This particular Ensemble, rather ironically, is just one man. French-born Canada-resident, Olivier Alary, started working under the title way back in 1998 with a view to mashing together melodic noise and disjointed pop. He wanted to run delicate musical movements into walls of sound. Eight years later, he might have just perfected his art.
To call this pop music could be stretching it. There's no sugary-sweetness or genre clichés. Sometimes there aren't even hooks, melodies or choruses. Still, this is infinitely listenable stuff. There are waves of rising, mutating radio hiss, there's chirping electronica, almost-folk arrangements and sharp string movements. It all adds to the rising clank of an odd orchestra that should sound cluttered and messy but knits together like some forgotten minimal Múm or Sigur Ros B-side.
There are plenty of guest vocalists here to make up the numbers too. Mileece makes Avary's skipping beats sound awfully close to the summery slop of Zero 7 but the ghostly intonations of Chan Marshall (of Cat Power fame) are fantastic and when Lou Barlow whispers and croons over 'One Kind, Two Minds' it's as good as any of the more alternative material Sufjan Stevens has put his name to.Elsewhere, track-long expanses of wind whistling and wave crashing add satisfyingly safe elements to this ethereal noise that might otherwise threaten to never let you back to Earth again.
Also appears at Rock Midgets.
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