, Forêt Endormie has served as an opportunity to further spread his compositional wings, aided by pianist Emmett Harrity, violinist Sarah Mueller, clarinetist Maria Wagner, David Yearwood on double bass and the wonderful Lauren Vieira of one of my favorite current proggy metal bands out there, Dreadnought, who lends both her voice and her synth playing to this recording.
Obviously Guerette's work with FoR and Feral is entirely separate from the etherial, sylvan sounds of Forêt Endormie's work and yet there is one common thread worth mentioning, and one raised in my interview with Neige of Alcest for the albums of the Decade series, which is a sense of profound melancholy. While within the black metal idiom melancholy is often either cast in grand or melodramatic terms, there's something about Guerette's compositions that retains that feeling of scope as well as a sense of an utterly personal expression. As if somehow the person conjuring these melodies had done so in complete isolation, whether physical or emotional, and composed a touching work that both expresses that isolation and a sense of melancholy or a past now gone while projecting those emotions onto the larger canvas of an ambitious, fully formed work of art. Which is why, I think, the beautiful cover for Une voile déchirée ["A Torn Sail"] works so beautiful with the ideas presented therein – the scale is dramatic and beautiful and perhaps even intimidating, but the struggle and the sorrow the music conveys owe much of their power to their sense of being all too personal.
Thus, it is really was my privilege to be able to prod Jordan regarding some of his musical influence and interests, all of which, I must say, or at least most, share this unique connection between bittersweet motion and a certain grandiosity, whether through Joanna Newsom's music or that of Blut aus Nord. But before we get to the interview with Jordan I encourage you to check out our other interview series (Albums of the Decade and Pillars of the 90s), to follow us on any one of our social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Spotify) and also, if so inclined, support us on Patreon. On to Jordan and his music.
What was the first album you bought with your own money, and where did you buy it?
You’re starting with a question that will surely make me seem very cool! I don’t think that it’s the very first album that I bought, but the first time I can remember buying a CD at a store is when I bought Korn — Issues (1999) when it was still new at a Best Buy in a nearby town. I was big into nü metal in middle school; it was for sure my gateway into extreme metal. People love to hate nü metal, but for me it was really important and some of it still holds up, though much nü metal is full of problematic lyrics and is, well, pretty idiotic.
The first album I got that I still listen to regularly is Opeth — Blackwater Park (2001), which I bought at a record store called Bull Moose in my hometown in 10th grade. Opeth’s super melodic take on extreme metal took me down a path that I’ve never really strayed from.
What 2-3 albums did you hear the most growing up?
I have a memory of driving in Wells, Maine, listening to Fleetwood Mac — Live (1980) on cassette with my Dad in the early 90’s. Eric Clapton — Unplugged (1992) was in heavy rotation around the house too, which I suppose was quite new when I was hearing it. There was also a compilation of Celtic and New Age music that I’ve searched a bit for but can’t find, and Enya — Watermark (1988).
What two albums taught you the most about making music (mixing, production, performance)?
I got really into Jeff Buckley — Grace (1994) when I was in high school. This album changed everything; I was obsessed. The guitar tone on that album is just ridiculous – a good example is the opening guitar line in “Dream Brother”. Under the influence of this album, I bought a telecaster and tried to emulate Buckley’s singing style. I even performed “Hallelujah” at a high school talent show, accompanying myself with that telecaster I just mentioned. Also, the harmonium section at the beginning of “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over” made an impression on me and factored into my decision to include harmonium on Une voile déchirée.
The album that has become the most important to me since I first heard it in 2007 is Joanna Newsom — Ys (2006). The songs are perfectly crafted, and it was one of my first discoveries outside of metal, classical, or prog rock that had a truly epic scope. This album satisfies from both a nerdy theoretical/technical standpoint and a purely emotional one. There’s so much to highlight about this record – Newsom’s virtuosic harp playing, unique vocal timbre, literature-quality lyrics, and harmonically rich arrangements written by collaborator Van Dyke Parks. His arrangements on this album are really special – the orchestra only adds to the drama and never detracts from Newsom’s narrative. I transcribed the song “Only Skin” in 2019 and wrote an arrangement that Forêt Endormie performed a handful of times. I learned a ton from that process and it definitely informed my writing for Une voile déchirée.
What is the last album that absolutely shocked you?
Jute Gyte — Oviri (2017) kind of blew my mind when I heard it. This album is anchored in extreme metal, with kind of an atmospheric black metal aesthetic, but experiments with elements that are rarely messed with outside the contemporary classical world – “multiple simultaneous tempos,” serialism, and aleatoric (random) pitch generation using a 24-sided die. The result is pretty wild sounding, but oddly relaxing to my metal-habituated ears.
What album relaxes you or centers you the most?
This answer allows me to mention another Joanna Newsom album! Often when I’m feeling overwhelmed by anxiety or sadness, I spin one of the discs of the triple album Have One On Me (2010). When I first heard it upon its release, this album confirmed that Newsom was my favorite composer.
What are the 2-3 albums you’ve listened to the most recently
This question was sort of tough, as I bounce around quite a bit, but Blut Aus Nord — Hallucinogen (2019), Alice Coltrane — Ptah The El Daoud (1970), and Malcolm Dalglish & Grey Larsen — Banish Misfortune (1977).
What album is grossly underrated?
Andrew Cronshaw — Wade in the Flood (1978). I never hear anyone talk about this album and I love it so much. I think that there’s something here for fans of 70’s prog, new age, Celtic folk music, even fans of Summoning and dungeon synth might find something here.
What album would you recommend from your local scene?
There’s quite a bit of great music from my hometown of Portland, Maine. Two recent-ish releases that are really great are Greg Jamie — Crazy Time (2017) for fans of strange but catchy folk, and Obsidian Tongue — Volume 3 (2019) for those who prefer atmospheric & psychedelic black metal.