Review Summary: Man shouts in the woodsVivre et laisser mourir
, professing a connection to environmentalism in mournful, pessimistic tones, feels confessional; it serves as the receptacle for the purging of Existe’s deepest anguishes, perhaps even self-pity, which are delivered bluntly and with no shame. Against the odds, the album has all of its disparate components bounded tightly together — its rustic charm and earnestness unify post-punk rhythms, acoustic strumming, clarinet and glockenspiel, and a trap beat (yes, a trap beat).
I think the appeal of Vivre et laisser mourir
comes from the fact that it is wholly lacking in pretence or contrived vision — it feels wonderfully haphazard, unfiltered, cobbled together from instinct. “Les temps modernes”, that aforementioned acoustic-meets-trap song, is the pinnacle of the approach — one wonders how someone decided to throw in a one-off trap section into an otherwise hushed, solemn track, complete with rapping. But it works
: maybe because of the surprise factor, or sheer audacity, or even because the flow is oddly satisfying (and sadly doesn’t last long enough). And “L’atténuement”, despite its epic post-metal build-up, has a modesty to it — gentle triple-time measures and vocals at the end that almost feel sighed. The songs themselves are made from simple building blocks: propulsive, bouncing drumming; sweetly endearing harmonies that contrast with the plaintive lyrics; surprisingly ferocious, forceful harsh vocals.
It’s not that Vivre et laisser mourir
, in the sense that it is blissfully ignorant — Existe are all too aware of impending environmental doom and alienation. Actually, therein lies the fascinating contradiction at the heart of the album: fatalism and despair versus a simple, pastoral warmth that is rough around the edges but welcoming nonetheless. You realize that in order to have the strength to deliver the message, one needs at least a vestige of hope; why else warn others, if you know it is futile? But for an outside observer, hope may indeed seem wasted, and environmental efforts are but a drop in an ever-growing ocean. From that perspective, then, there’s sad resignation and a bittersweet smile to be had about the earnest display of concern. And I suspect Existe are aware of this.