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Incarnat is an emotionally invested record that resonates with both introspection and inspiration.

It’s human instinct, I think, to get to a certain point in one’s career and life where the only way forward is to do a lot of looking back. Lately, we’ve been doing a lot of backward gazing ourselves, but Ariane Moffatt did something more than mining the past when she started contemplating the twenty years since releasing her debut album, Aquanaute. What started out as revisiting her catalogue with stripped-down piano and vocal simplicity led to Incarnat, an album of new material steeped in the hushed, tender aesthetic she initially intended to employ on her previous work.

The result is an emotionally invested record that resonates with both introspection and inspiration. It’s a sense of renewal that leads to new growth on old stems. Even lyrically, Incarnat feels paired down to its essential elements and ideas. “Observer / et obséder longtemps /  Puis l’éviter pour un instant / Baigner dans la lumière,” she sings on open “Beauté,” roughly translating to “Observe and obsess for a long while, then avoid it for a moment.” I imagine that’s how Moffatt’s process evolved: a deep-dive into her catalogue, trying to work out arrangements and settings, then a contemplative pause — a pivot — before the muse picks up the thread and starts weaving something new.

Sometimes, as on “La classe” and “Little Bluff Beach,” no words are necessary at all. The piano is all Moffatt needs to express that feeling we all seem to find ourselves in lately: of being drawn to the past, romanticizing what we feel we’ve lost, while at the same time feeling both anxious about the present and hesitantly hopeful about the future. To paraphrase a line from fellow Montrealers Stars, like Moffatt, we’re all feeling like we’re caught in the act of just being here, existing in suspended animation while hurtling ahead into the future.

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