Inscape is both a reset and retreat.
The thing about escape is that, in order to get passed the pressures and mental fatigue that wear us down, we first have to go through the eye of the storm. Our hands, heads, and (often times) hearts have to get dirty before they can get clean.
Composer Alexandra Stréliski knows this truth intimately. In an interview late last year with Exclaim, she recounts the dizzying and debilitating whirlwind that engulfed her when attention and demand for her work took off thanks to film director Jean-Marc Vallée including music from her 2010 self-released album, Pianoscope in a series of films and television shows. “I had an episode of depression — well, burnout, actually, but it’s close — because I overworked and I wasn’t doing the right thing anymore. For me, I learned that when you have that kind of episode in your life, you have to rethink things a bit. So that’s what I did.”
Inscape, Stréliski’s 2018 second record, is both a reset and retreat. If these compositions were borne out of crises, they are performed with the calmness and confidence of a musician at peace with herself. Opener “Plus tôt” sets the tone for her existential journey, caught between the knowing and unknowable, the before and after: “Plus tôt” isn’t really the beginning of the trip, it’s a moment mid-journey; it’s the pivot-point where things change direction, where truths are shattered and replaced by new realities. The contemplative nature of her work, most vividly captured on “Ellipse”, its pace both haunting and soothing, is like an endless rain or a good cry. Even the frenzy evoked on “Burnout Fugue” cascades forth with the sense that closure is coming by the time its brief three minutes are up.
Inscape is almost insidious in its power and presence. Released in the fall of 2018, it has served as my soundtrack for many bleak winter’s nights, solitary morning commutes, and thankless to-do list management sessions. It wasn’t until recently when I too found my world teetering towards burnout, that I realized I needed a rethink, a reset; my own “nouveau départ”. Stréliski’s Inscape has been both a shield and a sword, helping me cut a path through the external and internal battles to the other side. It’s a welcomed reminder that safety and solace are often closer than we think.