Idiosyncrasies are both blessing and curse. In a certain light, they’re the purest expression of our existences: chaotic, marred by imperfections, irrational, beautiful and resilient all the same. Yves Jarvis knows this. His music is idiosyncratic neither by design or by chance; it just is. It mutates and shifts, as he does, through cycles and phases. Yves Jarvis’ new record, The Same But By Different Means, is a new cycle.
Yves Jarvis is itself a clean slate, a recasting of Montreal-based musician Jean-Sebastian Audet. Audet previously created under the name Un Blonde, a name which he says was, at one point, all he wanted. “I felt like I had found, finally, phonetically, the perfect project name with Un Blonde,” he says. “I thought it evoked the proper imagery for all the shit I wanted to do.”
But of course, things change. “Now I’m at a place where I feel like when I hear it, I don’t like it because I don’t identify with it at all,” he continues. “I knew I needed something that I could identify with.” Each aspect of Audet’s work is immensely personal, and Yves Jarvis reflects this literally. Yves is Audet’s middle name, while Jarvis is his mother’s last name.
With The Same But By Different Means, Audet continues to create music that is at once warm, haunting, and unfamiliar while remaining singularly inviting and kind—a mélange that reflects both comfort and its counterpart. Un Blonde’s 2017 LP Good Will Come To You was celebrated universally for those things that make Audet’s work compelling: careful folk noir, tender R&B flourishes, pillowy vocal beds that somehow seem to neither begin nor end, and a punkish ambivalence towards saccharine melodics that traditionally dominate the previous three structures.
These same qualities are present across The Same But By Different Means, a record that builds a delightful, imaginative framework from which to explore what it means to be Yves Jarvis. Songs on the record range from 14 seconds long to over eight minutes. The record’s title is itself a step further: with each new project, Audet adds a word to the title. “This year is my transition into Yves Jarvis where I’m not only widening the scope, but deepening the picture altogether.”
Each of his releases is informed and driven by a colour. It is both a visual and thematic leitmotif, a palette that reflects and refracts intentions. Good Will Come To You was yellow, which Audet cites as his favourite colour. It is, for him, the colour of the daytime. “I find the day so beautiful and something that I want to participate in,” he says.
Blue, the colour of The Same But By Different Means, is less endearing. “Blue is more so the colour that I think is imposed on me,” he remarks quietly. “Where the last record was the joy of the morning, and optimism, this record is the pain of the night before sleep. I find it so painful before sleep, and this midnight blue is what this whole world is. The night is just completely imposed and weighing so heavy, and this is a much more difficult realm to walk around in, texturally.”
“Fruits of Disillusion,” the record’s 12th track, inhabits this aura totally. “It still weighs so heavy on me/Still unfurling, ever unfurling,” he coos in a beautiful, breathy rasp before shakers and organ arrive like the promise of morning light. Audet says it’s the track that revealed what he was trying to get at. “That feeling exactly was really articulated when that track came together,” he says. “What it was, was just sweeping away that everything: getting rid of everything, and leaving that palette open, completely open, cycling.”
Meanwhile, “That Don’t Make It So,” offers an alternative. It starts to life with a stuttering bass groove and cheeky keys, over which Audet challenges in layered, slightly-staggered vocal harmonies, “Society has set that tone but that don’t make it so/Despite how it appears to you, that don’t make it true.” These are the only words in the song—it runs less than two minutes yet still manages to burst with beautiful horn melodies, mirrored by Audet’s voice and laced with record scratches. “What is comfortably hesitant in ‘Fruits of Disillusion’ is then really more enthusiastically leaned into,” he explains.
The second half of the record, he says, is unrest. “It’s unrest, but it’s that spectrum of unrest so there is meditation there. It’s not always chaos, but sometimes it is.”
This tonal discord extended to the physical process of creating the record, which spanned three years of stop-and-start capturing of sound, relinquishing of possible career paths, and demos both scrapped and salvaged. Audet’s gear is essential to his vision—they are the means. But his most prized equipment broke down frequently while he was recording. ”Everything falling apart, all the time,” he deadpans. This included a quarter-inch reel-to-reel tape machine which he used to capture and manipulate samples with the built-in echo. (Audet specifically sampled music so as to avoid working with other artists.) Audet’s attempts to fix it ended in him dropping a lighter in the machine, which is still there to this day. “It jingles around every time I turn it on,” he laughs. Idiosyncrasies reign supreme.
These constraints rear their heads on the record in various ways. “Time And Place” is a 40- second chant-and-stomp to shakers and a thumping drum. “Two things that’s here to say/Time and place,” Audet howls. He explains, “Where these constraints may weigh negatively on one’s sense of freedom, they’re also super significant in terms of allowing our aspirations to manifest. Time and place is just so significant in everything we do. This is such an important consideration and acknowledgment. These constraints allow for certain paths to be laid.”
“Talking Or Listening” comes near the end of The Same But By Different Means, a contemplative track that captures the dichotomy Audet hopes the record conveys. “You can’t
take the wheel just to prove something,” he croons. Later he queries, “Where is what I’m missing?/And which way there: is it talking or listening?” The track, like much of the record, is at once minimalist and maximalist: Audet’s voice, massive and layered, occupies the space above an ambient hum of organ and noise. The track closes with the sounds of a vehicle idling and accelerating alongside a cicada’s buzz.
Asked for a message he hopes his listeners receive, Audet simply says, “I really have to ask: talking or listening? That’s all I want to ask with anything I do now, I think. It’s this spectrum and it’s this dichotomy that I’m interested in exploring. Both sides of everything, and everything in between.”
Jean-Sebastian Audet presents Yves Jarvis. The same, but by different means.