Vision Éternel
The Last Great
Torch Song





The Last Great Torch Song is the fourth and undoubtedly most personal EP of the Quebec-based collective Vision Éternel whose nucleus is embodied by guitarist Alexandre Julien. Comprising five tracks, released in March 2012 on his own Abridged Pause Recordings and available to purchase and listen to in full at Bandcamp, the EP is one stellar prime example of how two very different conceptions come into play at once. When one reads about an artist’s most personal work, bewilderment ensues, for listeners like to think that all works are highly personal and driven by the same care and honesty as ever. This romantic notion is literally ancient and one major driving force of creating works of art. Alexandre Julien, however, is only eminently open and honest in the liner notes of the EP whose topic is not necessarily mirrored in the soundscapes themselves, thus allowing for an interesting synergetic effect. While I am going to carve out this effect in greater detail during this review, let me just give you the essence in advance: The Last Great Torch Song is about Julien’s past relationships with women. But you won’t notice at all if you haven’t encountered the liner notes (although the front artwork pictured above gives a clear hint nonetheless). Once the listener's preliminary lack of knowledge applies, the post-apocalyptic album title becomes the driving force, as do the grave track titles. Despite these pompous prospects, the ensemble of Vision Éternel creates a dreamy work whose monolithic bursts of shame and sorrow are coherently embedded in a much mellower guitar aorta. Not coincidentally does the artist coin the interesting term Melogaze, a fitting compound of the words melodrama and Shoegaze. But this term, no matter how clever and witty it may be, does only cover half of the ensuing panoramas. 


A paroxysm or a protrusion? This is the question I asked myself before I started listening to the opener Sometimes In Longing Narcosis, and as enigmatic or turgid my original pondering may seem, it basically refers to the implementation of Alexandre Julien’s overarching but cleverly hidden topic about the transfigured memories of previous relationships. Is this narcotic composition a mere prelude to eclectic things, the calm before the storm, or is its sylphlike flume the first sign of a golden thread that runs through the EP? The anacrusis of a sepia-tinted threnody as delivered by unforeseen Dream Pop-compatible guitar coils, followed by a bolstered accentuation of ethereal synth riverbeds by collaborator Garry Brents evokes a curiously transcendental state that is neither entirely crestfallen nor overly melancholic. Situated right in-between these cusps, it is no surprise that the synth portion is recorded on a December day in 2010, since both the winter-related lethargy and gravity are reigning here, astutely referring back to the title. The meaningfulness of the opener further improves, and one would not know it right from the get-go. Roughly 14 months later, collaborator Eiman Nejad recorded insightful spoken words which are dropped over the gelid ethereality in February 2012. Similar to Valiska’s debut EP and declaration of love to Calgary called The City (2010), these spoken words are not towering above the fluxion, but are placed right in-between the dreamy layers. As disconcerting and painful certain circumstances and experiences may be, Nejad’s recitation is life-affirming and positively truculent notwithstanding its monotony. The flute-like synth clouds suddenly interpolate the pristine purity, and before one realizes it, a climactic revelation takes place via the brightened and cautiously colored tone sequences. The state of narcosis is an eminently relaxing one. That Vision Éternel is thematizing a Longing Narcosis takes a lot of conation, one that actually circumvents the emotionless state of narcosis. A vicious cycle or clever abrogation?


The following track is called Sometimes In Anticipating Moments, and it becomes very clear that the impetus and power of the heterodyned arrangement grows when its ingredients are interdependent on each other while amplifying the complexion hues at the same time. Piercingly brazen guitar cascades unite with a murkier, delicately blurry rhythm guitar and cavalcades of bass runlets played by Alexander Fawcett. Almost vuvuzela-like and resembling klaxon shawms of forsakenness, the incisive lead guitar figuratively cuts through the silkened dreamscape, and even though the latter term is used far too often, I deem it essential to the whole EP as well as in regard to Sometimes In Anticipating Moments; sinews and flurry become enmeshed with doleful timbres that are for all intents and purposes incompatible with the rasher, controlled recalcitrance which is implied in the insinuated tempo. Here, the acidic temper of the lead guitar morphs to an alloy which encapsulates the whole aura and illumines its outmost periphery with a rather ashen color spectrum. The third track Sometimes In Underlying Sadness then presents a more crystalline-luminescent delusion of Vision Éternel’s work, one that is almost bucolic and effervescent in the given context. A repeated four-note melody on a blazingly coruscating guitar causes a quasi-desiccation of all other involved strata and thrones above the base frame via its glistening, stirring appearance. Careful injections of afterglow and reverberation increase the plasticity and hollowness. Rhythmic bass guitar accompaniments fade away in front of this majesty. There is a pith of nullity surrounding the sparkling scintillae, but these are bright enough to fight the nothingness off. This is one possible reason why the eponymous sadness is only underlying, not staggering. In yet another contravention, Alexandre Julien successfully defies the mephitic gradient. And this composition is a particularly portentous referrer to the album title.


Sometimes In Reminiscent Neglection is another revelation in regard to the simultaneity of irreconcilable ingredients. The Quebec-based guitarist lets a grimly Gothic protuberance unfold, one that is even camouflaged and traversed by dreamier structures. Starting with a spectral river of howling apparitions, another four-tone melody is soon unchained. The tonality is haunting, the colors alarmingly sanguine, emanating a thermal heat of extirpation. This repeated pattern of four notes is haunting and bewildering because the textural surface seems to be friendly and embracing, whereas the melody itself is wildly independent and kaleidoscopic. Like a careening embellishment, it draws the listening subject near its alkaline presence, trying to become hold of anything of value. This would already be enough to make Sometimes In Reminiscent Neglection a deeply discomforting, definitely surreptitious critter, but the perversely luring melody is itself entrapped in screeching guitar serpentines that resemble braking trains and a viperish airmass which function as the climactic helpers. The song ends with a comparably long fade-out phase of the haunting melody which becomes more and more diffuse and legatoized. The finale is also the centerpiece of almost six and a half minutes and seems to propitiate Alexandre Julien himself with the past, no matter how picayune or alatoric these incidents might be for the listening subject: Sometimes In Absolute Togetherness marks the oxymoronic interim endpoint of Julien’s self-imposed main topic. It is the progressive opus eximium, an ever-shifting, highly solemn pomposity of various guitar textures, shifting melodies and moods, elysian joy as well as menacingly vaulted cavities, eventually followed by placid meadows and collaborator Howard Change’s aphorisms. Histrionic, erudite, sylvan and jejune all at once, the sequence of vignetted happenstances and hollow antra has to be experienced to be believed. Sometimes softened and whitewashed, then malevolently glowing and heftily flickering, Sometimes In Absolute Togetherness is the last torch song that may ferociously lead the wanderer astray from the right path: an ignis fatuus.


“Read the liner notes, people!” This almost antediluvian message is most often applied to progressive albums of all kinds, whatever the term progression may mean to the respective listener. Vision Éternel’s The Last Great Torch Song is no classically progressive work per se, but its liner notes are a very important key in understanding why this is indeed Alexandre Julien’s most personal work, why it took him approximately two years even though its runtime is below the mark of 20 minutes and why he ameliorated the various stages of a song many moons later with spoken words and other forms of collaboration. The truth is terribly mundane for all listeners: The Last Great Torch Song is about past relationships with women. So far, so common. Here we have the rare case of a very honest artist whose truthful approach might seemingly belittle the music-related efforts. Which would be a shame, for the apocalyptic wideness of the album title can perfectly stand on its own feet very well. The analogy that this title allows is breathtaking and, very obviously so, illuminating and enlightening. The loop-based cornerstones, the multitudinous guitar structures and the deliberately easy-to-grasp melodies sharpen the eyes and ears for the interstitial phenomena. The intertwinement of the textures, the implied horror and immovability, the cloak-and-dagger greyness, but also the occasional, if only infinitesimal burst of glee are altogether important artifacts of a well-grafted flare that is suitable of guiding the listener through darker times. Or so it seems; the cohesion of the many antagonistic ingredients enforces a stabilization that is by its very nature dichotomous and insidious. As such, The Last Great Torch Song implies the possibility of carrying a poisonous torch in one’s hand. Dreamy, languorous and strangely luring, this EP is conceptually much more diverse than one might imagine, and the shortness of the tracks does, for a change, work to the advantage of its accessibility.



Further listening and reading:

  • You can purchase and listen to the EP in full at Bandcamp.
  • Follow Alexandre Julien's label Abridged Pause Recordings on Twitter: @AbridgedPause.




Ambient Review 247: Vision Éternel – The Last Great Torch Song (2012). Originally published on Aug. 7, 2013 at