Les Fragments de la Nuit is an emerging partnership created in 2005 by Frenchmen Michel Villar (piano) and Ombeline Chardes (violin), score composers for film. In order to play their pieces on stage, they set up a quintet made up of three violins, a cello, a piano, and a small choir. Their name means Fragments of the Night (or Night Fragments), and so fitting it seems, as the night herself has written her own soundtrack. Yes, a score for the requiem of times, or the procreation of twilight. Gathering influences from the minimalism of Philip Glass, the emotion of Franz Schubert, the intensity of Franz Liszt, or even the atmosphere of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, these French composers have reached new heights of performance and craftsmanship, and hopefully this record is a sign for the future, for this is quite the promising band.
The album plays like a movie score, complete with repeating sequences throughout, a solid theme, and no words. I’m quite surprised at the quality of execution as this is a debut, and I have to add the production and arrangements are so professional and thought-out. Musique du Crépuscule is a lucid, nocturnal piece, classically ambient, entwined in spectral chants, heartrending strings, and hypnotic piano pulsations. This dusk-filled universe has been enchanted with magical emotions tainted with melancholy and erotica. It alternates between dark cello expressions, a sole piano either trickling or pounding, and let us not forget the strings. From the overture they quickly build tension and suspense, and then release to soaring, gentle melodies on the next track. They can also act as a steady line of atmosphere, as if a guitar was tremolo picking.
The choir brings a new foundation to the album. The voices pull you in with their gentle, yet endearing resonance, reminiscent of a Siren. La Chambre des Fées is three and a half minutes of just that; it’s quite relaxing. This brings a great deal of diversity to the record, seeing as how this track was so calming, and Entre Ciel et Fer is extremely tense and pulsating. It’s one of those songs you’d hear in movies when someone is frantically trying to decide what to do with the body he just murdered, or some sort of climax where a character undergoes so much distress and falls apart. The strings in that song evoke insanity under the steady piano rhythm, and then it breaks off and stops, fading into two pieces of gentle piano toppling with violins screaming for you to listen to what they have to say.
At only 40 minutes, the band has managed to pack in so much variation; it’s easy to understand that there is almost no repetition, aside from a couple recurring choir sections, so there is never a dull moment, a major flaw which countless composers fall into. Everything flows as one in a manner beyond ethereal, and I believe this will be in my top 10 records of the year, at least. The band has recently been playing their music to a growing number of passionate spectators, keeping in mind their motto: “Our music is poetry in which words are notes, a memory in which images are dreams.” The moonlight slowly reveals a name in the ethereal infinity: Les Fragments de la Nuit.