Review: Roxane Métayer – Visage Zygène

Fluttering assemblages for strings, woodwinds, voice and the playful meddling of FX.

Review: Roxane Métayer –  Visage Zygène


The title refers to a genus of butterflies, Zygaena, which is characterised by black wings with red spots. Its tissues are imbued with a poison secreted from its own proboscis, with the wing pattern acting as a warning signal for potential predators. These colours are shared by a number of species, thereby communicating a mutual toxicity through a process called Müllerian mimicry. Roxane Métayer doesn’t dictate how to draw a kinship between the creature and this cassette, and the possibilities are endless – the music here has a buoyancy and fleetingness, with bowed strings and otherly woodwinds swerving around downpours of percussion, riding the updrafts of plosive whispers, all while emanating an energetic volatility that says “give me a wide berth”. Instruments babble out of the frame, saunter back in again, slurp into tape-aided reverse. The whole thing sounds playfully airborne, driven by the whims of the wind, while also hinting at a ceremonial mystique that perhaps stretches back thousands of years.

“It flies rather clumsily”, states the accompanying text. Second track “Réveil de fleurs marines” embodies this through a wonky folk dance with a bit of Glenn Branca thrown in, leaping out of a spritely pulse and just barely keeping itself on the beat. The rhythms, even when clearly defined, are precarious things – there’s a deep-rooted instability that yearns to pull Métayer’s sounds back to an innate shapelessness. Sure enough, track two is followed by the strewn fragments of “Poisson d’Argent”, in which Métayer sighs between the skitters of strings (bowed, plucked, tapped), shakers and the meddling of delay pedal dials. What makes the record so compelling is this very structural slack, leaving her free to wander astray on these free-associative detours that sometimes veer into a beautiful violin melody or stretch of rhythmic synchronicity by accident, but mostly dwell within a loose, levitational state of potential. Perhaps “clumsy” is just relinquishing the rigidity of the path, embracing the buffeting of tiny forces as nature's invitation to dance.