Hear the noisy squall that kicks off ‘Grand Dérèglement’ and you might wonder if Frànçois & The Atlas Mountains have gained an layer of in-your-face, defiant strength. The answer to that isn’t exactly straightforward, but then again that’s probably the point. Having infused his band’s music with African rhythms, performing in Istanbul, Lebanon, Alexandria and Cairo in 2015, Frànçois Marry started asking himself a lot of questions about why he shrouded his words in a psychedelic, poetic veil, instead of just telling it how it is.
He eventually realised that creating an escape from the real world while also addressing its issues can go hand in hand, and so ‘Solide Mirage’ was set into motion. Just like the idea of a ‘Solide Mirage’ is an unachievable oxymoron, so the album is filled with sometimes implausible contrasts. Despite talking of a “great disruption”, ‘Grand Dérèglement’ surprises with how accessible and groove-laden it is, while the jangly guitar breaks on ‘Perpétuel Été’ give an icy edge to Owen Pallett’s lush string arrangements.
There are even some tracks that don’t sound like Frànçois & The Atlas Mountains at all. ‘Âpres Après’ is full of staccato vocals and reverberating house beats and, if you can believe it, ‘Bête Morcelée’ is a sub-two minute grunge number. Of course, there are much more familiar touches, moments where Frànçois and his band sound in danger of fluttering away easily in the lightest of breezes. Unfortunately, these are huddled together rather than woven throughout the album, breaking the illusion of a perpetual contrast.
When ‘Solide Mirage’ eventually hits its mark though, it’s impossible not buy into Marry’s idea of a changeable album that dreams of unity and addressing frustrations through as many channels as possible. It’s a firm step on the way to cementing a solid, humanist vision.
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When he delivers, Frànçois can still make pure, earnest, and enduring connections.
The track features on his forthcoming LP ‘Banane Bleue’.