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Camille - Le Fil

Camille, Le Fil

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

FRENCH singer-songwriter Camille Dalmais was initially known for her work on production team Nouvelle Vague’s bossa retreads of post-punk classics. But she broke away and made her solo debut album in 2003, to widespread acclaim.

Le Fil is the follow-up and it’s become something of a cult classic in France, where her distinct vocals have left listeners enthralled.

Camille adopts an experimental approach to her music that’s always interesting, even when failing. Of the 15 tracks that comprise Le Fil, most leave an impression and force you to have an opinion.

The most distinctive thing about it is undoubtedly Camille’s voice, which has been rightly likened by some to Bjork’s equally emphatic tones. At turns girlish, at others sultry, occasionally pensive and almost always playful, the singer sets her vocals against a backdrop of music that’s inspired by both French and African influences.

More often than not, the instrumentation is sparse, despite drawing on hand claps, synth, trombone, bass and guitar. But it knows where its biggest asset lies and isn’t afraid to put it centre-stage.

From the quiet intake of breath that sets things going on the quirky opening track, La Jeune Fille Aux Cheveux Blancs the album immediately hooks you with its unique flavour. The song is set against mostly vocal harmonies that lend it a seductively quality, especially when allowing it to wonder into some delightful highs.

It then comes over extremely hip for the stripped down Ta Douleur, with its hand-clap beat and low-key bass that’s virtually guaranteed to have you shuffling along with it. An album highlight, it shows that music can still surprise and venture into new territories without necessarily alienating the mainstream. It’s due to become a single and really ought to broaden the singer’s appeal.

The African influence is evident on the similarly upbeat Assise, while tracks like Vous dazzle with their vocal dexterity, offsetting one set of vocal harmonies against another, while dropping those distinct, almost child-like vocals.

Occasionally, the album becomes more expansive, as in Baby Carni Bird, which even dares to include some English lyrics and more pronounced instrumentation, but this only makes it more enchanting, especially when including more of those interwoven harmonies.

Indeed, the album only mis-steps occasionally, veering into territories that feel overly experimental and nowhere near as blissful or satisfying as the long-player at its simplest and best (such as Janine III). But it’s a small price to pay for what will surely become one of the year’s most unique listening experiences and which should catapult Camille into an altogether different limelight. If nothing else, fans seeking an alternative form of chillout will find plenty to soothe them here.

Track listing:

  1. La Jeune Fille Aux Cheveux Blancs
  2. Ta Douleur
  3. Assise
  4. Janine 1
  5. Vous
  6. Baby Carni Bird
  7. Pour Que L’amour Me Quitte
  8. Senza
  9. Janine 2
  10. Vertige
  11. Au Port
  12. Janine 3
  13. Pale Septembre
  14. La Rue De M’nilmontant
  15. Quand Je Marche (Nouvelle Version)
  16. Femme Libe