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Music for exploring a secret garden at night,
This review is from: Verses of Comfort Assurance & Salvation (Dig) (Audio CD)
When Au Revoir Simone appeared in that indie bible, Vogue Magazine, they described their debut album as the ideal soundtrack for exploring a secret garden at night. I can only agree. Au Revoir Simone are as twee as twee. They are as twee as Doris Day in a big flowery print dress with a basket full of fluffy kittens in one hand and a long stem rose in the other. Their music conjures up walks in the moonlight by a silvery lake ... the scent of Jasmine on the air ... the strains of Chopin wafting gently through the open French windows of the summer house. OK, perhaps that's just me, but you get the picture.
It's not necessarily what you'd expect from a three-piece Brooklyn-based synth-pop outfit. Erika Forster and Annie Hart met in 2003 on a train. They were joined by Heather D'Angelo, who adds a drum machine as well as a third synthesizer. Two years later they recorded Verses of comfort, assurance and salvation in a former shower cubical at their manager's apartment, and it was picked up by the excellent Moshi Moshi, arguably London's most interesting label. `Verses of comfort' - named after a small book of biblical quotations that Annie received in the post - is an exquisite confection of lighter-than-air pop. Ethereal vocals drift above an insistent but unobtrusive drum and keyboard combination that varies from pounding disco to murmuring synth blues, nowhere more obviously than in `Hurricanes', where the tempo suddenly shifts mid-song. Hurricanes is one of the highpoints of the album, together with the slightly darker `Where You Go' and the subdued, sensuous `Back in Time'.
The best track by a distance, however, is the first, `Through the Backyards'. This judgment I take to be confirmed by its subsequent appearance, not only as a single and on Moshi's own compilation `Can you here me clearly?', but on V2's `Fear of Music' sampler, and the season finale of Grey's Anatomy. This song illustrates most successfully Annie Hart's account (in an interview for Columbus Alive) of the group's approach to writing. "I kind of just let words and melodies fall out of my mouth" she says, "It's really weird how things just come out and then all of a sudden they're songs without really thinking about them." At their best, this is exactly how Au Revoir Simone appears: effortlessly elegant; timelessly romantic. `Oh this old thing', Vogue may add, `I just threw it together'. Sometimes they overstep the mark and drift into that state of unfocused tweeness where the ghosts of St Etienne murmur eternally in the half light. This and the album's brevity (it weighs in at around 28 minutes) prevent it from being more than a promising debut to 2007's more accomplished `Bird of Music'. Still, for me this is one of those guilty pleasures. Slightly embarrassing but fun: music to drift off with to a midnight garden, to enjoy it in its proper surroundings.