Francois and the Atlas Mountains
E Volo Love (Domino WIGCD28OP, 2012)
There’s making music, and then there’s making music that makes an impression. To achieve the latter, chances must be taken and it’s likely that the music maker has to explore some territory new to them. Such is the case with a guitarist/singer/experimenter lad from Saintes in the southwest of France who simply goes by the name of Francois. He was raised on the pop music and poetry of his native land, discovered a love for grunge and learned of African culture from his Cameroonian mother.
Travels to England and North Africa nurtured his appreciation for trip hop and desert blues. Finally, a gig during which some African percussion was used on an impromptu basis spurred Francois to have a go at combining what he’d gleaned from his various influences. He’s done so with E Volo Love (how’s that for a palindrome?), a quirky, adventurous breeze of an album that both combines and splits the difference between world music and indie pop. Sometimes the latter wins out, as on “City Kiss” and “Slow Love,” both of which get a big boost from the addition of (presumably synthesized) strings. But the outstanding songs are the ones that truly cross borders.
Opener “Les Plus Beaux” feels Franco-Brazilian in structure, “Edge of Town” goes tribal when a fresh layer of drumming is added halfway through, “Azrou Tune” suggests how Tommy James and the Shondells might have sounded if they’d ever recorded in Bamako, and the inspiration of trailblazers like Serge Gainsbourg and Peter Gabriel is evident on “Cherchant Des Ponts” and “Do You Want To Dance” respectively.
Sonic hooks are plentiful -check the angelic backing vocals on “Piscine” and Tinariwen-ish guitar subtleties throughout- and while Francois has the ideas, chops and vision to go even more exploratory on whatever he decides to do next, he has here created something that is both accessible and captivating.
Music samples, CD and MP3s: