There are some classic taglines in modern culture, you know, those little phrases that accompany a movie poster and acts as a hint to what the film is about. There is the famous “In space, no one can hear you scream” for ‘Alien’, ‘Jaws 2’ had “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water” and comedy ’40-Year-Old Virgin’ had the clever “The longer you wait, the harder it gets”.
New music releases often have a punchy statement to sway your thoughts or give you a starting place, sometimes it’s things like “Tom Jones crossed with Daft Punk!” but on French composer Denis Frajerman’s new release, ‘Tiphaine’, it says “perfect to listen in your bath!”
So I’m expecting calm, I’m expecting joy and pleasure, nothing to stir the imagination, but what we get is a soundtrack to either the most romantic French film ever or the most sinister horror soundtrack since Psycho!
I’m still unsure if I can imagine a lone man walking on the banks of the Seine with the silhouette of Notre Dame in the background or a woman crying at a graveside where, in the background looms a shape that might be human or might be menace.
Either way it’s engaging, heartbreaking, emotional and far more deserving of your attention than something to listen to while you slosh about in the bath pretending that the soap is a submarine on a mission. There are strings, loooooooong passages of single notes that are punctuated with sudden violin outbursts, ‘Il y a des Levres et des Yeux’ (translates into ‘There Are Lips and Eyes’) is an example of the drama that strings can conjure, only lasting just over a minute, it’s violins over a rippled string foundation that screams movie soundtrack.
‘Les Dimanches Glissants’ (or ‘Sliding Sundays’) is pure Tudor-period royal court but ‘Au Rhythme d’un Vent’ (‘To the Rhythm of a Wind’) is my favourite piece on the album, the jangled percussion that drifts in and out of time, underpinning cello sounds like the soundtrack of the damned. Prisoners trudging to the gallows (could the percussion be their shackled steps over cobbled streets? Or am I going a bit too Victor Hugo here? Possibly), taking their last look over the crowd of blood-thirsty onlookers.
As music goes, it’s far more accomplished than my little brain can deal with, but as an example of the power of music goes, it’s brilliant. Considering this album was written as a love letter to Frajerman’s wife to celebrate her turning fifty years old, it’s extraordinary.