Shortlist shortcut to Ouri's Frame of a Fauna

'Ossature' provides the framework for the whole album.

'Ossature' provides the framework for the whole album

Ouri's debut albume, Frame of a Fauna, is on the 2022 Polaris Music Prize short list. (Lian Benoit; graphic by CBC Music)

To help music fans get to know the 10 Polaris Music Prize-nominated albums, CBC Music presents the Shortlist Shortcut series. Every week, we will ask a nominated artist for a recommended track off their shortlisted record. Perhaps it's a song that best represents the themes on the album, or maybe it's the most important, difficult or rewarding song they wrote. The question was left to the artist to interpret, but the hope is that the selected track will give us a pathway into their work. 

In the seventh instalment of this series, we spoke with Montreal-based producer, singer and instrumentalist Ouri, who received her first Polaris short list nomination for her debut album.

Frame of a Fauna is an album of confounding rhythmic structures and freeing spareness. 

Blending Ourielle Auvé's classically trained ear with her penchant for industrial and experimental electronic music, the songs defy expectation and simple classification. 

The best way to enter Ouri's sonic landscape is to be armed with a willingness to go deep into your own psyche. This is an album built for the dark, for introspective nights where the air stands still and you can find clarity in your isolation. That's intentional. The Montreal-based producer, singer and instrumentalist can't help her natural tendency to create music for "insular moments."

The journey opens with "Ossature," a spellbinding collection of starts and stops, whizzing synths, ringing bells, string breakdowns and a layered chorus of Ouri's spectral voice. 

"Ossature" was the first song she wrote for the album. "When I found the first notes, and I found the opening sample ("Intact Alef" by PTU), I started to have this view of the album as a whole," said Ouri in an interview over Zoom. "I started thinking about the orchestral structures and textures that I wanted to bring in with more of the modern twist." 

The sample of "Intact Alef" can be heard at the beginning of the track. The jarring cacophony of the original has been mellowed out, but the sporadic nature of sounds jumping in and out  remains. 

"Ossature" translates to skeleton and just as a skeleton acts as a frame to hold the human body together, the song is a framework that contains all the elements and instruments (other than the harp) that will be on display later in the album. 

Throughout Frame of a Fauna cello, piano, xylophone, harp and more instruments intermingle with drum machines, synthesizers and found samples. The album was produced between London, Berlin, Montreal and a remote part of Brazil. Ouri would hunker down in the cities where she knew no one and just pour herself into the work.  As isolationist as her process is, she worked with a number of collaborators on the album, including Mind Bath, mobilegirl and Antony Carle.

When Ouri moved to Montreal from Paris to study composition at 16, she became embedded in the city's rave and dance music scenes. One of the reasons she gravitated to those forms of musical creation was that she was enthralled by the way timbre was explored in electronic music and how it differed from classical. 

"I don't always love the timbre exploration in classical music. I wanted to find a more subtle way to bring it in, sometimes it can just be so expressive that it's too much and there's no place for you to bring your own emotions."

Space for personal emotions is rampant throughout the album's 14 tracks. It's full of subtlety, musical phrases melt into each other and metamorphize rather than abruptly changing, like you're being coaxed along on the journey. In part, it's informed by Ouri's circumstances while writing "Ossature" in London, when her sister was pregnant. Ouri felt like she was stagnating in Montreal and packed her bags, her cello and a bunch of gear and headed to London and Berlin for two months. The approaching birth of her nephew was an inspiration in her writing process and maternal love is a theme that permeates the entire album.

Ouri's own mother passed away as she was finishing the album and she wrote "Shape of It," "En Mon Doux Sein," and "Grip" with her in mind. Her mother is the person who pushed her to pursue music, but ironically as she wrote the songs she knew her mother wouldn't enjoy them. "It was a bit weird. I was making songs for her, just so inspired by her and I knew she doesn't like electronic music or experimental approaches to art." 

Complex power dynamics between people make their way into her lyricism on "Ossature" and other songs on the album. "There's a lot of looking up to someone and also being afraid of the force that that person holds towards you."