Norman Records calls Angèle David-Guillou an “undervalued talent,” so we’re going on record to proclaim that we value her talent immensely ~ even more given A Question of Angles, a sensational set launching the artist’s music into new territories.
The album’s mainstream appeal is inescapable. Any of these six songs could succeed as the main or closing themes of blockbuster films. The themes are huge, the melodies memorable. David-Guillou pulls out all the stops by inviting a saxophone octet and a string septet ~ this in addition to the cello, piano, theremin, bass clarinet and choir. Such lushness is a counterpart to Sans Mouvement, an organ-based EP released earlier this year. If that release was a declarative statement, A Question of Angles is an imperative.
A keen intelligence is at work below the surface. The title refers to perception, especially the fine line “between illusion and reality” as found in the films of Jean Cocteau. David-Guillou seeks to trick the ear, to make one question what one is hearing. The variety of instruments and time signatures contributes to the sense that the sonic ground is shifting beneath one’s feet.
The album opens with swift staccato sax, and for the remainder of the set the energy never flags. Instruments trade melodies and leads; soldiers fall while others rush to the front lines. Each one of these tracks has a distinguishing tone, as well as a switch point: a hinge in the music where the artist’s illusion is performed. In “Valley of Detachment,” the shift arrives after a complete stop, but in other tracks the sleight of hand is disguised. In the title track, it’s the soprano who turns out to be a theremin, a starting point for a modern fairy tale. The music is already dramatic, but when that trombone enters ~ wow. “Akrotiri” is in constant motion, a possible nod to the volcano that destroyed the town of its namesake (a possible inspiration for Atlantis). The soaring “Quid Pro Quo” closes the set with intimations of adventure ~ the great unknown, the uncharted wild.
If it’s a question of angles, David-Guillou’s success is in making us listen in one direction while the magic is performed in another. This may be her most pernicious trick: all of the sudden the songs are no longer where we thought they were; and neither is she. (Richard Allen)