Music Monday: Desert


An intoxicating tune for the urban nightscape.

I’ve always found it curious the relationships humans have with night. As a species, we seem to romanticize it, fear it, demonize it; we use night and day to polarize our decisions—we prefer light and fair to dark and hidden. But not everyone can run from it. Some live in it. Even then, there is resistance.

With neon, spotlights and loud music, the city seems to be at war with the night and its companions: sleep and silence. We shove them away, perhaps afraid of what hides there.

There’s an iconic image that comes to mind, of lazily waking up from a nap or a dream as a passenger in a car slowly trudging along the streets of the metro, and there is the resistance the strongest. There, only a bubble of glass and aluminum separates one from the sensory overload of the urban nightscape. If I were directing that movie, this is the song that would play:

Emilie Simon’s “Desert” appears in many forms, and all of them are incredible. Whether it’s with the dirty electric guitar serving as her rhythm, or a more electronic tone like this—the Thievery Corporation remix—there’s something in Emilie’s whispery voice that draws out that mischievous wonder; a taste of that feline-fatal curiosity, I suppose.

I’ve heard this song in yoga classes before. It’s sound is particularly home in evening or night classes, alongside other rhythmic ambient tracks, much like what’s found on the rest of the Thievery Corporation album, Versions, which is where I originally discovered this song.

Perhaps it’s a criticism, but I find it more of a characteristic in this case; this version of the song lacks any kind of clear border between the verses and the chorus; the sound blends together, as long, hot nights tend to do. The echo that was added to Emilie’s voice might add to this blending effect, and the result is quite intoxicating.

And “intoxicating” is just nightscape-speak for “relaxing.”

Voilà, c’est tout…

Photo: Kevin Poh/Flickr