We cover a fair few soundtracks on this site and in the majority of cases you will at least be vaguely familiar with the film, TV show, game or ballet that the music is associated with. It’s probable that you are drawing a blank with Pretty En Rose. Is this, you might be thinking, one of those imaginary soundtracks that Barry Adamson used to specialise in? Well, no – Pretty En Rose is the genuine article although it has flown under the radar. It’s a documentary about French fashion designer Fifi Chachnil who was friends with Pierre et Gilles (that’s one of their portraits of her on the cover) and after a decade or so designing ready-to-wear collections decided to focus her talents on lingerie. If the words ‘French’ and ‘lingerie’ are getting you interested all of a sudden then by all means, have a look at the trailer on YouTube – it’s been there for over three years and has only mustered 500 views at time of writing. There’s one thing to note: it’s not Ross Blake’s music on there, that’s a classic slice of yéyé pop by Ria Bartok so don’t be confused about what we’re reviewing here.
Having said that, Pretty En Rose (the soundtrack) does retain some of the spirit and jauntiness of yéyé in the music, as one might expect from what is after all a documentary about a French fashion designer as opposed to a hard-hitting documentary either about a man falsely accused of murder, or a murderer who has thus far escaped justice. It’s to Blake’s credit that he avoids the main clichés of a French soundtrack and doesn’t even approach full Amélie until the penultimate track “House of Miracles” – Waltz time? Check. Fairground organ? Check. Accordian? Check-a-rooni – and instead goes for a sound that is part shuffly post-rock (UK branch) and part long-forgotten library album. Rather than being content to provide cues with a suitable atmosphere to sit in the background for a few minutes, each track on Pretty En Rose is full of hummable melodies.
The centrepiece of the album, “Golden Spherics” is the longest track here and arguably the best, sounding as if Ennio Morricone used Rachel’s and Pye Corner Audio on one of the many obscure European films he worked on in the 70s. It’s that good – and if Ross Blake was an undiscovered composer who made one record in 1972 before joining a commune there would be a whole community of crate diggers interested in him. As it is, he’s competing with a huge number of albums released in 2017 that are often recklessly overlooked in favour of reissued works. To sum up, then: Pretty En Rose has one of the more distinct covers of the year, sounds absolutely gorgeous and is catchy as hell – as you might imagine music soundtracking French models in expensive lingerie should be – so it should be a hit across the board. As it is, Blake is operating in 2017 with an album limited to 200 copies soundtracking a film the trailer for which has racked up fewer views than a time lapse video of a man painting a shed. Truly, these are strange times we live in. Get this now, and at the very least you’ll be ahead of the game when Pretty En Rose is rediscovered in 2059. (Jeremy Bye)