Review Summary: A hybrid of world influences, Elsiane's second album pushes the boundaries of electronica and emerges pristine.
Singer/multi-instrumentalist Elsieanne Caplette and drummer Stephane Sotto's first release, 2007's highly praised in some circles and completely unknown in most, Hybrid
, was an ambitious undertaking. The duo known as Elsiane attempted to blend a hybrid of styles together ranging from orchestral pop to jazz and electronica. It was Caplette's impressive vocal inflections, at times bordering on inhuman in their manipulations, that drew the most attention. Upon further investigation, Hybrid
's downtempo vibe and mild trip-hop tendencies, combined with Caplette's unique vocal delivery, left a strong impression in the minds of listeners. While possessing a more organic sound, Mechanics of Emotion
retains the potent atmosphere that made their debut such a captivating listen.
Overt electronic elements play a minimal role in the composition of Mechanics
. Most often they are integrated in the form of atmospheric keys which serve as the canvas to be painted upon by Caplette's voice and the various other instruments with exotic shades of melody. This refocused direction is partially realized through the increased presence of acoustic guitars as well as the use of brass instruments and woodwinds. Incorporating tribal beats and Eastern melodies in addition to revisiting their established sound, the result is a cultured experience, clearly pulling in flavors and influences from all over the globe. Caplette's Peruvian heritage is referenced right from the beginning on "Slowbirth" where Sotto lays the very first groove down on cajon.
At just over thirty-seven minutes, a quick glance at the album's relatively short running time may rightfully cause initial disappointment to fans who have been waiting five years for a follow up record. However, Mechanics of Emotion
is a classic case of an artist choosing quality over quantity. Rather than dilute the finished product with extraneous content, each part appears to have been carefully constructed and methodically sequenced. Included among the eleven tracks are several transitional pieces, either bridging together opposing themes or setting the scene for what's to come, allowing the the record to better flow as one cohesive work. A pair of the album's highlights, "Underhelped" and "Acceptance", find themselves sandwiched in between two such ambient interludes. The dark ambiance of "Vertigone" serves as a perfect introduction to the aforementioned "Underhelped"'s tribal rhythms and mystical vocal expressions. Caplette seems to channel something otherworldly in her passionate performance. Here also lies a glimpse of the percussive work of Elsiane's other half which drives many of the album's finest moments. Notable is the lack of programmed loops or beats. Sotto instead uses a variety of ethnic percussion along with his standard kit, both filling the electronic void as well as adding some new textures to the already diverse sonic landscape.
Nearing the album's final stretch, the bittersweet, reflective melody of an oboe ushers in "Time for Us" and Caplette's matching lyricism before the track evolves into perhaps the most upbeat chorus the duo have written to date. A powerful rhythm section together with creative, atypical instrumentation transforms what is essentially a straight pop song into an experimental masterpiece. In essence, this encapsulates the successes of the album as a whole. With Mechanics of Emotion
, Elsiane has crafted a world of their own, only inviting listeners to explore their domain and share in the experience. Impossible to pin down to a single genre and with the potential to appeal to fans of many, Mechanics of Emotion
stands as an achievement for modern music.