Clara Ysé, a singular voice in the pursuit of desire

By Lacanian homophony, there is the mother, the philosopher and psychoanalyst Anne Dufourmantelle, who died in 2017, at the age of 53, on a beach in Ramatuelle (Var), after having rescued two children who were in danger of drowning

Clara Ysé, a singular voice in the pursuit of desire

By Lacanian homophony, there is the mother, the philosopher and psychoanalyst Anne Dufourmantelle, who died in 2017, at the age of 53, on a beach in Ramatuelle (Var), after having rescued two children who were in danger of drowning . And there is the sea, towards which the first album by singer and novelist Clara Ysé turns. From its beautiful title, Oceano Nox, borrowed from Virgil of the Aeneid: “Et ruit oceano nox” (“and the night rushes from the ocean”).

It is tempting, and misleading, to interpret this record as a therapeutic exercise, the continuation of a work of mourning that the future author of Mise à feu (Grasset, 2021) had made public through a letter to her loved one published in the columns of Libération under the title “You taught me to say yes, to plunge my head into the invisible, to celebrate life”. “Only Letter to M talks about her and the relationship with lack,” corrects Clara Ysé. Magicienne talks about my first love, a girl I was very in love with for three years, and some managed to find my mother there... People like drama. But the subject of the album is desire, and how we reintegrate it into our lives. »

What this 31-year-old Parisian is working on on stage at the Café de la danse, near the Bastille, Tuesday December 5. Its ascending rating already destines it to increase the gauge for La Cigale (March 26, 2024, sold out) before the consecration of the Olympia (November 15, 2024). In a flamencoist's black top and skirt, she multiplies the roles, by turns a music hall tragedian ("I only know how to sing about shipwrecks," she whispers in Magicienne) and queen at the gestures of an oriental dancer. Surrounded by an impeccable quartet who had to rearrange their songs around the rumbles of a baritone saxophone.

Latino tropism

Her group leaves her for a one-on-one with the audience. Here she grabs a Spanish guitar and sings La Llorona, this “white lady you see before you die”, sung by Chavela Vargas. Clara Ysé also borrowed shawls from the heroine of the Mexican ranchera song. Like the one she wears, in front of a white horse, on the cover of her album. This Hispanicness also links her to a “Spanish-hearted grandmother”, present in the room, and to a Colombian nanny. As it nourishes his tropism for the magical realism of Latin American literature.

After the revelations of L (Raphaële Lannadère), then of Zaho de Sagazan, Oceano Nox confirms the singularity and strength of new female voices whose intimate expression comes from the same lineage, that of Barbara, theatricality included. “I listened to it a lot, with Léo Ferré,” agrees Clara Ysé. I have always been overwhelmed by the voices that overflow, these particular and ageless timbres that make someone's soul heard, of which we do not know, at the beginning, whether we like them or not. Whether it’s those of Maria Callas, Janis Joplin, Björk or Rosalia, I like voices full of contradictory things. Chavela can be hoarse as well as crystalline, you can hear both the little girl and the old lady. »

Ysé is her middle name, which was given to her in homage to the character in Partage de midi, the only woman in Paul Claudel's drama. This choice indicates the cultural background from which the daughter of the painter Bruno Dufourmantelle comes, whom she says she observed a lot at work: "He always starts from obscure shapes to bring in light, it's something that I find in what I do. » Singing from the age of 8, master's degree in philosophy, then the Paris Conservatory.

“I conceived the technique as a succession of rules to control our body and which can distance us from an animality, whereas it is quite the opposite,” she notes. She is there to remove veils, those which obstruct the passage between your heart and the person who listens, which we hear well in flamenco or Arabic music. Giving up a lyrical career for composition and writing saved my life, but I was left with a nostalgia for this intensity which passed through my body in the highs and lows, the harmonic progressions. »

The world has split, a self-produced and promising mini-album of six tracks, was released in 2018. She then wrote in three languages ​​(French, Spanish and English) and has not yet made the decisive encounter with the musician and producer Sage (alias of Ambroise Willaume, former member of the group Revolver). “For Oceano Nox, we needed a backbone: so I chose to express myself exclusively in French, and all the songs talk about love, even if it’s very simple. Love despite everything, because we don't live in this world without being crossed by anger and violence. »

The result tends towards the blockbuster mixing “the ancient, with strings, choirs or duduk, the oboe of traditional Armenian music, and the contemporary, with synths, electronic rhythms, tinkering with the voices”. But also towards the purity of the piano-voice for Douce (“If you knew the female dog that I hide inside”, she dares) and La Maison.

Rare words

At the Café de la danse, she invites her group of friends for polyphony, the same as when she was 18: “We continue to organize musical evenings once a month with people from the music classical, jazz, Greek music, pop, electro… We play until 6 a.m. It gave me lots of ideas for the album. » Then the beef gives way to the elegy for Lettre à M, transformed into a duet with the cello of Jérémie Arcache (also ex-Revolver).

“It’s not because we speak from ourselves that we speak about ourselves,” observes Clara Ysé, convinced that “music is bigger than us.” Oceano Nox is therefore not self-centered, which leaves room for a generational address (Pyromanes) to set life ablaze or for Souveraines, a more conventional feminist homage. Between “water and fire”, the verb carefully avoids proper nouns and name dropping, but does not refuse a few rare words in the song. So “delight”, used twice: “If the sea delights you / You will reign under the crystal waters” (The Star), then “It would seem that love has delighted us” (Sun at midnight). A double meaning, “remove” or “enchant”, which suits the musician perfectly.