“Often, to amuse themselves the men of the crew
Lay hold of the albatross, vast birds of the seas-
Who follow, sluggish companions of the voyage,
The ship gliding on the bitter gulfs.
Hardly have they placed them on the planks,
Than these kings of the azure, clumsy and shameful,
Let, piteously, their great wings in white,
Like oars, drag at their sides.
This winged traveler, how he is awkward and weak!
He, lately so handsome, how comic he is and uncomely!
Someone bothers his beak with a short pipe,
Another imitates, limping, the ill thing that flew!
The poet resembles the prince of the clouds
Who is friendly to the tempest and laughs at the bowman;
Banished to ground in the midst of hootings,
His wings, those of a giant, hinder him from walking.”
– Charles Baudelaire, “The Albatross”
“Often times, even the grammar and syntax are wrong, misspelled, disjointed, crookedly blurted out, cut-up — but this makes it more engaging, it leaves the writings open to interpretation and makes it more real for me.”
– Bernardino Femminielli
Metaphor is excess. It hulks, bulky and decadent, hustling to substitute the phenomenological with the alchemical, to condense. Baudelaire’s albatross — a mise en abyme of the metaphorical gesture — finds itself bloated with Symbolist indulgence, too chunky to fly.
As a sprawling endeavor, translation undertakes the transmutative crisscross of metaphor. And, like metaphor, translation rarely dislocates without leftovers, without glut. Take “checkmate,” for example: in French, an extra sign, an extra action materializes in the transfer. “Checkmate” transposes into “échec et mat” — or, as Bernardino Femminielli and Jesse Osborne-Lanthier would have it, Échec & Mat.
A recent communiqué from the pair declaims that “French is a suitable metaphor for the inability to understand metaphors,” and it’s not a surprise that Échec & Mat, the long-gestating full-length debut from the pair under Femminielli Noir nom de plume, is stylized in French, especially when the press release announcing its arrival is in English. The choice here discloses something ugly, something extra: Échec & Mat is unclean translation, cumbered with a curlicuing ampersand materializing during the process of transference, of translation, of metaphor. It’s precisely here, amid the space of deferral and condensation, where Femminielli and Osborne-Lanthier fianchetto, dilly-dally, pick at the tenuous chessboard they upend on Échec & Mat.
released June 16, 2017
All tracks composed, recorded and produced by Jesse Osborne-Lanthier and Bernardino Femminielli between 2013 and 2014.
Drums and percussions performed by Olivier Fairfield.
Mixed at Svengalisghost's studio in Paris in winter of 2015.
Mastered by Rashad Becker at Dubplates & Mastering Berlin.