The Montgolfier Brothers

Seventeen Stars

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Seventeen Stars was originally issued in 2000 on the short-lived, Paris-based Vespertine label, which folded after four years in business. Fortunately for the Montgolfier Brothers, their debut album was immediately picked up for reissue by Alan McGee's Poptones imprint that same year. It was the label's first full-length release, in fact. Musically, this somber English duo -- comprised of Mark Tranmer and Roger Quigley -- makes recordings that recall a time in the late '70s and early '80s when Manchester was known as the home to groups like the Durutti Column and Joy Division. Seventeen Stars begins with a wonderful sample of a roller coaster trolley car being hoisted up a steep incline, setting the tone for the instrumental joyride ("Time Spent Passing") that follows. OK, that last part about a "joyride" is ironic. This album is sparse and somewhat repetitive, but simply lovely. "Even if My Mind Can't Tell You" tumbles forward, well-defined and regal, propelled by the minimalistic style of composer Michael Nyman (best known for his film scores for director Peter Greenaway). Much of the album has a cinematic feel, in fact, and Roger Quigley's somber voice is perfectly suited for the tracks that feature vocals. In some ways, this album sounds like something that might have been released by 4AD, Factory, or Les Disques du Crepescule, though it isn't retro-sounding in any sense of the word. The echo-laden productions of Martin Hannett come to mind, as well as those of Kevin Hewick or Paul Haig's albums for the Belgian-based Crepescule label. There are times where Tranmer's love of somber, almost childishly simplistic French film music -- composer Michel Legrand seems to have been a big influence -- also seeps through.

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