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Camille - Music Hole

Camille, Music Hole

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

YOU have to admire the ambition and talent of French singer Camille, even if elements of her third album Music Hole don’t necessarily work out for the best.

It’s an adventurous mix of styles that are delivered with layered vocals and beat-boxed textures that look to build on the success of the 500,000-selling Le Fil, the sophomore effort that really got her noticed.

Or, in her own words, it’s a mix of “the storytelling, chansons feel from musicals with something more tribal: body percussions, minimalist trance, sub bass and throat singing”. If you think that sounds ambitious, it is. If you think it sounds an odd mix, it is at times. But if you want to give it a try, there’s plenty to admire.

The album, perhaps wisely, opens with the infectious lead single Gospel With No Lord, a genuinely catchy brew of beatbox vocals, finger clicks and seductive French vocals. But it’s immediately striking that Camille is mixing French with English, a ploy that helps to make the album as a whole more accessible than her previous work. It’s effortlessly cool and really quite different.

Cannards Sauvages continues the positive vibe with an even more urgent beatbox backing that’s perfectly offset by some playfully breathy vocals, while Home Is Where It Hurts drops a hip-hop influenced back beat to boost the beatboxing, as well as some measured piano chords that contribute to one of my favourite tracks. Camille’s vocals are also at their most forceful and striking, and it’s good to hear her being stretched.

Thereafter, however, the album widens the scope of its musical influences and has more trouble engaging.

Kfir begins with the type of laidback vibe that Bobby McFerrin styled a career around, before dropping another moody backbeat and some sassy vocals, but The Monk is an example of the LP at its most musical and operatic. Camille’s vocals soar like a soprano to begin with, then drop some layered melodies a la Imogen Heap, before mixing both styles to unusual effect. The overall result is both intoxicating and frustrating – and the indulgence is way too long at almost seven minutes.

Cats And Dogs is more “chanson”-style and another misfire, Money Note picks up the pace with a more disco vibe but also feels overlong at over six minutes, and Katie’s Tea is kooky and intricately layered but not as successful as some of the earlier tracks, particularly during the expansive chorus.

But there’s a haunting, ethereal vibe surrounding the epic Winter Child that brings things back from the brink of turn-off, while Waves is as moody and magnificent as the sea itself, reaching several crashing vocal highs that underline her individual talent.

Final track Sanges Sweet rounds things off in some style with some beautifully melancholy piano underpinning the sweet vocals. It’s a song that you feel is tailor-made for radio and which employs more pop sensibilities than normal, but if it helps to bring more listeners to the album, then it’s no more than Camille deserves.

For no matter how many reservations you have about certain aspects of proceedings, you have to credit Camille with having the guts to offer something different – and quite often brilliantly so. Music Hole is worth hearing for its highlights alone.

Download picks: Gospel With No Lord, Cannards Sauvages, Home Is Where It Hurts, Winter Child, Sanges Sweet

Track listing:

  1. Gospel With No Lord
  2. Canards Sauvages
  3. Home Is Where It Hurts
  4. Kfir
  5. Monk
  6. Cats And Dogs
  7. Money Note
  8. Katie’s Tea
  9. Winter Child
  10. Waves
  11. Sanges Sweet