Images and music have always been closely intertwined in the work of Yoann Lemoine, aka Woodkid. It comes as no surprise that the follow up to his 2013 debut album The Golden Age takes the shape of a film soundtrack, namely, Jonás Cuarón’s Desierto, starring the brilliant Gael Garcia Bernal.

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A visual artist, a video director, a singer-songwriter, no artistic field seems to resist Woodkid. The protean French musician is above all a storyteller who seems to think in terms of imagery and narration. When talking about The Golden Age, he explained that “[he] wanted [the album] to be very cinematic and orchestral with continuity between the tracks. [He] found that all of these songs [he] had been writing, these fragments of lyrics that [he] wrote, these sounds, visions, and collages of images that [he] had, were creating a story, almost like psychoanalysis or an inner archaeological process”.

 Woodkid

Yet, working on a film score was no easy process for Lemoine. Even though he had already written “Never Let You Down” (a duet with Swedish singer Lykke Li) for Insurgent, it was the very first time he had to work on a film score in its entirety. For him, composing without using his voice was quite a challenge but director Jonás Cuarón knew exactly what kind of music and what kind of sound aesthetics he wanted for Desierto.

Lemoine met Jonás and his father Alfonso Cuarón after the release of Gravity and both were fans of his deep strong voice and use of percussions. Jonás sent him the script for Desierto and asked him to score it. The director and the musician started to collaborate on the score way before the end of the shooting and agreed that they should pair music and nature. Cuarón wanted the desert to be a character in its own right and the music to be its voice. In his mind, the music had to be the tension’s vehicle and also be an integrant part of the landscape… and to his delight Lemoine immediately knew where to go and what to do.

Woodkid explains that he deconstructed and reworked the orchestral music by altering it digitally, cutting it to pieces, sampling it and looping it. His aim was to make the wind instruments sound like strings and brass like woodwind instruments. The music had to be an emotional component of the narration so they did not hesitate to make it sound perverse or exhausting to parallel what the characters go through.

“Land of All”, which was revealed a few days ago, is the only track which Lemoine laid his voice on. In a true Woodkid fashion, the song is terribly melodic and powerfully soars in its last quarter.

Talking about The Golden Age, Lemoine said that he « wanted to make music that generates images cinematically ». He most certainly succeeded with Desierto’s melodic yet rough and sometimes quite unsettling to hear soundtrack. Looking forward to hearing his second score on JR’s short film The Ghost of Ellis Island.

 Marine Wong Kwok Chuen