by Oliver Anderson/ KUGS Promotions Director
You could call it a unique homage, a musical journey, perhaps even a new wave cover experience. You could go as far as to call it whatever your little heart desires, but the simple fact remains: “Bande á Part”, the new recording from Nouvelle Vague, is one hell of an album!
Rolling off the momentum of their wildly popular, self-titled debut album, Nouvelle Vague is getting down with the bossa nova sound once again. It’s not every day that you hear the cult hits of the 80s new wave movement redone in the smooth, rhythmic sounds of Brazil, but then again, Nouvelle Vague isn’t your typical guitar, bass and drums kind of band.
The melodic splendor that is Nouvelle Vague is the project of two hard-working French musicians/producers with a penchant for 80’s new wave, Marc Collins and Olivier Libaux. By the time they had come to work together, Collins and Libaux were already fairly accomplished in Europe. Using their skills in musical arrangement, the duo hooked up with some of France’s most promising young vocal talents in order to add a new flare to selected classics. Collins and Libaux intentionally searched out young vocalists with the idea that they could bring new life to old words, hoping they would not be hindered by conforming to the sound of the original version. The product of this careful selection would become my hands-down favorite album of the year 2006.
Track-to-track, “Bande á Part” brings its listeners through something akin to an emotional rollercoaster. From the very first song, a rendition of Echo & the Bunnymen’s “The Killing Moon”, the listener is enveloped in a dreary melody, leaving them in lingering anticipation of what’s to come. Complimenting these haunting tracks are more upbeat, definitely danceable songs such as Phoebe Killdeer’s attempt at Billy Idol’s “Dancing with Myself”, and Melanie Pain’s stab at “Dance with Me”. Throughout the album, these upbeat songs are definitely more of an exception rather than the rule, but they’ve been lightly peppered through the track list to make for a real smooth balance.
If the upbeat songs were what initially pulled you in, brother/sister, you’ll be staying for the downright sensual ride! Sensual, there’s really no better way to put it. Have you ever heard the term, “Baby-Makin’ Music”? No disrespect to the Rev. Al Green, but Nouvelle Vague has taken the flag and is running with it!
A warm, sultry glow seems to resonate through the speakers whenever I toss this album in the stereo. It’s kind of a strange feeling, sort of like slipping into another reality for the moment. Though if you think about it, isn’t that part of what art is all about: altering perceptions? I guess drugs are pretty good for that effect too; one just seems a little more readily available. “Bande á Part” is one of the few albums that have taken me to another place, a poorly lit café in some non-descript place in France. There’s a dance floor, nearly barren but for the well-dressed couple rhythmically dancing as if they knew nothing else. Over the distorted speaker comes the sound of a voice that nearly renders us all paralyzed, it’s Marina and she’s singing “Fade to Grey”, a song that begins as a tango and ends with ominous steel drums. On the more upbeat side of the mellow tracks, soulful versions of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” and A Certain Ratio’s “Shack Up” prove to prolong those romantic inclinations.
What’s most important to note about “Bande á Part” is the composition of the album as a whole. The songs are arranged in such an order so that the listener can become totally immersed in the musical experience. Coming from a new-wave-newbie, I found the track selection to be terrific and extremely well-complimented by the track arrangement. If you’re unfamiliar with bossa nova, or the new wave classics of the 80s, take a chance with the new album from Nouvelle Vague, “Bande á Part.” If they have their way, they’ll make a fan of you yet.