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A Sparrow-Grass Hunt (France) - 2004 - "Le Journal du Dormeur"
TRACK LIST: 1. Overture 3:11 2. Crepuscule 4:02 3. The Architect 2:39 4. Le Dement 2:35 5. Hyperdelic 5:48 6. Sarbacane 2:40 7. La Marbe 3:23 8. The Mermaid 5:12 9. China Dream 1:03 10. Les Crocodiles Gris 2:39 11. Le Silence 3:54 12. La Bete 3:26 13. La Voleuse 2:05 14. Constellations 4:04 15. Les Eaux Sombres 3:20 16. Le Demi-Dieu 1:58 17. Sarbacane Reprise 2:41 18. Eveil 2:16 All music: by Sparrow-grass Hunt. All lyrics: Lebeau. LINE-UP: Julien Ash - keyboards; electronics & programming Pierre-Yves Lebeau - acoustic & bass guitars; synthesizer; vocals Liesbeth Houdijk - vocals Rosalie Hartog - violin Produced by Ash. Engineered by Ash & Lebeau.
Prolusion. The French project, bearing an ambitious English name A SPARROW-GRASS HUNT (SGH hereafter), titled their first album in their native language however: "Le Journal du Dormeur". The translation is word-for-word and is "The Sleeper's Diary".
Synopsis. On the album SGH goes the same ambivalent way, using both the languages for some reason, while it would've been much better if their lyrics were exclusively in French. Well, the female singer Liesbeth Houdijk mainly does vocalizations in a semi-operatic mode, and Pierre-Yves Lebeau for the most part narrates. The point is that there are only three real songs: Hyperdelic, The Mermaid, and Le Demi-Dieu, performed by that nice pair - still either in perfect French or accented English. (I would've been very much surprised if it were vice versa:-) Nearly half of the eighteen tracks are just purely instrumental. Five of such: La Marbe, China Dream, Le Silence, Constellations, and Eveil can be defined as Space music, but only with great reserve, as there are much more schematic synthesizer effects than authentic arrangements. These strikingly conflict with the rest of the material, and if I were in the team, I would have certainly minded their inclusion in the album. The other tracks are real music. Even if it is quite accessible and, despite some obvious compositionally stylistic variety, always remains slow, dreamy and relaxing, as if purposefully justifying the listener's expectations linked with the sense that the album's title suggests, it's original, tasteful and beautiful, and these are qualities that not every band can be proud of. A light sorrow is the predominant mood, though it is a bit less evident on the Ambient-like pieces - those featuring either no parts of violin and piano: Crepuscule, Le Dement, and La Bete or very few of such: La Voleuse and Les Eaux Sombres. The remaining instrumentals: Overture, The Architect, Sarbacane, Les Crocodiles Gris, Sarbacane Reprise, and the three songs, which I've mentioned above, are more diverse musically and are richer in sound and form precisely half of the album's contents. Full of well-crafted, nicely interlocking into a cohesive whole melodic lines of violin, piano, and acoustic guitar with the odd sounds of bass and light electronic percussion, these might be a worth listen at the romantic rendezvous. As for the style, it's somewhat of a chamber New Age, perhaps with elements of light Classical music.
Conclusion. I don't think that our world is the best place for sleepers and shallow dreamers, who, for some reason, are certain that the paradise is only here on Earth. Maybe it's right between the rivers of Tigris and Euphrates? Seriously speaking, originality, bright tasty melodies, and a rather warm sound aren't accidental features of this recording and are significant virtues. Even if the position of this triple union is often imbalanced by the lack of progressiveness, it will hardly prevent this nice and rather pleasant album to reach a solid audience.
VM: September 12, 2004
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