Review Summary: 'Ariettes oubliées...' sees Fursy Teyssier flourish as a songwriter, but suffer as an artist.
It's genuinely difficult to condemn this album because it sees Fursy Teyssier, the band's songwriter and "mastermind", improve in so many of the right ways. His new-found confidence in songwriting really has made some of his work flourish, but at the same time it suffers in perhaps unexpected ways that don't seem instantly apparent. That's not to say his songwriting is any worse than it has ever been, it's probably better - but the aspects that made Les Discrets' last album so evocative and promising are eerily absent from this album. Ariettes oubliées...
sees Fursy Teyssier flourish as a songwriter, but ultimately suffer as an artist. His first album, Septembre et ses dernières Pensées
, was almost as if a painting had come to life in the form of sound. The lush and almost amazingly lifelike atmospheres and imagery jumped out at you as soon as you started listening, and it kept you there until the very last second. His ability to paint an atmosphere and world with sound alone was almost unrivaled in recent memory, and where the album was far from perfect, it truly was a work of art - the perfect companion piece to his artwork. This is where he truly flourished, and still does, and I'm sure by conscious decision alone, he has decided to give the art a step back in this album. He attempts to let the music speak for itself, stand on its own two legs, but it's just not enough to stand above his previous work or contemporaries.
The songs and instrumentation here are stellar, the compositions being reasonably varied and perfectly performed for the most part. Winterhalter adds a lot of personality to these tracks with his energetic and engaging drumming, finally allowed to let loose on these tracks with a much more metal focus, the occasional blastbeats being sparse enough to make you stand up and pay attention every time they come about. The bass often is apparent in the mix, and while it often just sticks to playing complimentary lines, it often really shines in tracks like "Après l'Ombre", an 'acoustic' track which lets only a distant strummed guitar, occasional reverb-drenched melodies and the almost oddly-energetic bassline carry the song throughout almost its entirety. The guitars themselves sound far less distant and far more confident in this release, which is definitely an improvement, but the same can't be said for the vocal performances. Fursy sounds more confident and less distant too, and he performs well, but this new approach makes it so much less haunting and atmospheric, which doesn't compliment what Les Discrets have proven to be good at. It compliments the style of this album perhaps, but the style of this album simply can't touch the magic that was created on the first. The exception to this is the second track, "La treversée", which is far and away the best track Fursy has ever written. The riffs and the structuring make this new-found confident and direct approach totally work, and leagues above his previous work, but sadly after that the rest just doesn't cut it.
It doesn't help either that it's very obvious that these songs were all written over very different times, some of them accordingly from the time of Amesoeurs, some of the songs here from other releases from the same band, which totally kills the flow of the album. Some songs just sound totally out of tune with the album's atmosphere (La Nuit muette), and some should have been left out altogether (Après l'Ombre, especially since this is already on another one of their releases, and for it to be the last song before the finale is ridiculous considering how quiet it is). The debut could have used a better flow but it certainly wasn't this bad. It further proves that albums like this should stick to one cohesive vision as opposed to songs from different times and feelings. Perhaps the debut was the same but it sure as hell didn't feel that way, where the songs sometimes weren't varied enough or the ordering of the tracks was a little bit off, the album achieved what it wanted to without any blunders for the most part. Here it just rolls off without a lasting impression.
There are some very good things about this album, the improved instrumentation and songwriting is a welcome addition, and I certainly don't think that Les Discrets have lost
their 'knack' for what they do best. They just need to refocus on what made their debut as successful as it was. The wavering and sometimes unconfident delivery of the vocals in the debut had a charm of their own that perfectly complimented the ideas the record were based around, the focus on the imagery and atmosphere gave the record a feel of its own that many tried and failed to replicate. Perhaps if he'd left it longer so more songs like the extremely impressive "La treversée" would surface, this concept would have worked. But that's for him to know, not us. In any case, where this album is of a reasonable quality, sometimes far exceeding what he has achieved before, it just doesn't have any kind of lasting impact and like the translated album title would suggest (Forgotten Songs), becomes forgotten after a few spins. A worthy listen if you enjoyed the first album, and if you've never heard of these guys before, start with the debut. :]