Astrid: Music For (Arbouse Recordings, 2005)
Astrid is a band comprised of Vanina Andreani, Guillaume Pervieux, Ivan Ros, and Cyril Secq. It is apparent from the very beginning of this album that beauty is in store for the listener. This album feels very much like an alternate soundtrack to M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village. Also, the musicianship on this album is fantastic. It is patient and the compositions breathtaking. The vast array of instruments used on the album is also impressive: violin, harmonium, metellophone, piano, Rhodes, claviers, percussion, guitar, and melodica. This combination makes for a haunting sound that is both glorious and beautiful. Originally, Music For was composed for a short film by Guillaume Paturel called NYC III.
“Alxsnake” opens with the tinkle of chimes and ominous minor chords. This builds into a blissful soundscape that ends in what seems to be wood either snapping or on fire. This ends and blends into beautiful violin and deep percussion. Eventually, sparse guitar joins the chorus of sounds. “Piano1” begins with a piano playing sparse cords. It has a melancholy feel that is light and airy. This piece is very short, but leads the listener into a violin driven opening of “Harmo.” There is also a mixture of what sounds like cellos. Again, this sounds like its right out of The Village and is beautiful. Eventually there are some sounds thrown in there using strings and what may a keyboard and some cymbals. There is a hum of chords that are fuzzy over the top of the beautifully composed strings. This leads to a track that has a very different feel on the disc: “Astgit.” It leads the listener into a peaceful track with warm guitar. There are some backward loops in the song, among other silent sounds. The song trails out with the soft backward sounds and some humming type guitar, leading the listener into “Piano2.”
“Piano2” has a magnificently composed piano piece over various sounds, some strumming of the guitar strings up near the tuning pegs perhaps, and some other various strings being plucked and played. The song filters out into the various sounds of knocking and string plucking and then is silent. This leads the listener into the brighter toned, striped down beginning of “M.H.” This has beautiful acoustic guitar work that has a kind of classical feel to it. This is a song that has the first full ray of hope in it on the whole album. “M.H.” actually feels like it has more structure and is the fullest track up to this point on the disc. The guitar work is intricate and there are multiple guitars playing off of each other. It’s quite gorgeous. Piano also punctuates the song with forceful under girding and fills it out nicely. A shaker is a primary means of keeping the beat in place while a bass drum and sparse percussion play a supporting cast to the effective guitar picking and strumming. This song gets more and more complex as you go and the build is amazingly intricate. Then, a quiet moment with piano, soft guitar and then the fade out. This leads into the last of the “piano” songs.
“Piano3” has accordion, piano and has a repeated line that feels like the finish to a song over and over again. This line eventually changes and has an ominous feel about it. I don’t want to give the impression that this album is so depressing that it’s not worth listening to. On the contrary, it is melancholy in a very beautiful and touching way. The album finishes with the longest track called “Cumar.” “Cumar” begins with a slow pulse that fades in and out. This fade is very slow, then starts into a percussive type sound with what sounds like violin being played very slowly. Keys come into the mix and some sounds on the strings that are a bit caustic. This blend of hums and stings make for a beautiful soundscape that is wide and far-reaching. The depth of this band’s work is tremendous. The cello adds real contrast to the higher pitched violin strings. Eventually, all of the instruments and noises fill the soundscape in glorious volume, enveloping the listener.
This is a masterpiece of experimental/ambient music. It really is a melancholy beauty, sweeping the listener of their feet into the world that Astrid has created. Turn out the lights, lay on your bed, turn up the volume, and let Astrid take you on a tour of their universe.