France’s vocals are intent, holistic and purposeful. The lyrics are as they need to be, at times urgent, also reflective, on time or in the moment. The writing is mature and scripted and leaves openings for improvisation. The old school Fuzz Face is back. This is post-modern psychedelic emotive sensuality.
Saint Sebastian was recorded at Studio G Brooklyn and as if resonating in the walls from past studio sessions, there is an influence of Tom Waits and Ani Difranco present. The album makes good use of the equipment Studio G has on offer. It has brought to life the old fuzz face distorted tones, it has been mixed eloquently and there is a superb balance of frequency on the acoustic guitars. It is always pleasing when you can hear the guitar pick strike the strings.
‘Skin and Stone’ opens this album. The folk influence greets you before coming together with drums around two and a half minutes. By four minutes a wavering old school fuzz face post-modern distorted guitar completes the sequence. A prodigious opening act. In ‘Honey Lane’ the main guitar riff folds into and over itself. The fuzz is again present and pulls you in like a black hole, you can’t escape the gravity. It is tight and holds together like the properties of carbon fibre. The hook is infectious “it can be so sweet it makes you sick”.
The opening vocals of ‘Les Oiseaux’ are doubled with guitar in some phrases. Around 1:30 the track develops it’s groove and this is maintained until the fading outro brings you to track four. It’s time to reflect on your adolescence as France tells a story, coming of age for a young couple in school ready to become, as the title of the track suggests ‘Queens and Kings’. ‘Je Ne Saurais’ cuts immediately to your frontal cortex. All round there is a nice tone a strong chorus, its well written and well produced. Very cool.
Looking for gold.
With ‘Sebastian’ get ready for the lap sliding gritty country groove, there is a time signature change that has been implemented with such grace you won’t notice. The guitar wails like winds on a tin roof. The vocals are blues heavy with an well produced level of reverb at times. ‘The Veil of Stars’ addresses Frances vocal abilities with elements of breathiness, blues and sweetness. This track falls away from itself before cutting off agreeably at the end.
I like in ‘Swan’ the use of delay on vocals, it is not over used though when it is, it is effective. The rhythm section works well and the Hammond fits nicely. The ninth track ‘I thought I had’ is a welcome change, it redirects the pace and takes you out of the space of where the previous songs had been. The presence of Frances vocals will direct you to unwind, reflect and relax.
‘Guitar Decay’ provides us with an instrumental. From the first arpeggios being picked followed by the introduction of the hard country blues it feels like the mid-west, USA. It’s songs like this that provide examples of how different instruments communicate through their player. The conversation going on passes through ethereal space,it is connected and well-conceived.
‘Agneau Mystique’ starts with an acceptable acoustic intro with vocals before cycling through sections with guitar/vocals and the full band dropping in behind. ‘Looking For Gold’ was the first video released on the album. This also gives us a taste of Frances modulated stentorian vocal skill released only as needed. Listen in at two minutes forty. ‘Choose again’ highlights the modulated stentorian vocals. The last song ‘Little Walls’ takes the album out with a fitting end, a Theremin and a satisfying vocal melody.
It is imperative that albums like this don’t get lost in the mainstream of polished pop constructed from an algorithm on a PC. What is refreshing is that these songs don’t rely on anything but good structure, a story to tell and music to take it from start to finish. You’ll find indie-rock, romantic punk and the ever present blues and folk that compliments Frances voice and lyrics.
Artist webpage: www.francedegriessen.com