François De Roubaix ‎– Le Saut De L’Ange / R.A.S (Transversales Disques 2018 reissue)

4 out of 5

Label: Transversales Disques 

Produced by: Jean-Pierre Pellissier (recorded by, mixed by)

Two scores De Roubaix worked on for filmmaker Yves Boisset. I haven’t seen either of these two films – Le saut de l’ange (Angel’s Leap) or R.A.S. (Nothing to Report) – but IMDB descriptions suggests the former as a crime flick, and the latter as a war one, both with political and sociological underpinnings. Assessed as scores for such films, De Roubaix’s work for Angel’s Leap is hard to parse – often quite gorgeous and haunting, but telling a more subdued story than I’d associate with the description. The R.A.S. theme (or perhaps it’s a medley of the work for the movie?) has a marching drumbeat and some fanfare to give it that wartime feel, but it’s also electronically dusted and rather experimental; it’s something of an odd match as well.

This doesn’t matter when listening to the music on its own terms, excepting that the tracks for Angel’s Leap jump around a bit, sitting somewhere between a score and cues, and the Transversales Disques edition of this is very, very quiet – there’s a lot of wonderful subtlety to this that’s much better listened to digitally, or on headphones and cranked up. But once your listening arrangement is prepped, this is another batch of wizardry from De Roubaix, somehow crafting a theme for the first film that’s both minimal and full-sounding, using the delicate tone of a sitar as the backbone, and dressing it up with haunting strings and woodwinds. The various iterations on this theme are all wonderful, slightly more ominous or playful depending on the version, and when these concepts are carried over to the other tracks, it maintains its very cinematic and mysterious allure. Some tracks – Cobra, Pour Senta – shift gears a bit, which is to be expected for a film score, but it’s where the linearity of the listen breaks somewhat. These are still quite gorgeous tracks, patient and focused on individual sounds at a time – strings, piano, etc – Roubaix quite always composing intimately, even when working with an apparent 50-member band. The R.A.S. track feels more akin to some of Roubaix’s quirkier works, but it does have an uneasy undercurrent that maintains the edge of most of the Le Saut De L’Ange stuff; it’s blending of the electronic elements to the big band bombast is fascinating.

While Transversales’ mastering may not be ideal, the recording is surely clear and the album’s presentation is handsome, with lengthy liner notes on the inner jacket.