Ensemble - Ensemble
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Ensemble
Ensemble

The name of the game for Olivier Alary has always seemed to be collaboration. He released a debut album entitled Sketch Proposals on Rephlex back in 2000, and in the time since then has worked with Björk while slowly gathering up another small batch of friends and musicians to help out on what would become this self-titled follow-up. Two of the performances (Lou Barlow and Chan Marshall) were facilitated by Alary simply writing a letter and maintaining correspondence with the artist, while he met Mileece while studying in London and contributions from Adam Pierce (drummer for Mice Parade) came about from his label releasing one of the first tracks from Alary on an older Bubble Core compilation.

Now that I've gone and talked about everyone involved, I suppose I should talk about the release itself, which is a hazy slab of electronic music that at times moves into more song-like territory while mainly preferring to float out in textural tidepools. Opening track "Summerstorm" evolves over the course of seven minutes and is easily one of the best tracks on the disc as subdued electronics eventually bloom into near poppy sections with male/female vocals, curls of horns, drums, and washes of droning guitar.

From there, the album moves into much more languid territory, as "Still" is little more than two minutes of overlapping soft feedback layers, while "One Kind Two Minds" again stretches things out to almost six minutes, and while there are some nice moments mixing the vocals of Barlow with acoustic guitar, filtered electronics, and buzzing noise, it simply runs out of ideas about halfway through and keeps plodding on to the end. "Disown, Delete" is even more of a bummer, taking sleepy vocals from Marshall and mingling them with sparse electronics and instrumentation that's a downright mess other than during some cresting choruses.

Oddly enough, the other best track on the album also features Mileece (on vocals), and "All We Leave Behind" again swerves with sort of a jazzy feel while threatening to burst with shards of filtered strings. The nearly ten-minute "Loose" also has some lovely moments, but like the earlier track with Barlow, can't quite sustain itself over the length of the song. Perhaps the length of time spent working on the album played some part in the rather unfocused sound of the release, because it feels rather indecisive in places and the big names are overshadowed by the smaller ones. Cat Power fanatics will find it curious, as will those of understated electronics, but it just doesn't have much tug.

rating: 610
Aaron Coleman 2006-11-23 20:16:32