Fluvial remains Catherine Jauniaux's most accomplished album -- a pure creative delight from A to Z. The French vocalist teamed up with the Work's Tim Hodgkinson to write exquisite imagined folk songs that combine elements of contemporary art song, African singing, Native American legends, and alien nursery rhymes. Comparisons to Dagmar Krause are somewhat inevitable, if only because of the Hodgkinson connection, but Jauniaux's approach is less formal; she follows a zanier path. Her voice is the focal point of the album, but several instruments fill up the arrangements. Hodgkinson plays guitar, viola, piano, and drums. Lindsay Cooper, Bill Gilonis, and Georgie Born also contribute on their usual instruments. A couple of percussionists complete the lineup, which fluctuates following each piece's specific needs. A few of the songs are sung in English, but most are in French (English translations of the lyrics are included). Two from the latter category provide the album's undisputed highlights: in "Une Escadrille de Sorcières" (A Squadron of Witches), Jauniaux unveils her impressive range and flexibility over free-form arrangements. In "Origine des Femmes" (Origin of Women), she narrates how men and women first met, following Native American tales, and again her voice and the dense, shape-shifting arrangements captivate. Written by Hodgkinson, "A Divine Image" and "Infant Sorrow" share strong similarities with the music of his former band Henry Cow -- melodies are more precisely written and lieder-like, and the music develops in true Rock in Opposition style. Hodgkinson's art rock approach and Jauniaux's more childlike-cum-tribal leanings come together in fabulous fashion. Highly recommended, especially to fans of unusual female vocal art.
by François Couture