A Sparrow-Grass Hunt

Le Journal du Dormeur

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Fans of Julien Ash's project Nouvelles Lectures Cosmopolites (or NLC) will immediately recognize his signature compositional style and fondness for storytelling on Le Journal du Dormeur, the debut album from A Sparrow-Grass Hunt. Joining Ash are Hide and Seek's Pierre-Yves Lebeau (acoustic guitar, synths, vocals) and Liesbeth Houdijk (vocals). The songwriting is credited to all three, but the similarity with NLC's material makes one think that Ash did most of the job. His clever use of electronics to enhance moods and give the textures a slightly warped, altered-state-feel is what makes this album more than what it seems to be. Le Journal du Dormeur ("The Sleeper's Diary") is an 18-part suite with some musical motifs reoccurring. The music is mostly keyboard based, with extra acoustic guitar and wordless vocals and spoken words by Houdijk and Lebeau. The music lies somewhere between new age and neo-classical. The themes are pretty and very melodious, while the arrangements tend to push toward darker realms, without ever actually getting there -- and that is where the magic of this album resides, in an ethereal, dreamy uncertainty. The contribution of violinist Rosalie Hartog is the source of several highlights, beginning with the "Overture," an invitation to dive headfirst into the sound realm of the album. Many will find the music too sweet or too simple (especially for an album released on Gazul, usually a place for a certain level of experimentation), but the quality of the arrangements, the quality and richness of the production, and the indisputably well-conceived moods of this album might just win you over. The narratives and lyrics are alternately in French and English, depicting evocative dreams with a fairytale-like touch.