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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Frou Frou

Details

Review by Bruce Stringer

Frou Frou means the sound that makes men go wild and the first thing that struck me about this CD - beside the succulent, breathy vocals of Imogen Heap, was the texture of the production: something I hadn't experienced since the Cocteau Twins. Music can be like perfume? Each song is a single in its own right, yet the songs together act as very strong listening experience. Frou Frou are a duo comprised of Guy Sigsworth who shares the writing, piano, guitar, synthesizer, sampling and everything else - except vocals - with the aforementioned Imogen.

Fans of Jeff Beck will be familiar with Imogen from her vocal performance on Rollin & Tumblin' and the grammy-award winning Dirty Mind of his recent You Had It Coming album. Frou Frou's Detail does not contain the type of guitar work that Jeff's fans would be used to but this album from many perspectives is well worth a listen for anybody interested in quality music performances, recordings and productions.

I was lucky enough to meet Imogen twice during the recent September Jeff Beck London shows and I must say that she is a very warm, friendly individual who seems so far removed from the whole music industry egotism that I was genuinely impressed by her as a person. This reflects in the music that she produces with Guy and within the lyrical content, which is boldly original, practical and (of all things in pop music world) conversational. The packaging of Details is intelligent and works very well alongside the music, which is a fine departure from the recent barrage of horribly manufactured British techno 'electronica'. Guy is a self-confessed Kate Bush fan, seeking the Baroque fantasy within music while Imogen tends toward the musical inspiration of Aphex Twin.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Let Go
A prominent orchestral backing takes us on a journey to the beauty in the breakdown. This is a light piece that both soothes and leaves one in contemplation. If this had a heavier drum presence we could be dealing with a finely crafted rock song, but that would be too obvious and possibly distract from what Let Go achieves musically. A nice opener, this sets the pace for the 'sound' of the album.
Breathe In
The new single from Frou Frou is a light but quirky pop song and grand candidate for single, with it's hidden harmonies and minimalist guitar lines. Focussing on the less-is-more treatment, Imogen's backing vocals are mixed with an eerie reverb effect. Is this it? I believe it is!
It's Good To Be In Love
This radio-friendly piece has the sing-along catch-line title that gets in your head and you end up humming it over the next few days. The bridge and outro are a little more on the Floydian, atmospheric side, which separates this band from all of the manufactured pop bands out there.
Must Be Dreaming
Another great pop piece with a tasteful orchestral string arrangement and multi-vocal crescendos over some acoustic guitar. Imogen really lets loose on her vocals, proving that she has what it takes. Put this on your radio play list, where it belongs.
Psychobabble
Psychobabble is a strange mix of Bjork and Tori Amos. Orchestral passages interspersed with an industrial rhythm and an attack of Arabic-style strings during the instrumental sections. It is material like this that separates the mainstays from the fly by nights!
Only Got One
With a subtle, moody piano introduction the pace quickens and suddenly we are into a rocky tale of approval and wasted opportunity: it's your life. Dark and moody at times, with haunting piano and some interesting backing to take you places.
Shh
Keeping in line with the conversational truthfulness, Shh is a very relaxing yet up-tempo track. Some synthesizer effects behind the vocal parts gives the song a nice emphasis during the choruses, proving that the production is quite superior. Imogen's breathy vocals are a real standout, yet she never over-uses them preferring to give space to the music to create a mood over this 5 and a half-minute song.
Hear Me Out
Listen up Just hear me out. Another intelligent song from Guy & Imogen that is reminiscent of the work of early-1990's, UK vocalist Tasmin Archer. With multiple vocals and minimal backing, there is a space within the mix, which presents a dreamy quality. A very beautiful piece Just hear me out, I'm not over you.
Maddening Shroud
With some Indian sampled percussive backing we are taken into a light, fluffy pop song that pretty quickly has you in a good mind to throw it all away and just take life easy.
Flicks
Flicks was the first song put together for Details and this has some very interesting off-time rhythms that push this song into uncharted territories and confirm the duo as a writing force to be reckoned with.
The Dumbing Down Of Love
Sounding quite reminiscent of the Cocteau Twins, Dumbing Down is another beautiful piece held together with synth atmospherics and piano, creating the haunting backing for a beautifully crafted work of art.
Old Piano
Rounding off this CD, Old Piano brings itself into a sudden attack of jazz from which an old piano highlights an interesting progression for Imogen's vocals. Building and falling, the sheer moodiness of this piece is unsettling. Interesting choice to end on and is probably my least favourite song only by process of elimination. An Enhanced Section is also included for Mac and PC with some great things like a video interview with Frou Frou, biography, photos and an interesting piece of "Mumbleboy" animation - Well-worth checking out!

 
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