Dancing the Pain Away: Tako Tsubo by L’Imperatrice

L’Imperatrice explore all the stages of brokenhearted syndrome as they make ways in and out of life’s octopus trap.

By: Sun Noor

It is quite evident that a lot has changed since the band unveiled their debut record Matahari three years ago. The world has even undergone drastic changes since L’Imperatrice released a completed body of work. Embarked on various journeys through touring extensively, honing their ability to mesh different textures in music together, creating the perfect transitions within those soundscapes. Each instrumental arrangement manages to shine on each of their tracks. With Tako Tsubo, the band creates a contrasting effect with somber lyrics paired with upbeat music.

In terms of the production, the band collaborated with Renaud Letang who is known for his work with Lianne La Havas and Feist as well as Neal Pogue who has notably mixed and mastered records with Stevie Wonder and Outkast. L’Imperatrice also moved from creating compositions in the style of French chanson by exploring a more freeform structure and a rhythmic and syncopated approach.

Tako Tsubo presents a contrast within the band’s discography, given that the tone and themes explored revolve around heartbreak. Matahari on he other hand was more of a romantic record. With Tako Tsubo, the themes explored such as love, sentiments of loss, moving on are more anchored in realty. The inspiration for the record’s name comes from the temporary heart condition called takotsubo cardiomyopathy or broken heart syndrome, which is triggered by both physical and emotional stress and burnout. Tako Tsubo also translates to octopus trap in Japanese as he term is coined from the notion of the heart’s main pumping chamber undergoing emotional distress and entering what appears to resemble an octopus trap. Throughout this record, L’Imperatrice explore the various stages of broken heart syndrome through songs that evoke the sentiments of euphoria, sorrow, madness, uncertainty in love through various dissimilar lenses.

Tako Tsubo album art by  Ugo Bienvenu

The record commences with “Anomalie Bleue” a lushious composition equivalent to love at first sight as the bass-heavy instrumental arrangements slowly build up to an attack with glittering and layered synths fading into the next track. The colour blue appears as a recurring motif throughout Tako Tsubo in both a melancholic and calming manner. L’Imperatrice continue to pair the introspective lyrics with eclectic instrumentals. “Fou,” is a soulful and funky number with G-funk undertones that encapsulates peak takotsubo syndrome with the various metaphors explaining the freedoms of loosing control. Vocalist Flore Benguigui sings, “Tout est plus facile quand on devient fou,” which translates to things being easier to handle when approached in a crazy manner. “Co-written by musician Fils Cara, “Hématome this track reflects on the pains of love through a slightly melancholic yet ultra vivid lens. “Submarine” present the record’s more calmer and cinematic moments and is their most recent track, given the lockdown reference. It questions the desire to constantly be happy and project that sentiment onto others online. The band reflects on the agonizing and debilitating affect of putting on a fake happy persona and celebrate fragility. Acceptance might even be the sole way of coping with broken hearted syndrome.

The second half of Tako Tsubo is much more upbeat and reminiscent of the golden age of disco in the 70s. “Off to the Side” consists of amplified layered vocals, ornamentation and vibrant staccato synths comparable to the beloved compositions of Giorgio Moroder and Donna Summer. “Peur des Filles” consists of an ode to femininity while tackling the issues of misogyny in a descriptive manner. My favourite track off the record is undoubtedly “Souffle au Coeur” a dynamic three-minute instrumental piece that plays out as a musical journey as it starts off with subtle keys before bass, guitar and percussion elements are introduced into the mix. The arrangements gradually build up halfway before the attack is presented with various synth elements and heavy bass fading into the title track, which is the most melancholic moment on the album. The last few tracks of the album take on a calmer tone, moving past the melancholic tone. “Digital Sunsets” consists of a lushious ballad with a retrofuturist production. The album closes out with a rendition of Michel Berger’s “Tant d’amour perdue,” a ballad about a love that has been lost, which is quite fitting.

Tako Tsubo is a viceral and reflective record that expresses how acceptance is often the only means to awakening and closing out the traumatic chapters in life.

Download/Stream Tako Tsubo here

Watch the video for “Hématome” below:

 Header photo by Théo Gosselin

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