Review: Midget! – Ferme tes jolis cieux

For Midget!, identity is a slippery thing – not a fixed state of being. It slinks into the margins between solid objects, changing shape to keep pace with environmental change and undulating mood. In other words, identity is a process, borne out through the lifelong stream of decisions and reactions, negotiating its barriers to encompass new feelings and experiences, or to convey those sentiments that vacillate between two boxes of definition. For that reason, this beat-less spillage of voices, strings, guitars and woodwinds often makes for an uncomfortable listen. I can’t put my finger on it. What is it trying to say? No sooner have I reciprocated a cheeky wink than I’m recoiling at a hostile grimace. A guitar solo drags along a romantic melody – trailing it like a kite, tracing the line of a swooping, majestic love poem – only to tug it back into dissonance, leaving me feeling cheated. Within this spool of lullaby and bleak humour and despondency, I hear an attempt to capture the complexity of living, and one that doesn’t lend itself to the neat little catchments we often utilise in these situations: stories, songs.

Yet of course, these are songs. “Les Cendres” celebrates the majesty of instruments harmoniously aligned, with harps and violins cartwheeling across a two-chord seesaw, and Claire Vaillier’s voice riding the slope that carries one harmony into the next. Even the giddy timelapse of “Eve”, where breathless voices and bowed strings intersect like waves on an unrested sea, there remains a sense that these elements are trying to triangulate upon a particular sentiment, sloshing too far in one direction and then too far in the other, drawing my attention to that murky middle ground between the words and chords used to express itself. There is no succeeding here (after all, “success” feels like such a hard full stop upon an experience that eschews such simplistic summaries), but Ferme tes jolis cieux is a beautiful, endlessly unpredictable search.