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François & the Atlas Mountains — Piano Ombre

François & the Atlas Mountains — Piano Ombre [March 17, 2014] 

 François & the Atlas Mountains — Piano Ombre

Location: Bristol, England
Album release: March 17, 2014
Record Label: Fence/Domino Records
Duration:     41:51
01. Bois       5:25
02. La vérité       3:03
03. The Way To The Forest       6:09
04. La fille aux cheveux de soie       3:53
05. Summer Of The Heart       3:04
06. La vie dure       4:33
07. Réveil inconnu       4:32
08. Piano ombre       3:31
09. Fancy Foresight       3:24
10. Bien sûr       4:17
BY RYAN THOMAS, 13 MARCH 2014;  Score: 8/10
•   Listening to François and the Atlas Mountains’ new Piano Ombre fills me with dread — especially about halfway through the album.  Not because the album is an unrelenting downer or replete with morbid preoccupation, but because I cannot cope with how quickly it all seems to come and go.  The album, that is.
•   Let’s start at the last song, “Bien Sur” which closes the album on the highest note possible.  Pianos, violins, and coursing synthesizer glitches calmly cresendo like a sunrise, François’s voice a sustained sigh, and the song is lifted like a ball of sonic warmth until it reaches a state of blinding pan~sensation.  It is such a high note, and yet when it’s gone it’s gone.  All that’s left is a desire for more: more time with this album, another album, more of this moment within this song.
•   It gets to be such that the aforementioned dread felt halfway through the album, on the equally wrenching “La Vie Dur,” is sort of its own mid~life crisis.  It’s that end coda in particular — after some foreplay from an emotionally~candid~sounding Francois and a playfully~childlike rhythm concoction — which grips tightly and instills a deep, unshakeable obsession with the sweetness of all that melodic decadence.  With each new listen, it starts to resemble that memory~feeling of the first time you drank Coca–Cola as a kid.
•   It has to be with the lack of inhibition and straightforwardness of a child that François and the Atlas Mountains music is described, as is how it seems to be produced.  On their third album, yes, disco and synthesizers do appear (lead single “La Verité” is the record’s most accessible and danceable track, though it does exist as a sort of party~of~one), but they don’t replace the band’s knack for a well~conceived, organically~derived, and profoundly beautiful melody, and François’ ability to sound so utterly human — his most obvious strong suit.
•   While some indie rock bands might ditch the pianos and acoustics to revel in the gimmicks of success, and how unexpected fame might somehow be Reflekted in their work as more of a distraction, François and the Atlas Mountains seem more keen on sharpening their spearheads and continuing to evoke genuine emotion with the tools they were given. Rather than diving headfirst into a world of electronica to stave off any perceived obsolescence, François and the gang lay out every utensil in their arsenal and tastefully arrange them into an impressionistic portrait of whatever slice of life each given song is trying to depict.
•   “Summer of the Heart” lays out a lyrical image as cool and serene as the melody provides for.  Aquatic textures chirp and squeal; sonar blips, whale songs, and other ecosystems provided by keyboards and nuances of bass and percussion; guitars accounting for both the ocean and its contents; François sings, “Hours to dive/Muddy waters/Swimmers wonder/What’s beneath?/After swimming/Drinking slowly/Coco~water/ From a straw.”  The fact that the song is one of the few in English appearing on the album matters not, as the sensual, French~accented delivery of the lyrics and technicolor melody provide enough context clues to paint a seascape like an extra storyboard from The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.
•   So sadly as too the warmer seasons must be bid adieu, Piano Ombre must as well.  It’s not that the album is particularly any shorter than any other album — clocking in at around 40 minutes — it’s that it’s so tightly~packed with such consistently good content and is so musically pithy, that you just can’t ever really get enough out of it.  And François and the Atlas Mountains are just so dutiful about their songcraft, and so refreshingly un~ostentatious, that they don’t milk their own lack of ideas for all they’re worth (and for how long).  Instead, they introduce you to people and places you’ll never meet or see again, but who you want to know forever.  These little introductions are worth your while.  (http://www.thelineofbestfit.com/)
From Domino:
•   Dividing a vinyl record between a Sea Side and River Side betrays an obvious feeling for all things liquid. On his last album, ‘Plaine inondable’ (2009), Fránçois sung “Be Water,” a delicious and watery song backed up by a secret Basque choir. As frank as the smile given by Jean~Pierre Léaud at the very end of  ‘400 Hundred Blows’ when he arrives at the sea for the first time, Fránçois’ music confronts reality and the elements which surround it lightly.
•   Being the first Domino French signing, Fránçois and The Atlas Mountains are ready to spread their wings over indie pop’s vast international landscape. Open and extremely sensitive, these twelve songs display graceful and surprising arrangements, with their watercolour~like melodies.
•   With vivid looks and a slender body, Fránçois builds up castles in Saintonge with Moroccan mountains, British phlegm and sturdy friendships. After seven years of passionate gigs and road trips across Europe, Fránçois & The Atlas Mountains convey a magnetic presence on stage. A deep sense of lightness and sincerity sets in as voices, keyboards and African percussion blend in an instant pop.
•   An open collective, Fránçois and The Atlas Mountains has become over the years, a four~piece band. Besides Fránçois who gives the band its name and soul, Amaury Ranger embodies its vibrating body thanks to the sheer intensity of his percussive skills. A Charente activist in his own right, he’s also the leader of the exuberant and promising Uncle Jellyfish. A new recruit, Scottish Gerard Black made a name for himself playing with Bill Wells and Findo Gask before joining forces with the band and leading an underground dolce vita in Bordeaux. Another Bordeaux stalwart, Pierre aka Petit Fantôme is a local musical treasure, be it under his own name, or along with The Crane Angels or Monsieur Botibol.
•   A mix of Italian and Bristolian, ‘E volo love’ stands as a superb palindrome of a love supreme flying away. These twelve songs convey a strong sense of longing and an emergency of feeling, slowly calming down once these tracks settle with subtlety in our minds and individual memories. Written between Bristol, Bordeaux and Saintes and weathered on the road and polished in Dakar they reflect a strong bond between the band’s members and their relatives.
•   Out of the blue but into the wild, “Azrou” conveys some laid back nostalgia with its sturdy bass line and its inventive percussive work. Gazing at the countryside, “Cherchant des ponts” invites Françoiz Breut for an elegant duo with feathery drums. •   More urbane, “City Kiss” reminds one of The Field Mice and The Pastels heyday, watercolour bands of an intimate pop expression. Liquid, “Edge of Town” mixes African percussions with some kaleidoscopic vocals. As watery but slightly more nervous, “Piscine” is an old song, about lost afternoons spent in small town public swimming pools. Dreamy as it can be, “Bail éternel” uses Guy Debord’s famous palindrome : “In Girum Imus Nocte Et Consumimur Igni” (“we spin ourselves around, through the night and we consume ourselves with fire”). This outstanding track is also a homage to writer Yann Apery’s ‘Diabolicus in Musica’.
•   More physical and less spiritual, “Muddy Heart” and “Strong Pair of Solid Arms” with their vintage keyboards display the sheer energy one can feel watching a Fránçois and the Atlas Mountains performance. Love is always the drug, as evidenced by “Slow Love” and “Do You Want To Dance?,” which go deep through the hits and misses of a romantic relationship, a genuine green ray of light, the coveted light reflected in the eyes of your beloved one.
•   Recorded live in an old wooden dance hall of Saintonge, the backbone of these tracks stresses the instinctive nature of the recording. A sensitive mix, courtesy of Jean~Paul Romann (Tinariwen…), adds a true sense of intimacy and closeness with the listener. Airy and unruly, these chansons run down green hills, diving into an Atlantic horizon, bare foot in the grass, a big and sincere smile across one’s face, eyes lost in the sunset. — Florent Mazzoleni, Bordeaux spring 2011
•   The band is led by Bristol~based French musician François Marry, who is also a touring member of Camera Obscura. Other members also play in Babe. After growing up in Saintes, and studying at La Rochelle, Marry relocated to Bristol in 2003.
•   The band’s first album was the mostly live The People To Forget, released in 2006 on the Stitch~Stitch label.
•   The band’s second album, Plaine Inondable, was released in 2009 on Fence Records in the UK and on Talitres in France to critical acclaim, receiving a four star review from The Scotsman.
•   The band’s third album, E Volo Love, was released in 2012, and was also positively received, with The Skinny writer Chris Buckle giving it four stars out of five and describing it as “unabashedly romantic...a study in understatement delivered with finesse”, and Simon Price in The Independent decsribing it as “gentle indie~pop jangle with echoes of Afropop”. The album received a 7/10 rating from the NME.
•   Marry has also released several lo~fi tapes and records.
•   “Trois ans après le coulant et solaire E Volo Love, Frànçois & the Atlas Mountains revient avec Piano Ombre, magnifique album conçu comme une course en forêt, pleine d’ombres, de lumières intenses et de transes magiques.” (source: www.lesinrocks.com )
•   Un des groupes indie rock, de la scène franco~britannique, parmi les plus originaux et inventifs de la décennie actuelle. A découvrir.
Website: http://www.francoisandtheatlasmountains.com/
MySpace: https://myspace.com/francoisinbristol
Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/francoisatlasmountains
Twitter: https://twitter.com/francoisatlas
Blog: http://francoiswatercolours.over-blog.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/francoisandtheatlasmountains
Agent: France: p.heude@asterios.fr / UK & Europe: cecile@2fortheroadproductions.com / North America: ChristianBernhardt@theagencygroup.com
•   The People To Forget (2006), Stitch-Stitch
•   Plaine Inondable (2009), Fence/Talitres
•   E Volo Love (2012), Domino
•   Brother (2007), Lejos Discos
•   Her River Raves Recollections (2009), Stitch~Stitch
•  Piscine” (2011), Domino
•  Les Plus Beaux” (2012), Domino
•  Gold Mountain” (2012), Domino — split single with Slow Club, released for Record Store Day
•  Edge of Town” (2012), Domino
François Marry solo/other releases:
•   Frànçois et Luc — Quatre Pistes (2003), CD~R, split with Luc
•   Les Anciennes Falaises (2004), Stitch~Stitch (CD~R)
•   Sleeping states/Frànçois (2006), Undereducated — split cassette
•   The Autoroute tapes, Stitch~Stitch — cassette, limited to 20 copies
•   Forests Songs (2006), Stitch~Stitch — split with Ray Rumours
•  Swimmers, Drifters” (2008), Too Pure Singles Club — split with Ray Rumours

François & the Atlas Mountains — Piano Ombre