François de Roubaix – Les Secrets de la Mer Rouge

4 out of 5

Label: Transversales Disques

Produced by: Alexis Frenkel (mastered by)

Francois de Roubaix’s score to Les Secrets de la Mer Rouge (‘The Secrets of the Red Sea’), with Transversales Disques‘ first-time vinyl production putting the 1967 iteration of the show on the A-side, and the 1975 continuation on the B-side. Apparently an aquatic-themed travelogue, a fictionalized representation of Henry deMonfreid’s autobiographical book of the same name, de Roubaix employs marine-inspired instruments – flutes, conches, etc. – but seems to arrive at something more of a Western theme, to my ears – it has the sense of galloping, calming exploration we might associate with a wanderer astride horseback in a desert. Nonetheless, it’s de Roubaix, meaning that he manages this weirdly ethereal realm of music that’s clearly French and of its time, but also incredibly modern, not beholden to any particular trend except his own muses. While the scoring is somewhat cue-based, and thus tracks are very short, the A-side is rather soothingly seamless, its minute long tracks focusing on a flute-led theme – which reoccurs throughout – but occasionally switching out for percussion or guitars at the forefront. On the B-side, more electronics and experimentation play in, maintaining elements of the theme put pushing towards more of a world-beat sound at points. It’s a bit more disparate than the A-side’s soundtrack – its cues are much more separate and distinct – though it’s also appreciated that de Roubaix pushed the score towards this shifted style, instead of just repeating what worked well for him on the first go ’round. The longer tracks, which allow a bit more evocation of mood and general development are definitely the standouts, but the whole thing has a timeless sense of mystery and wonder to it that’s very listenable, and very, very appealing.