BlackBook Premiere: Exuberant New Chrystabell Single ‘Breathe Into Euphoria’

Images by Mathieu Bitton

Euphoria has been in short supply for the last nineteen months, nudged decisively out of our lives by anxiety, uncertainty, and at best an occasional bit of relief at just having survived another day. Even now, as the vaccine programs have proven significantly effective against the COVID virus, the best we can really hope for is, well…cautious optimism.

But we need euphoria more than ever right now, as we face up to the calendar ticking over to yet another year in which said virus will still be a part of our daily lives. And for as long as we can recall, there have been few more reliable paths to conjuring feelings of elation than through music. So the timing of the new Chrystabell single ‘Breath Into Euphoria’ – which BlackBook enthusiastically premieres here – was nothing short of urgent.

The ethereal songstress and long time muse to David Lynch recently collaborated with Nouvelle Vague’s Marc Collin on a revelatory Cure covers project, Strange As Angels, which was released this past June. But she has spent most of the last year-and-a-half writing and recording what will surely be a career-defining new concept album, intriguingly titled Midnight Star (due out this coming January via the groundbreaking Love Conquered Records). And ‘Breathe…’ hints at not only a new musical direction for her, but perhaps a whole new level of philosophical consciousness.

To be sure, the lyrics seem to be offering a genuinely enlightened way forward in such troubled times as these: “Learn the ways of love / Heaven opens up / Breathe into euphoria / When shadows fall again”

Musically, though Chrystabell has in the past made a signature of her haunted, evocative balladry, the new track gleefully draws on the enduring tenets of ’80s synth-pop, landing ultimately somewhere between Kate Bush and Nina Hagen – yet also sounding somehow spot on for 2021. And considering she’s entering almost entirely new sonic territory, she has never seemed more confident or self-possessed in her delivery.

In the lead up to the release, we engaged her on just what it all means.

What is meant by the title ‘Breathe Into Euphoria’?

Euphoria is pure elation and exhilaration with a deep sense of well being. We think we have to chase it, but we’re already there. The problem is a million little things block our access. And then, something happens. You get a taste. That taste is so sweet.

The song is about savoring that taste, the moment a personal breakthrough has been achieved, no matter how seemingly small, letting it flood you, and building on it. It’s about easing up on the heaviness of life by being generous in acts of love for yourself and those around you. We think it has to be hard to reach Heaven on Earth, but it’s easy. It’s so easy it’s hard. We’re taught to struggle. The struggle is real, the struggle is familiar. But it’s not the point of life. We’re all gonna die, it’s not an end, it’s just a change. Less thinking, more dancing. 

The track has an almost cabaret vibe – were you deliberately trying to push yourself musically into new territory?

Oh, space cabaret! I love that take. I was pushing myself in every way I could within the container of making a soundtrack for a glamo-futurist TV show that exists somewhere in the spirals of time. The focus was on making melodies stronger and stronger, I wanted to rev the engine, take sharp corners that eventually soar into the chorus. The verses of this song were pushing myself to sound a little tougher than my usual dreamier quality, and at first I wasn’t sure about it. But the darker intensity of the verse really played well with the lift and buoyancy of the chorus; so I sat with it and eventually I really liked the new shades I was hearing in my own delivery.

You’re also using a lot more electronics – what inspired that decision?

A contrast that was really appealing to me and my songwriting partner/producer Christopher Smart was digital coolness versus the deep warmth and intimacy of my voice. Man and machine. This record has the quality of air and effervescence, and the intention is to lead the listener to “steps of light, beyond the ladder.” The sonic palate that got us there was electrified. 

What is the concept behind ‘Midnight Star’?

It’s a trip to the innermost parts of the being by way of outer space. Midnight Star the album is the soundtrack to Midnight Star the character’s adventures through the cosmos during various lifetimes as an intergalactic spy, space-age disco artist, dandy in France at the turn of the 20th century, etc. Midnight Star’s explorations into the Universe ultimately illuminate the darkest secrets within. It’s a hero’s journey presented in sci-fi cabaret. 

What do you think will most surprise people about the new album?

Probably that it’s rather audacious to say the least. Its absurdity is erotic to me, I’ve never allowed myself to dream so big. My aspirations for Midnight Star are immense because I get to go on the adventure with a character I relate to and admire. Within the spirals of the Infinite Now, Midnight Star’s time has come, and I’m ready too. From trains to rockets, and what could be next?

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