3 out of 5
Label: Murailles Music
Produced by: Manuel Duval (recorded and mixed by)
Mysterious, evocative, and violent, the loosely psychedelic prog pop of Rien Virgule has an equally mysterious story driving a now-trio of musicians to deliver their alluring experiments in texture: the disappearance of a band member. While such a story hopefully doesn’t end tragically, it no doubt leaves a dour question mark hanging over things, and that can be felt throughout La Consolation Des Violettes 11 tracks of noise and harmony, with vocalist Anne Careill ghostily mixed over electronics and found-sound percussion, like some kind of otherworldly Tori Amos, singing in the ruins of an instrument graveyard.
While the French is lost on me, the general mood is not, and the opening songs on the album are a fascinating swoon in which the group properly gives themselves room to evolve their complex sound, generally allowing Careill to waft in over vague burbles of noise before a clear beat and keys come in to drive home a rhythm. The 8+ minute runtimes are a necessity, allowing themes to swirl and boil, be broken down and reform; some instrumental-ish tracks are fittingly shorter, breaking up the half-dirge / half-70s horror movie phantasms with some outre ambient experimentalism.
But: the mystery somewhat feels like it reaches its peak pretty quickly, with track 4’s L’ogresse amoureuse, a song of minimalist percussion that blows up in a wonder of static and primal drumming – this is often that ‘violent’ component – and Anne’s soaring, emotive voice. There’s something of a coda after this, and then the celebratory, key-led bombast of Le cri du typographe – the first track that starts off in sort of full-form pop. While this is a cool changeup, it doesn’t require the same extended runtime that’s been employed, and at a certain point, the song runs out of steam and feels repetitive. The remainder of the album suffers very similarly, coming across as re-using themes and ideas we’ve heard elsewhere. It’s tough because the individual elements are so compelling, but it’s like Rien Virgule could only figure on so many variations on their sound, and exhausted the best arrangements of those a few tracks in.
This doesn’t render the album without merit – not in the least – but it does mean you might find that what’s initially so unique and engrossing shifts quite drastically to background music before the midway point.