"Every day includes more non-being than being. Yesterday for example . . . has it happened a good day; above the average in ‘being.’ It [the weather] was the fine; I enjoyed writing these first pages; . . . I walked over Mount Misery and along the river; and save that the tide was out, the country, which I notice very closely always, was coloured and shaded as I like—there were the willows, I remember, all plumy and soft green and purple against the blue. I also read Chaucer with pleasure; and began a book—the memoirs of Madamede la Fayette—which interested me. These separate moments of being were however embedded in many more moments of non-being. I have already forgotten what Leonard and I talked about at lunch; and at tea; although it was a good day the goodness was embedded in a kind of nondescript cotton. . . . The real novelist can somehow convey both sorts of being. I think Jane Austen can, and Trollope; perhaps Thackeray and Dickens and Tolstoy. I have never been able to do both."
Like Virginia Woolf, Bibio's "A tout à l'heure" (from 2013 Silver Wilkinson album) is focused on those rare, elusive 'moment of being', that memorable moment of heightened sensitivity that contrasts with all the other mundane, everyday, unremarkable moments that make up most of our daily existence.
This French phrase literally translates to 'see you later', but as Miles Bowles of Stereogum notes, it actually bears a more elusive meaning: "a brief moment in time, but what’s fascinating about the phrase is that it doesn’t specify if it’s a moment just passed or a moment about to occur. In fact it can be either, but in both cases it is something fleeting. Ahead of us, behind us, rarely do we appreciate the moment we are in".
As Stephen Wilkinson revealed in a Facebook note, the track was conceived on an especially sunny day (which is all the more precious when you're living with an English climate); it succeeds in capturing that ephemeral, subtly transcendent moment of elation caused by unexpected 'ordinary' pleasures. The song evokes that rare moment where you're just happy to be alive, where all your attention is focused on the present moment:
"Count in threes, count in fives, see the buckled wheel and the merry-go-rounding
Spin your arms, spin your eyes, ever mindfully, ever carefully breezing
Count within and count without, feel the bellowing and the diaphragm flexing
Let it drop and let it bounce, count in melodies and the gravity breathing"
There's also a suggestion of a private moment of shared intimacy between the lyrical persona and the listener: 'À tout à l'heure/ à tout à l'heure/ when you lift your soles/ and you know it's me smiling'.
Besides Wilkinson's usual folktronica influences, the track also utilizes the sounds of garden shears and a watering can (although not in an obvious manner); the combination of "lovely acoustic arpeggios, chock-a-block percussion and Stephen Wilkinson's calm, drowsy vocals" (Pitchfork, 2013) work brilliantly together to evocate that elusive, fleeting moment of being that we look forward to reliving each day.