N NAO: A precious light falls into the water

Interview by Louise Jaunet
Genres and styles : Chamber Pop / Experimental Dream Pop

Additional Information

Rising from an agitated state of sleep, just before her metamorphosis into her adult self, the young Quebec singer and composer N NAO (named Naomie De Lorimier) creates, with her new album, L’eau et les rêves the imprint of an invisible illusion, a marvellous phenomenon, a mysterious encounter. Through an artistic and symbolic ritual that has been occurring naturally for millions of years, this prodigious second album of experimental dream pop, released via Mothland, is part of an ambitious transdisciplinary and collaborative work, whose theme gradually unfolds with the help of a documentary research project on the world of freshwater. Combining free jazz spontaneity, acoustic tenderness, soaring lyricism, psychedelic folk improvisation, krautrock rhythms, dream pop effect chains, and outdoor recordings taken on the run, the whole album, written with a rare sense of authenticity, invites us to get lost at the top of a mountain, to give birth to ourselves during a dream, next to a source of fresh water which makes life more porous to unconscious changes. 

Done in a meditative and trance-like state, her research brings to life the magic of a heavenly angel, sometimes gentle, sometimes stormy, like a deity personifying the forces of nature that make the pure sensation of living shine within. Safe in her room or in the studio, the spontaneous and intuitive urge of her unconscious is no longer afraid to say what needs to be said in order to lighten the burden of shadows. This silent, mystical, and caring communication allows one to look deep into the depths of matters: decay, loss, life, death, reconstruction, and care. The supernatural whisper of a long-distance connection encourages her to take risks on the edge of the abyss, as the sky now catches her in her fall. 

The eclipse of colours is indeed a victory, it smashes the boundary between reality and imagination and allows life to be renewed with the future. A survivor’s right to exist hides a mystery, a gift, a mighty tool. The power of the numinous gives hope to survive the “Fin du monde.” Simplicity creates miracles. N NAO agreed to meet with PAN M 360 to tell us about her secret.

PAN M 360: While we are only discovering you now, with your second album L’eau et les rêves we can notice that you already have a long background in the underground scene, notably alongside Klô Pelgag, Marie-Pierre Arthur, Crabe, zouz, Safia Nolin, Jonathan Personne, and Lumière. How did you get involved in this community of artists?

N NAO: Being born in Montreal, I was able to meet a lot of artists very early on in my career. In CÉGEP, I already had contacts with people active on the music scene. I met Etienne Dupré (bassist for Klô Pelgag, Mon Doux Saigneur, zouz) who is currently in my band, as well as Charles, with whom I have been playing for a long time. I started doing sets in Montreal in DIY places like La Plante. The experimental music label Jeunesse cosmique also gave me my first chance. After my jazz studies, I moved to Berlin for four months with my effects pedals, to sort of conquer my fears. One night, I managed to play a set in a full venue, and that’s how I realised that there was actually an audience for what I was doing and that I could become confident. When I came back to Montreal, I started supporting Laurence-Anne, which helped me meet new people. One thing led to another and I began to support more and more artists. It all happened very naturally over time.

PAN M 360: During your CEGEP, you did a program in jazz singing, composition and arrangement. Was music present very early in your life? 

N NAO: Yes, my parents noticed very early that I had a good ear. When I couldn’t even speak yet, I could imitate the sound of the vacuum cleaner perfectly, I had the right note (laughs). As a child I studied classical music at Le Plateau school, my grandfather always listened to classical music and my father was a singer.

PAN M 360: Charles was the first member to join you in your N NAO project. This meeting seems important to you, can you tell us more about it?

N NAO: I started writing, composing, singing, and experimenting on my own between high school and CEGEP and Charles was the very first person who heard my songs. We feel connected through the way we see music, the way we listen to it, and the way we appreciate art in general. When we played together, it was as if we were exchanging our thoughts through music, like a kind of correspondence about our worldview. Charles has a master’s degree in art history and we really enjoy sharing our theories.

PAN M 360: How did the rest of the group come about?

N NAO: The process was very natural. Lysandre Ménard (Lysandre, Helena Deland) was already on my first album A jamais pour toujours in 2018. Just before her trip to London, I came to her house to sample her piano improvisations. I was sad about her departure and I wanted to keep a piece of her with me. This became her first contribution to the project. Etienne and I had already played together in the past in our studio, and we kept running into each other at the same shows. We met again in zouz, Klô Pelgag and then on my first record. Samuel Gougoux (TDA, Corridor, Kee Avil, VICTIME) had seen Charles and me opening for Jonathan Personne in 2019. He fell in love with our duo and we started playing as a trio from then on. These are all great encounters, it’s really magical when we’re together.

PAN M 360: You recorded the album at Green Room Studios and in your bedroom. Was it important for you to feel surrounded, in an intimate and personal setting?

N NAO: Yes, really. I’ve always worked in an intimate setting, I find that’s where the creative process can flow in a much purer way when you feel confident in your interactions. I am someone who likes to get to the bottom of things and to feel a certain depth with my team members. I needed to be with people I could trust to be able to create this sense of exposure.

PAN M 360: Your album is illustrated with videos that show documentary research on freshwater. How did you conceive the idea?

N NAO: Actually, the idea came to me after filming the videos. I did a short movie in a pond for the EP “La plus belle chose”. I saw it more as a performance, grounded in a moment. I then got an 8mm camera, which I kept with me during two cycles of seasons during my meditative getaways in nature. Four tapes came out of these experiences. I realized spontaneously that there were many themes around water, its shimmer, its various states, and its mysterious, sensual, sensorial qualities. It was as if I had discovered it afterward. So I started to concentrate on this substance, on its light and its refraction. All of this became clearer in terms of the music, the texts, and the visuals. With my camera, I wanted to try to see through and inside the matter.

PAN M 360: The cover was made during one of these nature excursions. Can you tell us more about it?

N NAO: I wanted to collaborate with Laurence Veri, who is a ceramist I really like. We met at the Jean-Talon market when we were both florists. We decided to create a ceramic together. From there came the idea of an angel, which she had already explored in ceramic and which I also saw in the texts of the album. She drew the figure of the angel in sandstone with grains of sand and rocks. I took the ceramics with me to document it around a waterfall, seven hours from here. Laurence had produced three different ceramics, and it turned out that my favourite had a crack in it. In the end, I found this imperfection so beautiful. It was so fragile, we had to be careful with it during our trip. We stayed a whole weekend near this waterfall Charles and I. We read, swam, and took pictures. It was a great documentary experience. I chose this particular waterfall because I knew I could be quiet.

PAN M 360: The title of the album is inspired by Gaston Bachelard’s book “L’eau et les rêves,” What link do you make between this book and your album?

N NAO: Through our artistic and correspondence relationship, Charles gifted me this book. It sort of filled in the themes that were already addressed in the album. I like its philosophical aspect, but also how the author approaches the poetry of matter. He says that “water is the matter of dreams.” This sentence means a lot to me. To write the songs, I used my dream memories. I used to practice in the morning when I came out of my dreams, to write and compose on the guitar. Water is also a very sensual material that can be associated with femininity, with the nymph, and with the mermaid. Gaston Bachelard published this book in the 1940s, I find it interesting to have a more contemporary perspective, coming from a woman.

PAN M 360: You describe the footage in the video “Tout va bien” as haptic. How did you achieve this?

N NAO: I read a text by Laura U. Marks during my studies at Concordia that really resonated with me. She brings up the idea that this is actually a strategy used by women throughout history, which can be found in tapestry and its caressing textures for example. She talks about haptic videos as being very distorted, so textured that they will caress the eye. Today, everything happens through screens, we live in an age where everything is visual, so I find it interesting to create imagery that speaks to the body, to the skin, to the sensation. I did it naturally with the camera, I capture what I see as if I were touching them. There is a form of sensuality in my exploration that is in line with my eco-feminist values. I try to offer an equal-to-equal approach to nature.

PAN M 360: What is “La plus belle chose” for you?

N NAO: In a day, I often say “this is the most beautiful thing”. But it’s never the same thing. What crosses all these moments are these bursts of life, authenticity, of sincerity. It’s the meeting. We accept to meet others, to meet ourselves, that things affect us. If I am in front of a magnificent landscape, I accept that it strikes me and I accept to be present in these things. The most beautiful thing is to take the risk of meeting oneself. Behind this lies a way of thinking that is constantly in motion, like a form of presence.

Crédit photo : Naomie de Lorimier & Cléo Sjölander

Affiche ci-dessous: Juliette Dupont-Duchesne

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