Advantages Wow. It's amazing.
Disadvantages Closed-minded people may miss out! - It's in French.
|Quality and consistency of tracks|
|Cover / Inlay Design and Content|
|Value for Money|
|How does it compare to the artist's other releases||Outstanding|
|How does it rate alongside the competition||Outstanding|
For my first music review, I'm jumping straight in at the deep end with world music. It's not an easy task, but I want to do it anyway, to attempt to smash up the "world" music category.After all, what is world music? It's that tiny section in the corner of HMV. That musical wasteland. No-one ever strays in, but once in, you can never, ever leave.
Of course, there are no man-eating sharks in World Music, but there is the pull of the exotic that engulfs people who get too close, enticing them with new sounds, and making them cry hot tears at having wasted so many years over in Hip Hop.Am I being overly dramatic? I think not. Disproportionately to its physical size, World Music is huge. Think about it: think about the selection of music and artists in the English-Speaking world, and then multiply that by the number of other languages. A huge number of artists, and by the rules of probability, a good number of those must be up to scratch.
But how many are ever played on the radio? Next to zero. Songs that aren't in English just don't seem to hold any appeal to us English speakers.But why? Think about it: how many songs do you listen to in which the words are lost in the whining/grunting/gurning/crooning of the artist? Lots. And how many English language songs are exported to and sung along to by people who can't speak a word of our mother tongue? Yet more.
Essentially, the words of a song aren't always the be-all and end-all. More usually, it's the tone of voice that conveys the emotion.And yet thousands of singers from all over the world, singing in hundreds of different genres, all get clumped together in the tiny tiny World Music section.
So here I am, writing about a record I found in the mainstream section of a foreign music shop, where the concept of World Music just doesn't seem to exist.This record is entitled "Je Dis Aime", which means "I say love", but like several of his albums, the title is a pun on his name - "M". M is short for Mathieu, and of course it sounds the same as the word "aime".
I first heard some of the fifteen songs on this album whilst sitting dejectedly in the train station in Paris, after having been sent home from work at six am for having inadvertently turned up on my day off. Blast.But I asked my companion who was singing, and I was told "M". You can imagine the confusion that ensued -
Mathieu has a wonderfully rich, yet delicate voice, which conveys such a lot of emotion, that the meaning of the words is unnecessary.Monde Virtuel.
This funk/pop track begins the album, and is one of my favourites. The vocals are exciting and rich, and bounce and vibrate and weave in beautifully with a strong beat and stronger guitar. All is topped off with interesting percussion that makes the whole song feel thoroughly different to many British groups, who often prefer to stick with guitar/bass/drums/vocals without further experimentation. I really feel that this track was chosen to introduce the listener to Mathieu's personality from an early stage. It is eccentric and upbeat. This is definitely a driving song for me. The lyrics, just in case you were wondering, talk of his feelings of living in a virtual world.Je Dis Aime.
The title track has the strongest start of any of the songs on the album. Boom - drums and violins get you moving with another funky tune, but with more of a serious feel to it. Guitars pick beautifully and with a definite funk-flavour around the lyrics before rearing up like a wild horse, seemingly stretching the strings with the wobble key-thingy as far as they'll go, following the vocals which stretch up and down the scale amazingly, sounding like some wonderful high. Drums flutter and slam, and the vocals tell of
" I say love / "M"
like an emblem
I throw away the hatred / "N" " (puns on the French words for hatred and love and the letters N and M"
Onde SensuelleAnother very funky track, with guitar noises I have never heard anywhere else. Here, Mathieu shows himself as a true artist - an experimentalist. What I love particularly is the way in which he really makes the most of his voice, adding so much expression and interest. He also hums a lot - I don't mean regular humming - he REALLY hums, using his voice as a real instrument, varying the openness of the mouth and experimenting with the infinite sound possibilities. This really conveys the meaning of the words, which talk about the sensual wave that gives him wings to make him fly.
A celle qui dure.Again, a fantastic track with a strong start and a heavy funk beat. I adore the drummer in this one; he really seems to show off, stopping and starting, playing with rhythm, using the cymbals interestingly. Again, vocals take the listener higher in a type of music I can't compare to any thing I've ever heard in Britain.
Faut Oublier.Slower, and with more humming. Less of a funk style, and seemingly sadder without even needing the words. But the words are sad, and they are used to give a beautiful sound to the piece. He sings of the dungeons of his sad mentality, and his voice floats around the lyrical meaning, giving emotional interpretation and seemingly screaming in sadness. Powerful stuff.
Le Festival De ConnesBasically, this extremely funky piece is ripping it out of the Cannes festival - renaming it the idiot festival! Excitingly in this track, the kazoo plays a starring role - something most of us abandoned the day we left junior school. Surprisingly difficult to remaster (I recently shamed myself)! But silly as it may sound, the kazoo sounds great here.
Le Mec Hamac"The hammock guy". Lovely, lovely lovely musical start. Fascinating guitars and synthesized sounds open this. Beautiful simple, natural acoustic guitar work throughout, and an amazing vocal sound that I can only describe as a whine - but which feels like a ride on a cloud. (Maybe I've listened too much!!!)
Close To MeAhhh, the obligatory English track? No, it's in French, apart from that one line. But it's punchy, zippy and fast, with fun synthesizer riffs and many more experimental vocals.
Emilie 1000 VoltsAbout an electrical girl, one assumes. Quite salsa-like in style, but less Spanishy more Frenchy. Stops and starts on the drums and what sounds like a wobble board in places give this a very individual flavour. Again, the guitar strings are bent and played with, and the whole effect is very rich and strong. The fact that it includes the name Milouchka gets it my thumbs up.
Qui Est Le Plus Fragile?Not my favourite, but still very good, this sadder track involves mournful percussion and strings. The beauty of the French language really comes across in this song.
Le Complexe Du Corn Flakes......riiiiight....... well seemingly he has a complex about breakfast cereal and pop corn. A weird start, musically speaking, but after fifty five seconds, it gets going, and we find out that the song is really about yanks ("Ricans"). Great heavy drumming, and yet another style of vocals - this time Mathieu sounds bored and tired, slurring the words yet all the while giving his all.
Au Lieu Du CrimeThis is an interesting track, packed with sound bytes. Everything is done to give the track a suspicious, uneasy feel: it feels like it's out of an old crime film. I love the vocals and apical Rs.
BonobooTotally different to every other track, but again very funky. Mentions Lucy the Australopithecus afarensis. Very cool.
Le Commun Des MotelsA funky instrumental, seemingly played on an electric organ dating from nineteen-seventy-whenever. Sexy and sleek.
Bonus Track - Mama SamUp beat and bouncy, this tsst-ta-ta-tsst-tsst beat accompanies deep and sardonic lyrics, which amongst other things, talk of skin colour and the resemblance of a certain brand of American sports shoes and a common French word meaning "shag" or "buggered / screwed up. A very cool song.
In all this a truly amazing CD. Groundbreaking in every way, it opens up new possibilities for music. If he sang in English, he could touch the world, as he did in the soundtrack of "The triplets of Belleville" in 2003. But why should he have to? It sickens me that such beautiful music is not on the airwaves here in the UK: we are so close to France that we can pick up their radio stations, yet we ignore them. So famous in France that he plays to huge audiences of many thousands, M takes you on a journey to new heights of sensation. Je Dis Aime and in particular the title track, are amazing experiences. I cannot recommend this enough.Sugarlily. X
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