[26 June 2012]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
French group Astrid started as a guitar/drums duo with players Cyril Secq and Yvan Ros, but when they expanded the group to a quartet with violin from Vanina Andreani and clarinet from Guillaume Wickel, the band’s sound really started to take shape. Their brand of chamber music is at its most expansive and wide-open on their new record, High Blues. The album starts with the 21-minute title track, an impressive opening statement built on the light thump of drums and echoing guitars that crumble into string and wind experiments. The band goes from there to the lighter sound of Eric Satie’s “Eric S.” and then “Suite” marries the two. It’s their most cohesive tune here; carried by insistent drums and a steady piano hook, it’s the song with the best foundation for their wandering sound. They can certainly experiment and get weird and ambient, but the further they drift from order on “High Blues” or 11-minute closer “Bysihm”—the best part of which is the languid violin work—the harder it is to stick with them. High Blues can be a shadowy, affecting listen, but only when those blues have a firm, steady floor on which to stomp their lonely stomp.