April March

Chrominance Decoder

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There's something sexy about a girl that sings in French (both linguistically and stylistically), but besides Elinor Blake's charming pixie voice, the star of this show is producer/arranger/composer Bertrand Burgalat, who has put together a feather-soft but substantial bed of trippy music that heightens the image of April March as an ultra-hip, haughty French chick. There is little rock influence to be found on Chrominance Decoder, only go-go organs, twirling horns, rolling drums, faux-jazz piano, and hollow-knock percussion of the sort that one finds in France's reaction against rock & roll, ye-ye. Burgalat is a master of delightfully giddy cartoonishness, ultra-smooth, undoubtedly continental, and oh so Parisian. The music may not be substantively French, but songs such as "Charlatan" and the fabulous "Pas Pareil" can't help but bring to mind an aloof woman in sunglasses smoking a cigarette while walking down the Left Bank, or a cafe jazz quartet accompanying the lazy afternoon sunshine in Paris. "Sugar" does nothing short of swinging, swooping up the listener in its swirling palette of day-glo music, and "Mignonette" (and its virtual English rewrite, "No Parachute") can only be called adorable, while "Mon Petit Ami" is a wonderful, ceremonial march. The Dust Brothers remix a few cuts on Chrominance Decoder, and it is easy to see what might have attracted the duo to April March. Besides marvelous songs, there is plenty of room in the music for kitschy, smiling samples and rhythms. Indeed, the Brothers make "Nothing New" a sweet ballad the first time, then turn around and graft hip-hop beats (albeit muted hip-hop beats) and a buzzsaw guitar onto the song, completely changing its context in the remix. "Sugar" is altered much more substantially. Although the Brothers cannot alter the nature of the song's melody, they dispense almost entirely with Burgalat's delightfully woozy music, instead opting for sharper and less "cute" elements such as rock-steady (and double-tracked) drums, even inserting a break. These may not be dramatic revisions, but they are nice to hear and put a slightly different slant on the overall tone of the album. In general, there is a little bit of the giddy sweetness high of Kahimi Karie in April March -- a certain attractive tweeness -- but Chrominance Decoder is not simply empty calories. Blake can also affect a distanced, chanteuse quality reminiscent of Vanessa Daou, and that increases the listener's desire to get inside the music to figure out what April March is all about. She is certainly not as erudite as Edith Piaf, but you might say Blake sounds something like a teenage girl doing her best impression of the French legend, especially on "Mickey Et Chantal." That song is everything the definition implies: cute, refreshing, and slightly humorous, but fun, if somewhat less significant. Chrominance Decoder, at the very least, should put a smile on your face and a bounce in your step.

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