20150208 Robi ArtworkChloé Robineau’s debut album “L’hiver et la Joie” – a stunningly atmospheric and at times dark and brooding, minimalist indie-pop album populated with synth keyboards and throbbing basslines – deservedly featured amongst 2013’s year-listed albums. And now a couple of years later Chloé – or Robi – as she is better known, is back with a brand new album “La Cavale”, that from the opening bars of “L’éternité” reveals a collection of songs which share the same dark and brooding themes as its predecessor and is again populated with minimalist synthesiser keyboards, stark bass lines and Robi’s deliberately monotonic yet hypnotically seductive vocals.

Yet you also start to notice the subtle changes that Robi manages to convey to the song with just some deft inflections to her voice, added guitar, cello and what sounds like orchestral horns (but which I suspect is just programmation) that provide both added substance and an analogue mellowness; the inherent coldness and unforgivingness of industrial synth-pop is replaced by a yielding warmth. Indeed, while the overall tone of this album is decidedly melancholic there are also some very clever touches displayed here -an unexpected sensuality to Robi’s voice on “Nuit de fête” that is expertly framed by the song’s melody, while “Danser” oozes romance and passion – a solitary spotlight following two dancers as they pirouette across a deserted dance floor.

The more that I’ve been listening to this album over the past week, so I’m convinced that “La Cavale” shares a kindred spirit with La Féline’s “Adieu L’Enface” and nowhere more so than with the haunting “A cet endroit” with its heavily reverbed guitar, analogue synths and melodic chorus.

“La Cavale” is a totally captivating and assured album, perfect for driving along a desolate two-lane flat top, searing headlights illuminating the dark, waiting for the moment daylight rescues us from the night’s grasp…

La Féline

20141217 La Feline ArtworkSo I’d already drafted my album of the year when I recalled a post concerning Agnès Gayraud’s project La Féline. The EP in question, “Adieu l’enfance”, had recently morphed into a full-blown album, so I gave it a metaphorical spin… And the more I listened the more there was this nagging voice in the back of my head that kept telling me that this was a truly gr-r-eat album…

“Adieu l’enfance” is the most intoxicating mix of eighties-influenced dreamy electronic synth-pop, guitar-tinged indie-pop all mixed with spell-binding vocals; “Les fashionistes (au loin)”, outwardly a wry observation on the ‘sameness’ of the fashion police but actually that of the world viewed from the perception of the alienated outsider. The song’s hypnotic beat and Agnès’ breathless vocal style create a compelling soundtrack of a disturbingly dystopian landscape…

“La ligne d’horizon” features the most dreamy synth pop rhythms – complete with a haunting trumpet refrain with a touch of cello that add extra depth and poignancy to the coda; The album’s title track kicks-off with looped-vocals and the most gorgeous of synth-pop rhythms. The vocals are breathless – spellbinding – the chorus is uplifting – a song that does not so much regret the passing of a childhood moment as rejoice; “Zone”, with the must exhilarating – pounding – industrial synth soundtrack, that about half-way through seamlessly transformed into an indie-rock song.

Guitar-fuelled indie rock gets an airing with “Midnight”, a song that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on The Cure’s “Seventeen Seconds”; the beguiling a cappella “Rêve de Verre”, a resplendent multi-dubbed choir and a hymn to the loss of innocence and “La fumée dans le ciel” complete with gorgeous vibrato guitar that transports you back to the sixties (‘retromania’ as Agnès might say?)

The overall effect of this album is to create a succession of timeless song which expertly blended the familiar with the yet to be discovered. Indeed, the whole raison d’être of the album is captured by “Moderne”; melancholic and thoughtful, a manifesto to the belief that ‘new’ is in fact ‘old’ and newness is just a reinvention of the past. (Agnès touches upon the idea of ‘modern is old’ in the pages of her fascinating blog “Moderne, c’est déjà vieux” (“Modern it’s Already Old”).

“Adieu l’enfance” is, upon reflection, too good an album to pass up…

Under the Radar 5: La Féline

Le roi a fait battre tambour is a French song from the 17th Century (writer unknown), from the Saintonge region. The song is either about Louis XIV, the Sun King, and the death of one of his mistresses, or the poisoning of a mistress of king Henry IV. It was recorded by many, many artists: Edith Piaf, Yves Montand, Anne Sylvestre and Nana Mouskouri. And by trio La Féline, Agnes, Xavier and Stephane, who are named after the 1942 movie La Féline. The trio released two EP’s this year. La Féline was featured on this blog (see here), but somehow we’ve missed those releases. The Echo EP, featuring Le roi a fait battre tambour, contains more covers: Julee Cruise’s Into the Night and John Leyton’s Johnny Remember Me. Plus a reworked La Féline original. Songs about death, references to Twin Peaks, Joe Meek-productions; you’ll get the atmospherics, don’t you? Dim the lights, goth up your dress, sway with La Féline.

La Féline – Le roi a fait battre tambour

La Féline

La Féline is a French trio, led by singer Agnes Gayraud, that won the2009 edition of the En français dans le text-bandcontest from Discograph Records. They had strong competition (from Maelis, for instance). The video for their great song Mystery Train (an English title, but sung in French) was just released.  La Féline released four EP’s so far. The bandcontest for this year is already in it’s final stage. This contestant sounds and looks good. And I like the voice of this girl.

La Féline – Mystery train