Folk legend Nick Drake opened his 1972 record, Pink Moon with the album’s titular satellite being “on its way” to “get ye all.” A seemingly apocalyptic prophecy, yet Drake never expanded on his vision beyond these lines, with any lingering fears dispelled with a sumptuous piano solo. The Pink Moon hangs above Drake’s album, as something beautiful but impenetrable.
While Slowly Paradise, Paris-based Eric Chenaux’s sixth solo album, features folk of a whole different kind to Drake’s solely acoustic finger-picking, it acts as a spiritual successor to Pink Moon’s lunar musings. Half of Slowly Paradise’s six tracks mention the moon, yet it remains a deliberately ambiguous symbol. Chenaux speaks at turns of the moon as framing the warmest night, as something he holds through his love or as if he embodies a troubadour in “Wild Moon.” Slowly Paradise’s sound reflects its lyrics’ lack of easy answers, featuring an idiosyncratic style of space-age folk with songs that, like the moon, are at once picturesque, lofty, imposing and perhaps slightly ominous, yet are also made bewitching through their apparent contradictions.
Pink Moon comparisons do not end with Chenaux’s lyrics. Like Drake’s stripped-down final album, Chenaux’s spotless voice, a brilliant falsetto a few shades shy of peak Bon Iver, is undeniably the album’s focus. The vocals are projected onto a relatively sparse backdrop, one that eschews folk’s trusty guitar for the less traveled terrain of “various electronics.” Chenaux’s guitar-playing is often at odds with what is occurring around it, existing only as a dissonant counterpoint – such as the drifting, seemingly aimless solo which concludes “Bird & Moon” and “Abandoned Rose’s” off-kilter guitar line that tries to pull in several directions at once. The shiny and synthetic textures of lengthy pieces “Bird & Moon,” “There’s Our Love” and “Wild Moon” similarly steer clear of harmonious contemplation, as they are frequently pierced by electronic emittances, like communicative signals from another galaxy.
In both lyrical form and musical content, Slowly Paradise remains a lunar puzzle box. Fortunately, the album’s sheer beauty and grace saves it from being merely esoteric ramblings from some folksy space station in the woods. Highlight “Wild Moon” seems to actively confront the listener, with its overlong wah-wah solo evoking an anemic Jimi Hendrix, and the discordant bleeps interspersed throughout suggesting Birdo from Super Mario Bros. Yet beneath these convoluted aspects the song mesmerizes through its shimmering central beat, paired with Chenaux’s soulful pleas to “come away with me.” Slowly Paradise revels in these contrasting moments of musical trickery and unassuming beauty, like the light and dark sides of the moon forming an uneasy, but incredibly absorbing, alliance.