France's Solace Supplice is a band formed by Eric Bouillette and Anne-Claire Rallo, two members of the progressive rock band Nine Skies based in England. The duo launched this project in 2020 with the release of its first EP and have followed up this full-length release.
Some people may be perplexed by this album, perhaps expecting something more akin to their other band - but this is a FANTASTIC album. Like some of their current contemporaries (such as ECT), Bouillette and Rallo have drawn in some influence from the 1980's “pop” accessibility and the dark moods of bands like The Cure and Psychedelic Furs but combined that with progressive elements and sensibilities. The masterful melding of such diverse influences creates a truly unique sound and feel which is brand new and yet strangely familiar. Eric's emotional vocal style is perfectly suited to this style and effectively pulls the listener into the very dark and intense lyrics from Anne-Claire, covering everything from relationships to politics with a razor-sharp edge.
The album opens with BBC radio broadcasts leading us into Le Tartuffe Exemplaire which, musically immediately brought to mind Leggat's classic White Flags, but which quickly moves into its own unique sound and approach. The dark, almost acidic lyrics are virtually spit out from the speakers.
The next track Sunset Street, with its vivid descriptions of city street-life at night laid bare over a rhythmic backbeat and almost dissonant guitar stabs. This is a very effective tonal painting creating an appropriate sound canvas.
A Demi-Maux is driven along by the incredible rhythm section of Jimmy Pallagrosi (drums) and Willow Beggs (bass) and features some fantastic guitar work from Bouillette.
Les Miradors, Cosmos Adultérin, and Schizophrénie Paranoïde all feature excellent sound environments which bring the songs to life. Each has its own feel and approach.
At first Au Cirque des âmes reminded me, lyrically, of lmbecile by Mike Batt but with a darker and sharper perspective. The piece features some incredible musical treatments from keyboards and violin.
En Guidant Les Hussards opens with some more incredible bass work from Willow Beggs and then slides into what feels like Pink Floyd's Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun. The Floyd feel continues with a soulful sax section from Laurent Benhamou.
The album's title track, Liturgies Contemporaines, starts out with a segment which brings to mind Hamadryad but quickly becomes a truly unique piece which builds and layers itself with brilliant guitar solos and incredible keyboard work. This is the Magnum Opus of the disc and my personal favourite.
Dans La Couche Du Diable opens with some fantastic keyboard work which are then joined by acoustic guitar and vocals. While the middle section is a very basic song structure, when the piano again moves to the forefront we are treated to another great (although a little short) guitar solo. The piece weaves in and out of acoustic and electric sections and ultimately leaves you wanting more.
The album concludes with Marasmes Et Décadence which opens with acoustic piano and moves into oddly accented vocals which serve to punctuate the lyrics.
Overall this album is an incredibly well-written, well-performed and well-produced journey into some musically and lyrically dark territory, but with fantastic results. Do yourself a favour and get yourself a copy of this disc! This is definitely in my top three of the year so far!
****+ David Carswell
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