Music Hole

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Camille and her enthusiastic supporters in the French musical press may be tired of the Björk comparison but, frankly, it is impossible to imagine a record such as Music Hole without the trailblazing work of the tiny Icelandic wonder. Time has abundantly proven than Björk's conception of pop music was a lot more than quirky novelty. Her boundless imagination, particularly in the mixing of organic and inorganic sounds and in the liberation of the human voice as a creative tool (rather than as a lyric broadcaster, or even as a singer), has provided the seeds for some of the most interesting -- or at the very least idiosyncratic -- acts to emerge in recent years. And this is a truly global influence, one that seems particularly attuned to independent spirits the world over, many of multi-ethnic origins: Bat for Lashes, Animal Collective, Panda Bear, Stina Nordenstam, Emiliana Torrini, Cocorosie, Juana Molina, and of course, Camille. Compared to Molina's much acclaimed Un Día, Camille's project of the same year Music Hole is less hypnotic, but certainly more fun. Most tracks develop around a fast beat made up of staccato percussions created with voices, claps, or electronic pulses. In all honesty, it is often hard to tell what one is listening to: this is one of those records meant for headphones. On top of this organic/inorganic groove that only sparsely features traditional instruments (piano, guitar), Camille's vocal inventions are either deployed as a constantly repetitive motif -- as in Juana Molina's album, or prop up in totally unexpected ways -- hence the fun noted above. Perhaps the purest example of this aesthetic is "The Monk," an almost seven-minute wordless tracks (the only one with no lyrics), in which Camille's vocalizing roams from classical opera to Laurie Anderson terrain. According to the listener's sensibility or mood, the results can be fascinating or irritating. Another case in point is "Cats and Dogs," a song that begins as a very French varieté number (piano, languid female vocals, a 3/4 musette tilt) and then, for no apparent reason, midway it suddenly turns into a rhumba that grows increasingly cacophonic, with Camille's voice imitating all sorts of frenzied animal sounds, from barking to nail screeching. Still, for most of Music Hole, Camille's penchant for experimentation is tempered with a definite taste for songcraft, making this album a less challenging experience than it may initially appear. Camille's sense of humor plays a big part on Music Hole's approachability. This is true both of the music as well as her off the wall lyrics, which combine the purely absurd with more personal commentary, as indiscriminately as she switches from French to English. Not exactly your grandfather's idea of pop music, perfectly contemporary, and yet hardly mainstream, Music Hole is a box of surprises that is as intriguing as it is amusing.

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