When documentary producer Luc Jacquet contacted Emilie Simon about contributing music to his award-winning 2005 documentary March of the Penguins, he might have felt a little uneasy -- somewhere in the conversation, he would have to let on that he found her sound well-suited to themes of ice and snow. If he did hesitate before making the call, though, he needn't have: Simon was already working on new songs that would conjure images of ice when she first met the director in 2003. Though The Flower Book, Simon's acclaimed 2006 U.S. debut, established her as a rising electro-pop star and, more specifically, one with a penchant for merging concepts from the natural world with beats rooted firmly in technology, it didn't let on that the Parisian artist was so skilled at dreaming up frost-covered soundscapes. In the 15 songs on March of the Empress, Simon evokes both the beauty and bitterness of winter: "Song of the Sea" captures the fun of slush, "Mother's Pain" recalls the hushed energy that attends a coming blizzard, and "Antarctic" finds hope in the stillness of a world frozen over by polar cold; other standouts include the tense "The Sea Leopard" and the menacing but moving "The Attack of the Killer Birds." Though the soundtrack (which did not make it onto the U.S. and U.K. film versions of March of the Penguins) was originally intended to be strictly instrumental, Simon's Kate Bush-reminiscent voice surfaces on five English tracks. They all reinforce a sense that whether the scenery that surrounds her is pastoral or frozen solid, she infiltrates it fully, until she is able to echo it down to the last thunderclap or whistling wind.
AllMusic Review by Tammy La Gorce