In Aeternam Vale

In Aeternam Vale


“There are bands that have been acting ruthlessly in the shadow for years, in a completely confidential manner, then one day chance (but does chance exist ?) makes you find one of their recordings, listen to it, and at that moment you could kick yourself for not having discovered these soundscapes earlier and you try to find all of them. That is exactly what happened to me with In Aeternam Vale, a strange name that will surely remind you of nothing in particular, and that is really a shame. At the basis of this band, a guy named Laurent Prot, a kind of equivalent to what Frank Tovey represented in England or Dirk Ivens in Belgium, an electronics fanatic who experimented all the sounds that you can obtain from analogical synthesizers and rhythm´n boxes.

With the passing of time, In Aeternam Vale´s work remains astonishingly powerful, cold and caustic with its uncompromising minimalism, but also provocative and capable to smash your ass on the dance-floor. In Aeternam Vale was created in Lyons (France) in 1983 and is very much influenced at the beginning by punk-rock nihilism and aggressiveness. In these years, there were a guitar-player and also a bassist but, from 1985 onwards, Laurent Prot starts to lead the band alone with some collaborators appearing punctually. That same year, the “Far” tape comes out in a very limited edition, and let me tell you that even listening to it today is a real slap in the face. It begins with an incredible cover-version of PIL´s “The Suit”, appearing on the famous 1979 “Metal Box”. The rhythm is hard and robotic in the Kraftwerk style, the synthesizer sounds like an obsession, the notes appear in dribs and drabs, and the singing is terribly haunting, a threatening and nasal groan. A dehumanized universe closer to neurosis than to the electronic grandiloquence so prevalent in the music of the eighties. An unwholesome and claustrophobic world such as the litanies of a Monte Cazzaza who would have made music with just a keyboard. The tape goes on with the song “Dans le Métro” in which the words of the title are repeated during almost ten minutes until it becomes only a cry of pain on a rhythm that foreshadows the Electro Body Music and perhaps even more the sound of Le Syndicat Electronique´s first songs.

However, if IAV´s universe is quite nightmarish, even suffocating (the song “Holocauste” possesses an unbelievable violence, very close to industrial music), a below-the-surface humour is omnipresent, because Laurent Prot is also a ferocious and cynical satirist, a little bit like a Jean-Louis Costes who would have listened to too many new wave songs. Nevertheless, through titles such as “Sailor on the Sea” or “Voyage pour Violon Atmospherik”, Prot proves that he can create melancholy, psychedelic and dreamlike atmospheres. The following tape, “Première Rétrorythmie Cardiaque” (1986) announces the beginning of a long collaboration with Organic, a very good label from Grenoble (they signed Palo Alto or Klimperei among others .

The songs are shorter and much “easier” to listen to and represent a kind of sublimation of what was initiated in the “Far” tape. The song “Al W.” can be seen as a real apogee in Prot´s career, the singing becomes an everlasting sob, no need for words any more. No vowels or consonants are detectable, and the voice sinks into a bloodless complaint but not really desperate. It is as if we had lost the war, we were among debris and dead bodies, but it doesn´t matter. There is this kind of acceptance of disillusion as a natural state. This feeling is emphasized by the sound of solemn and dim organs as inspired by a John Carpenter movie. The jerky and lively rhythm makes this title one of the best “cold wave” songs, a tragic hit to dance on despair. The overall tonality of the tape is quite experimental and moves from harsh and painful titles (“Haine”) to much more peaceful atmospheres (“M-7”) or to fierce and restless songs reminiscent of the early DAF (“La Lune Explose”). Even further, even stronger, the “Dub” tape (1988) turns IAV´s minimalism into a sonorous nightmare. It is at least the case in the first songs of the tape. There only remain shouts, a warlike rhythm´n box and no longer any sign of melody. Prot starts to use the sampling, opening his music to new horizons closer to industrial music than to techno-pop. The second part of the tape is more sophisticated, we no longer feel the punk-rock spectrum, and explores slow rhythms sometimes similar to the New Beat of the time, but still very cold, not reassuring but playful.

The two following tapes, “Recovered Flesh” (1989) and “Out of Terror” (1989) are in this same research for a music to dance to but very dark. There are even titles close to what we can call “dark ambient” (“She Said”), nightmarish soundscapes foreshadowing the Cold Meat Industry style, but the essential things to remember from this period are the collaborations with the female singer Chrystelle Marin and her astonishing voice recalling nocturnal goddesses such as the early Siouxsie or the sensual Mona Soyoc from Kas Product. Laurent Prot went on recording tapes in the 1990´s, going from transe-techno to ambient and now to house music, but with still a lot of analogical sounds. Personally, I refused to listen to these recordings for a simple reason, I know that I am not going to find all the restrained violence, the caustic aspect, desperately dark and “cheap” of the early IAV. Laurent Prot told me that it was a difficult and painful time, that explains this visceral relationship to not only his music but also, I would add, to the listening of it. In Aeternam Vale, it is an emotional language which often shows the urgency behind it. Feelings in the rough. ”