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Toutes mes Aventures

(Le Pop; US: 29 Jan 2008; UK: 9 Jul 2007; Germany release date: 9 Jul 2007)

I listened to this album for the first time after coming home in the evening from a screening of Cloverfield, and it was a strange contrast, the screaming and agitation in one place and the smiling drift of Frédérique Dastrevigne’s voice in the other, the flutes and violins that float with the lightness of bubbles, turning their noses up at the Earth, the prickly banjo that trips and teases, the singing that sighs and hums and tickles its way out of the speakers. My brain was still so retroactively caught up in the drama of terrified Americans that this light little album was halfway over before I’d had a chance to register it. Mentally, I sort of blinked and wondered what had happened. In my head I was still watching people explode.

Toutes mes Aventures is Dastrevigne’s debut release. At the moment she’s better known as the partner of Pascal Parisot than as a singer in her own right, but with Toutes that might start to change. These are songs that are made to be enjoyed almost without conscious effort, clever tracks with sticky little choruses that saunter into your head and refuse to go away. There’s the bobbling trot of “Le Rose des Filles”, for example, and the foxy almost-whining slither of “J’aime J’aime”. Once I managed to clean the monsters out of my brain and actually listen to her, I realised that her songs would fit perfectly into one of those neo-chanson-pop-whatever compilations that have been turning up recently, albums like the Rough Guide to Paris, Putumayo Presents Paris, and the Le Pop anthology series released by the same label that is bringing us Toutes.

She sits so well within the Le Pop aesthetic that even if they weren’t her label, I still wouldn’t be surprised to see one of her songs on Le Pop 5. Perhaps “Pas Par Moi”, which uses the banjo to unsettle the music with stabs of tension and then breaks it apart with violins, or “Barry White”, with its rococo swirls of string.

Checking back, I see that she appeared on Le Pop 3 with a track from an unreleased solo album called Au Square, so if you’ve been collecting the Le Pops then you should already know what she sounds like. Le Pop en Duo featured her in a duet with Parisot, but the song there, a chanson-samba number decorated with bird noises and electronic lounge effects, is no indicator of Toutes. The Brazilian music that made such an impact on his style hasn’t had a corresponding influence on hers. Dastrevigne sounds unambiguously European. The sweep of the violins lends her music a touch of orchestral sophistication, inviting us to feel the pleasure of a cheat who can say that they have had their daily dose of culture without having to work at it. The trim pluck of her banjo adds piquancy to the flutes and strings, and this piquancy, which carries over into the compositions themselves, prevents the album seeming too monotonously sweet.

It’s a particularly French way of going about things, this teasing journey to the edge of exaggeration, and then something brought in to cut the cute grease. When the trick doesn’t work it can make your teeth ache. When it does, as on Toutes mes Aventures, it’s wonderful.


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