On March 17th, after releasing two EPs in the last year, Anna Valsk released her first album Morphologies, for which she has been the songwriter, the performer and the producer. Her project takes us on a spacious musical journey, exploring the changing seasons and their effects. The songs take us through an entire cycle of seasons, from winter to fall, with a concert of folk, electro and experimental sounds. To learn more about this album, which reveals a passionate approach and work, PAN M 360 spoke with Ariane Vaillancourt aka Anna Valsk.
PAN M 360: Is Morphologies a project that comes from afar? When did the idea come to you?
Anna Valsk: I would say that in total it took about 3 years. I had a vague image of the project for a long time, and it took a while for that image to define itself and show its direction. When I got the idea of the cycle of seasons and the cycle in general, I could really get into the production.
PAN M 360: And this idea of the cycle, did it come suddenly or was it already there?
Anna Valsk: Before the pandemic, my partner and I went to live in a small house in the Lanaudière area. There, it seems that the seasons are more intense. Personally, I’ve known for a long time that the changing seasons affect me. They affect everyone, but collectively we find it normal. So I wanted to observe the effects of these changes on myself and on what I feel around me. We can also talk about the cycle of the seasons of a life, which change through the decades. In short, it’s a great source of inspiration… an infinite source (laughs).
PAN M 360: The theme of water is very present in your album. Were you near a stream, a lake?
Anna Valsk: Yes, in Lanaudière, I was in the woods, but also by the water! Water is something that has always fascinated me. The concept of hydrotherapy, the idea that water can be regenerative. For example, I love cold baths, and I can’t wait for the lakes to start thawing before I go for my first swim. Cold water is good for the body and the mind.
PAN M 360: In terms of sound, too, water can be a kind of white noise. Many people fall asleep to the sounds of rain, river, waterfall.
Anna Valsk : Yes. Precisely, in “Wash your soul”, I say “And you, you dream to the sound of water”. Springtime is the sound of water coming back. It’s very reassuring… I’m passionate about water! (laughs)
PAN M 360: Your lyrics on the album seem to be very worked out, and the structures of the songs too. Did the lyrics come before the music?
Anna Valsk: I always (or mostly) start with the music. But often, in the music, there are words that stand out. It has to flow. The words have to come with the music. For me, when the music of a song becomes clearer, it means that the theme of the song becomes clearer. What I have to say, I do it musically, and then I support it with words.
PAN M 360: Making an album about the seasons and how they make us feel is about affect. Did this side transpose itself in your approach? Did you approach the music through theory or rather through its qualitative properties?
Anna Valsk : I think so. If I have to write an arrangement, I really see it as a texture or a color. For example, for the song “Jamais”, I had an image in my head of a humid, orange summer morning, where the sun is coming through a window and there are two people lying in a bed, and you can feel their skin beading. When I was composing the music, I wanted to make you feel like you were in that place. So yes, I work a lot with textures, colors and sensations.
PAN M 360: You took charge of the production of your album. Did you have to change your attitude towards your creations when you went from being a singer-songwriter to being a producer?
Anna Valsk: It wavered. Sometimes I felt more like a director, other times I felt more like a songwriter. It’s hard to have some perspective on your own music, your own voice, your own interpretation. At first, it was Pierre Girard, who mixed the album, who encouraged me to do it myself. I had the direction, I had the vision, so I went for it. But that brought its own challenges. It gets hard to delineate come to mind questions like “Is this the songwriter or the director talking?” At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter, they’re all the same person, and I think that comes through.
PAN M 360: Was there any other music that guided you during the creation of the album?
Anna Valsk: For sure, all the music I listen to is in me. I think my influences are also pretty clear: I’ve always loved the imaginary and musical world of Patrick Watson. What I like about his albums is the cohesion from start to finish, like taking a long walk. I wanted my album to be listened to a bit like that, from beginning to end like an adventure, a story. I also listen to a lot of classical music, because I like the textures of the instruments. I love electro when it’s mixed with the real thing, it becomes like a character. Otherwise, the last album of Chloé Lacasse had a big effect on me. I also like “Le ciel est au plancher” by Louis-Jean Cormier. It’s an album with a lot of space, and that was something I wanted from the start for my album; I wanted to let the music breathe and include interesting transitions.
PAN M 360: Do you see your project as a “concept” album? Is it more of a straitjacket or an exercise in creativity for you?
Anna Valsk: I see it more as a frame to be undone. To hold my image, I needed a frame. My frame was my concept. It helped me gather my ideas. Afterwards, I hope that people, when they listen to the album, don’t think only about the “concept”, don’t try too much to intellectualize the thing. It’s more a pretext for me, a guideline, a mantra.
PAN M 360: Thank you Anna!