Classical – In all senses

Ensemble – Excerpts

The Skinny: The thin line between French Pop and Classical Music.

The Review proper: Awesome bilingual music.

What makes music be classified as “classical music”? Is “chamber pop” the illegitimate child of classical music?

All good questions, but they are all part of another rant. Now, let’s concentrate on Ensemble and their newest album, Excerpts.

Right off the bat, kudos to Olivier Alary for being the driving force of this project. Sure, he has some collaborators, but this is quite an epic album that deftly changes idioms. By this, I don’t only mean the genre-swapping (something that gets a good grade with us at Sloucher) but also the language switch:  Excerpts goes back and forth between English and French.

‘Les saisons viennent’ is a nice, relaxing song in that language I will never get round to learn, but like listening to. I can only understand a “très bien” and that sums up this song for me. Equally relaxing (and flirting with ambient) is ‘Imprints’, an extremely sweet song that helps out to survive some rather bleak songs (more about that later).

‘Things I forget’ is quite epic, suckerpunching you into believing it will all be a nice ride. But it won’t. A frantic conversation with voices overlapping (like a Robert Altman film) and a wild feedback mark the second half of this song. On the rosier side, there’s ‘En attendant l’orage’, where a dreamy, almost droning acoustic guitar carries the song to so many places that you need to re-listen to it. What a wonderful wall-of-sound is achieved in this gem of a track.

Even if there’s a defined sound (sort of) in Excerpts, there’s a few surprises thrown in. ‘November 22nd‘ is a haunting, a cappella song ending with an ambulance siren and the desolate sound of city traffic. What is it about? ‘Mirages’ follows, solving no questions arising from ‘November 22nd‘, but still keeping an almost cinematic essence around (all about that string section in the later half of the song).

‘Excerpts’ (the song) might be the Yang to ‘En attendant l’orange’ Yin. Same feel, but less threatening. ‘Valse des objets trouves’ goes for a violin played in Vals tempo while playing with some strange, ambient noises in the back. The sound of a unseen film, in a nervous breakdown scene? Could very well be. It’s another haunting ditty in a marvellous album that manages to switch from homely to horrifying. Good thing is that ‘Imprints’ follow and that song is a very warm hug. Lovely.

‘Envies d’avalanches’ is brisky and quite powerful (chamber-speed pop?). Again, the one man band that is Olivier Alary makes a song that has a feel of urgency, keeping the adrenaline pumping until the last breath. A resonating end too, where the cacophony leads into a haunting echo that (again with the film analogies) sounds like the abrupt end of a film.

Cue the end credits and a soothing song. This is the time for ‘Before night’, the swan song of Excerpts. The smell of stale butter rises, you struggle to get off from the sticky seats at the multiplex and go back home, thinking about the whole film experience, bottled up in one album. So, lessons learnt by listening to Ensemble‘s excruciatingly great album Excerpts?

a) Learn French. Pronto.

b) Re-listen to this album. It deserves to.

c) This music could be the soundtrack for a film. Somebody film it.

But don’t let my gush affect your opinion, check the album in Spotify. It’s very well worth your time if you love albums with soul and atmosphere.



Website. Facebook. Myspace. Spotify. Website (old version).

About the author: If he had a camera and a couple of actors, he’d totally film a short with this music in the background.

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