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Camille – “OUI” Review

Returning from the Monastery of vocal layers in style

Camille’s voice is her main instrument and over her four previous albums, she has used it in a variety of ways. With her fifth album “OUI”, she harmonises it with minimal percussion and synth work to create a far more accessible body of work than the almost voice only experimental “Ilo Veyou”.

“Sous le Sables” opens the album with a brooding noir tone of thumping drums and the lowest of keyboard pads that create an 80’s sci-fi edge to the entire track. Camille barely rises above a hushed whispered performance and it suits the entire mood perfectly. It’s a dark and mysterious entrance to what is generally an uplifting album. Recorded in a monastery, two specific influences shine through. First is the tribal like percussive edge that runs throughout the album. “Lasso” is one of the few tracks with a more electronica edge to it, but it’s still grounded in a hedonistic chant and beat, and a throbbing bass line that allows Camille to wax montages of herself over the top. The second shines in the amazing “Fontaine de Lait” where after a fantastically surreal opening half, the track slowly swells into a more choral arrangement of Camille’s voice. It’s ending third is the only time things feel full on holy or classical – but the vocal arrangements behind a lot of the tracks have a twinge of that monastery-like solitude to them. It’s such a subtle tone, but it really gives the whole album a nuanced edge.

The militant band track is “Seeds”, the sole track sung in English. It’s rich messages of hope work beautifully with all the layers of voice, keyboards and percussion. There’s no fat across the album itself, and the track is direct and to the point. I almost crave a big huge outro to the marching beat but the song is amazing as it is.  In fact, much like how Bic Runga’s latest albums have become so focused on tightly knitted tracks, Camille has followed the same thought pattern here. The would be alt-dance anthem “Les Toups” clocks in at only just over two minutes. It’s mix of thick bass lines and drone like vocoder chants whip you up into a frenzy and then leave you wanting more. “Je ne mache pas mes mots” is also tight but has more of a song like structure – feeling at home on “Le Fil”.

Tipping a nod to the “Money Note” album, “Twix” is a wonderfully French track. Camille sings about the problems of planting a Twix in the ground instead of an apple and she goes right off on one, shouting and screaming in glorious rapture. In stark contrast the quiet moment of the album goes to the haunting lullaby of “Nuit debout” which like the opener, channels the darker tones of the album to perfection. It reminds me of a sister song to the “Winters Child” – especially with the murmured singing and the fog horn/synth bagpipe ending that sirens through. “Piscine” channels that kooky siren style too with dramatic “aaah” arpeggios breaking up the rhythmic sections of the track. “Fille a Papa” is a more careful and quieter track playing with layers and rhythms which leads excellently to the understated emotions of “Langue”. The chords, the way how the backing vocal arrangements circle around an uplifting but vulnerable Camille singing like a sweet child – it ends the album with great renewed spirit.

My one criticism. It’s 32 minutes long. Each track it great but I’d have loved a couple more thrown in to edge it closer to the 40 mark. As it is though, this is Camille back to proper song forms and equalling her earlier work. Unique and spellbinding – there’s no one else quite like her.

Recommended Track : Fontaine de Lait

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