Band – Non Serviam
Album – Le Cœur Bat
Country of Origin – France
Genre – Experimental/Electronica/Industrial/Blackened Grindcore
Release Date – April 23, 2021
Label – Code666/Aural Music/Trepanation Recordings
Author – Hayduke X
Le Cœur Bat starts with a track entitled Le Coeur Bat, which means something like “the heart beats”. (Let me apologize now for any incorrect translations. My own French is exceptionally rusty, and Google Translate is not known for accuracy.) As the track is a whopping twenty-five minutes long, it’s a good place to start in talking about the sound of this anonymous project from France. There is a long list of seemingly disparate genre tags at the bottom of the album’s Bandcamp page. Sometimes I feel that bands are really stretching with some of the ways they tag themselves, but not here. These are all valid. The track and the album are a mélange of styles that one wouldn’t normally expect to see together. Black metal and grindcore maybe, but black metal, grindcore, and trip hop? And yet, all that and more obviously influences this project.
The track uses electronica as a foundation, in a dark and rhythmic way. It’s a little bit like floating in the ocean. Waves rise and fall in seemingly predictable ways, but sometimes one comes at you from an unexpected direction at an unexpected time. Creatures lurk beneath the surface, as presented by strange, dissonant, blackened guitars, that troll past you and circle unnervingly. It’s easy to get lost in this mammoth track, to lose somewhat your sense of self, to be drawn into other places, or maybe other places. I’m not even certain it’s always an enjoyable ride, but it’s certainly a volatile and worthwhile ride.
The rest of the album clocks in at just over an hour spread across nine more tracks (though two are labeled as bonus tracks, one other a demo, and yet another a cover). The waves of genre insanity continue to wash through these tracks, though some lean more one way, others a second way, and still others something else entirely. All are some variation of the experimental blending that I find so hard to describe. All are worth your time to hear. I will leave lyrical analysis to someone with a better grasp of the original language.
The question any review attempts to answer, I think, is, “Is the album worth someone’s time to listen?” Any answer given is from the subjective perspective of the writer, of course. In regards to Le Cœur Bat, I give an emphatic “Yes!” The album is long, and strange, a bizarre mix of styles, and lyrically in a language different from mine, but that is all part of its essential dark beauty. Expand your boundaries. Take the time to take this journey. Read on below for an interview with Non Serviam.
Hayduke X: Congratulations on the release of Le Cœur Bat. It’s quite a mindblowing release. Now that it’s out, how are you feeling about it?
Non Serviam: We are very happy and excited that our music can now find its way to listeners, including on physical formats, vinyl, CDs, cassettes. Knowing that its strangeness travels to find the singular listening of listeners who are curious about it and appreciate it makes us happy, and contributes to carry us in the continuation of the sound elaborations of Non Serviam. We are also very grateful to all those who have paid attention to this musical project that came out of nowhere last spring, in particular Sean and Meghan from CVLT Nation, Emi from Code666/Aural and Dan from Trepanation Recordings, who decided to venture to make this release possible in such satisfactory conditions, in a context that did not seem to be very favourable.
HX: It’s my understanding that there were difficulties, including the global pandemic, in getting this album released. Tell me about that.
Non Serviam: The pandemic is obviously a difficult context for all bands and labels who have entered a period of uncertainty, which has particularly impacted their ability to plan new releases. For Le Coeur Bat, the repeated lockdowns have delayed the release planned since last summer by several months. But perhaps this strange period has also opened up the possibility that a band like ours, which does not belong to any national scene, could be considered without having to go through the forks of a prior local success. As for the rest, going from prolific hermit songwriting to the need to communicate around the music to make it known requires crossing multiple pitfalls, but we’ve always been driven by the imperious need for this music to find its listeners, so we’ve seized the opportunity, and we’re learning to deal with it.
HX: When I’m not writing reviews, I’m a teacher of mathematics. One of the first things I noticed about the album, is that the first seven tracks are all a whole number in length, with three coming in at exactly 7 minutes. Is this purposeful? If so, what’s the purpose?
Non Serviam: What is certain is that our main horizon is not strictly that of mathematics, even if its occult and unreasonable part can fascinate us. Indeed, there is necessarily symbolism and mystery in the way in which music presents itself and the different elements that surround it respond and resonate with each other, and adding meaning, even if it is disordered or unforeseen, to the music itself by observing them, certainly enriches it. Beyond the number, which itself refers to the question of proportions, a primordial question in all the arts, and which are directly linked, whether or not they are conceived in a mathematical manner, to the harmonies or disharmonies, balances or imbalances that one may wish to construct. It is certain that the duration, the time that a piece opens, then closes and the way in which the music measures it, in a certain way, in which it begins, unfolds and then returns to silence, is a compositional element that is far from negligible, and that is an integral part of the alchemy of a piece. Cryptography lovers will find solutions to this puzzle, perhaps.
HX: A quick look at your Bandcamp page shows that you are releasing under a Creative Commons – By Attribution/Noncommercial license. Tell me about your choice here, and what that means for readers who may not know.
Non Serviam: What we are interested in producing is music, not property, paperwork or rights, especially ‘copyright’ rights, which are always expressed in the form of prohibitions and exclusive appropriation of use (well before even providing a living…). It therefore seems normal to us to let, when we can, music live its life, which gains nothing from being monetised and controlled. Of course, this approach has its limits when music is caught up in more conventional production and distribution networks that have their own rules and impose them de facto.
HX: Musically, the album is an intelligent mix of such a wide variety of styles. What’s your thinking on blending such disparate elements as electronica and black metal, for example?
Non Serviam: Thanks for the compliment! The question of styles and their history is important to us and our music is made of the paths we have traced as listeners through some of them that fascinate us like extreme metal or any other kind of dark and intense music. But it would not occur to us to put the question of style as a precondition for the composition. This protean character that is often pointed out by critics about our music also comes from a way of composing, by layers, and by adding elements that, while coming from each other, can bring it into very varied stylistic universes, linked to our curiosity and to the possibilities of realization and to the physical and stylistic encounters that present themselves. It is certain that electronic music, because it corresponds to our way of composing, but also Black Metal, Punk/HC and Baroque music, because that is where we come from as listeners and musicians, have a particular importance and are found in one way or another in all our pieces, but we will never choose to lock the music in an exclusive identity box whose only object ultimately becomes to be recognised as faithfully participating in one style or another. We love music too much, and too many different kinds of music, to seek this kind of loyalty.
HX: As I understand it, Non Serviam is explicitly anarchist (solidarity). Talk about why that’s important in today’s world. What do you say to those who claim politics doesn’t belong in music?
Non Serviam: To be honest, we don’t think there is such a thing as “anarchist music”, or that anarchism has anything obvious to do with music, or that music needs politics to exist. But we make music with who we are, and we are revolutionary and anarchist. Certainly it’s noticeable in some aspects of our compositions, or in what we refer to. When we were asked to contribute to the compilation for Marius Mason and all the long-sentenced anarchist prisoners, we were honoured to contribute, and we can, whenever we have the opportunity, join in solidarity initiatives as we did recently in relation to trials in repression of a very offensive phase of the struggle against borders and prisons for undocumented migrants in France. But, even if it is not by chance or without regard for its history that we propose a cover of Inno Individualista, a traditional Italian anarchist song from the beginning of the 20th century, we do not think that the music of Non Serviam is “anarchist”. Some musical styles, such as punk, or Black Metal (and sometimes for the worse…) are intrinsically linked to a political context in which they were born and with which they developed. Obviously these links between music and subversion interest us and are, not for nothing, in some of our musical references.
Those who insist that politics and music have nothing to do with each other are always on the side of the worst of politics and of the refusal of this subversive heritage in which, on the contrary, we are part. Anything but this false indifference which generally hides the worst of complacency: music is not outside the world, and the best thing we can wish for our music is that it serves as a soundtrack to revolt.
HX: In what ways, without revealing too much and losing your anonymity, are you active outside of the music world ?
Non Serviam: The anonymity we have chosen also comes from the fact that we do not want to clutter the music with superfluous anecdotal details. If we want something that matters to us outside the musical world to be audible in it, it’s up to us to make it audible through the music itself, without having to add narratives or words to make it exist. We live in this shitty world in which we struggle and to which we are absolutely unwilling. We would only like to see and accelerate the total destruction of borders, prisons, and all forms of domination and exploitation, even when they claim to be “fair”, “supportive”, “safe” and leftist. So we can say that we are active in this, as much as we can, no more and no less than many others.
HX: Although the musical style is quite different, another favorite anarchist project (Louis Lingg and the Bombs) is based in Paris. Is there much collaboration between other anarchist musical projects in France?
Non Serviam: For various reasons, some of which are choices and others are a state of affairs, we are not part of a particular local scene. Whatever respect we may have for certain French bands, what is certain is that the collaborative projects we can or may have are guided neither by the fact that the bands are French, nor by the fact that they are “anarchists”. These meetings, some of which are underway, will be above all musical.
HX: The album art is stunning. Who designed it and how do you feel it represents the music?
Non Serviam: The artworks, which are different for each form of physical release (LP, CD and Cassette) are made by ourselves and it would not occur to us to do otherwise, except to imagine a specific collaboration resulting from a particular meeting between our musical universe and a graphic universe, but this is not what happened for Le Cœur Bat. In all three cases, the photographs of relics adorned with jewels exhibited in several churches in southern Germany at the end of the 16th century fascinated us with their grandiose melancholy, like representations of the derisory pride of a humanity seeking to reign from the back world of faith, beyond death itself. The striking images of these skeletons established as martyr-kings seeking to reign in vain over the living by a Catholicism then in need of conquering territory and enslaving new believers. We look at them as vanities that seem to us to be able to associate with a music that wants to resonate with the hearts that still beat in a mortifying world.
HX: What do you hope listeners take from this album?
Non Serviam: In no way would we want to exercise a royal right on the listening of our music that would decide what to retain from it. If we hope for anything, it would be that the album will meet with curious listeners, and we have feedback from sometimes far away in the world that indicates that this is happening, and that touches us enormously. Each time what is said about it surprises us and interests us, as much or even more than what we can say about it ourselves. We can hope that this album will live its own life by accompanying for a while the lives of singular individuals whom we would not otherwise have met, and that they will do what they want with it! What is often highlighted in the feedback we receive is an intensity and strangeness often linked by the listeners to the stylistic references mixed, associated, sometimes superimposed. Even if it doesn’t correspond to a conscious and precise project that would precede the composition of such or such a piece, sharing a certain subversion of stylistic identities delights us.
HX: What’s next for the project?
Non Serviam: Our way of functioning is very abundant and we always have many more compositions in gestation than we will be able to physically release. In this abundance, projects are gradually taking shape, and several are in the process of being finalised, including an album, a concept album and an EP, but it would be premature to say more at the moment.
HX: What else should we know?
Non Serviam: Since you’ve given us the opportunity, we’d like to express our disgust for certain current modes of distribution of musical content, even though we are and always will be absolutely in favour of the uncontrolled circulation of music. Compared to this non-negotiable aspiration, the false freedom of streaming, with its algorithmic system that does everything possible to ensure that the heavyweights of the market get even heavier and benefit from the listening of more underground or confidential content, is really crap. Far be it from us to crusade like Lars Ulrich against piracy: buy albums, pirate them as much as you want, but stop thinking you’re supporting the artists when you stream them on spotify or any of these cannibal platforms. Mediation of multinationals is not just about percentages taken away from bands, and those who are serious about supporting bands can find direct ways to do so, financial or otherwise.
Thank you for your questions and your interest!
Biography: Hayduke X has been writing for MoshPitNation since June of 2016. He is also a contributor to The Metal Wanderlust. Prior to joining the MoshPitNation team, Hayduke published reviews on his own blog Rage and Frustration. In addition, he has DJ’ed an online metal radio show of the same name as his blog, written for TOmetal.com, done interviews for Metal Rules, and collaborated with The Art of B Productions to create video interviews with a wide variety of bands.