Although it’s Helena’s name on the spine of her Fraise Vanille CD, the story of Fraise Vanille properly begins with Serge Rezvani. Under the pseudonym “Cyrus Bassiak”, Rezvani made significant musical contributions to the French New Wave (Nouvelle Vague) film movement of the 1960s, and continues to be known as an accomplished writer, painter, and art critic. “Le Tourbillon”, written for François Truffaut’s acclaimed film Jules & Jim, is a popular example, and it appears here as Fraise Vanille‘s opening number. Rezvani’s songs are sweet, succinct compositions that swoon with exuberance and sway with sadness, whichever mood the song requires. His understated approach is what gives Fraise Vanille its charm.
That’s where Helena Noguerra enters the story. Remembering Rezvani’s melodies from her childhood, Helena decided to match her vocals with Rezvani’s whimsy. The result is a delightful confection of classic French pop, featuring fresh collaborations with Vincent Delerm (“Les Mots De Rien”), Marie-France (“Jamais Je Ne T’ai Dit…”), Katerine (“La Bécasse”), and even Rezvani himself (“Nous Vivions Deux”). The vocals are pitch perfect, connecting each dip and swerve to Rezvani’s words. French lyrics prevail, but even English-only listeners can get the gist from the catchy melodies. Don’t be daunted by the 19-song tracklist. It might seem like a never-ending stream, but the going is light and lean, and a rather scrumptious way to spend an hour.