Tertia Die - Nouvelle Église (english)

Two or three rapidly repeating notes, like tinkling bells... a child's voice, indistinct, footsteps, birds... sound effects, the life of a small village perhaps; human scenes. A plane engine, bells in the distance... then a first distinct piece: a synthetic guitar chord and percussion, whistles. Then again two obsessively repeating notes, slower than at the beginning. A bell repeating the same note, as if marking a stage in a ritual. Indefinable breaths that come and go, like the sea, like the wind, like a breath: the world is alive. A man's voice, in English, whispering incomprehensible words, which we guess are intimate. Other chopped up voices, interspersed, that repeat themselves until they lose all meaning; they are only reassuring sound textures; the voice of a benevolent old man. Flutes – is it a party?

Nouvelle Église by Tertia Die is a strange sonic journey published on the netlabel Les Nouvelles Primitivités, and we asked the author a few questions about it.


Your music sometimes sounds, with this lo-fi aspect and these layers of sound effects and samples from all sources, like the soundtrack of an old black and white film; there are bells, birds, the sound of the sea, voices that appear and disappear, extremely fleeting bits of music as if a camera was filming a group of troubadours for a few seconds... You have the impression of walking around or following a character who is walking around, in a film.

Yes, my music is not narrative in the strict sense of the word (it's not even narrative at all, and it's even the opposite of narrative), but there is indeed this "cinema for the ear" side, if I may borrow this expression from the world of acousmatic music. The superposition of sounds creates an environment; more than that, it creates a world. I wanted to build a sound world. Or more precisely, to reconstruct it. An intimate, very personal world made up of memories. To evoke it – in the almost magical sense of the word.

What do you mean by "the opposite of a narrative"?

I don't write "songs" and my music is not constructed as a narrative; it is a sound image, a painting, a photograph, whatever. The notion of superposition is more important than that of succession. There are sequences that are repeated throughout the album, to accentuate the impression that there is no before or after, but a kind of eternity that I tried to transcribe musically.

Explain to us the album cover, with these crosses, these fields, on the one hand, and these very middle-class pavilions (which can be seen on the back), unusual in the graphic landscape of ambient or industrial music...

This is simply where I grew up. They are images of a specific place. "New Church" is the name of my neighbourhood – although it was originally in German and I translated it into French to restore the full power of meaning it contains. I spent my childhood there; I went to church and school there, I played with some friends in the fields and orchards, we built huts, fed a horse that lived in a pen behind my building... There were fields as far as the eye could see, a few vegetable gardens, a well that was dangerous because it was on the ground, loosely closed by a board, and a red brick house, more than half in ruins. All this has disappeared today. And this area has become a "mythical" mental landscape for me. An absolute refuge, an immense, infinite territory.

What does this neighbourhood that has made such an impression on you actually look like?

There's nothing very special about it "per se". It is an old village that was attached to the neighbouring town in the 1960s. There are very few shops there, except for a grocery shop and a tobacconist's. So it's not a place where you can go to work. It is therefore not a place of passage. It is common to see no one in the street for long periods of time. Its rural past is still clearly visible, both architecturally and in the number of fields that border and separate the streets. For a child, it is a kind of Garden of Eden. I remember whole days spent wandering in the fields, cooking apples on a fire of ashes, prowling around a wooden house hidden in the vegetation, walking in the foundations of houses under construction... all this a few dozen metres from the houses, i.e. on the one hand an old main street, with small buildings and terraced houses, as always in traditional villages of Lorraine; on the other hand more recent streets, post-war, with suburban houses, spaced out, the vast majority of them with gardens, vegetable gardens, fields, orchards, etc., at the back. When we came back from our wild games, it was to find our parents and grandparents, sometimes in the garden, digging in the earth. The bells rang frequently since the Concordat still applies and Alsace-Moselle are Christian lands where the presence of the Church is sensitive.

And since you speak of "power of meaning", what do you mean by the expression "New Church"?

The Christian renewal that France, Europe and the world need. Rooted in the world, to sanctify it. I'm not talking about "identity Catholicism", which is nothing but crass political manipulation and idolatry, insofar as its activists, whether they are aware of it or not, only deign to be Christian on condition that their cherished national/ethnic identity is preserved exactly as they see fit. These are people who instrumentalise religion, who put God at their service and not the other way round. When I speak of rootedness, I am speaking of liturgy; that is, a conception of the whole of life as liturgy, of the whole of life as a succession of prayers and offerings, whether it be sleep, physical love, the moments that punctuate family life, food, work, contact with nature. Art, too, of course. And the world itself as an offering. All this is the opposite of an abstract faith, excessively intellectual and prone to all kinds of intellectual and political perversions.

Coming back to the music itself, can you tell us a bit about the samples, instruments, etc, used on this album?

The samples are mainly personal field recordings (recorded in this neighbourhood mentioned above) and a few sounds gleaned from left and right; I confess I can't tell from my head exactly what, except for excerpts from a family video dating from the late 80's, and a sample (almost inaudible) of Ian Curtis talking; more exactly, attempting a regression experiment to past lives. 

As for the keyboard used for the melodic and percussive passages, it's a Technics KN930 – a simple keyboard-arranger from the late 90s, with a bank of typical PCM sounds from the era, and a built-in DSP multi-effects.

Why Ian Curtis?

I grew up with punk and post-punk. It's my primary musical culture, which continues to influence me both musically and in terms of my work ethic – independence, the primacy of sincerity over technical demonstration, etc.

Why Ian Curtis in particular? Because I've taken countless walks around the neighbourhood on lonely mornings as a teenager instead of going to school. With grey skies, loneliness and Joy Division on my ears. "Down the dark streets, the houses looked the same". It's an experience of emptiness that has stayed with me forever and that I can recall at will. The emptiness of life; the incredibly powerful and undoubtedly adolescent intuition that the world is empty, that one wanders in it and that there is nothing else to look forward to, that existence is purposeless, that no events, no encounters, that nothing will ever actually happen. An intuition from which I have never been able to free myself. Except – on my good days – by means of Faith, which gives back to the world a reality it had lost or does not have by itself.

I thought I heard the roar of a plane engine at several points, too. Is this a reference to the war, from which Eastern France suffered particularly badly?

Absolutely not. My building was a few hundred metres from an airfield, as we were just outside the city, and I grew up with this constant "drone" in my ears. It's a bit of a strange Proust memory, no doubt, but it is one.

There are also several moments on the record when you hear the sound of bells.

The sound of bells is another of Proust's madeleines; for as long as I can remember, I had it in my ears. I have always loved it, even before I became interested in the Faith. The recurrence of bells on my album as well as during the course of a day marks the presence of God that bathes daily life and the environment before our eyes; and gives rhythm to the day.

How do the "concept" of the record, to call it that, and the music, very concrete, that you practice articulate? Very ambient at times but also marked by tribal influences and certain chords that could come out of a post-punk album...

There is an "ethnic" side to it, yes, although it's from imaginary ethnic groups; I doubt that our Gallic ancestors or even their predecessors played the same kind of music on their primitive instruments. Anyway, undeniably, my taste for Muslimgauze must have influenced me, and even more so, my teenage love for Dead Can Dance, who achieved the synthesis you speak of between exoticism and post-punk.

Rightly or wrongly, music that is rather repetitive, and that makes use of percussion, ends up evoking something ritualistic; spiritual in a broad sense, to begin with, and ritualistic, in particular. I remember as a teenager, long before I became interested in Christianity, I felt like many in that kind of musical subculture were drawn to Satanism and the occult. It was essentially a teenage trip, but still, I was bathed in a vague but real, intense, and sinister-oriented spirituality. I imagined rituals, ceremonies, half-pagan, half-demonic, in fields and orchards; something primitive, dark.

Perhaps the remotely ethnic and ritualistic aspect of Nouvelle Église is a way of reminding me of these old fantasies, but giving them a brighter meaning today. A conversion, as it were.