Belle Arché Lou: Seeking Solace
Humanist Records

Without wishing to imply that the music Alexis and Wesley Paul produce under their Belle Arché Lou guise is in any way lacking in its regular form, the two definitely bolster the appeal of their Seeking Solace EP by including collaborations with singer-songwriter Benoît Pioulard and dudukist Hrair Hratchian. By splitting the fourteen-minute EP's content between original material by Belle Arché Lou and collaborations, the Pauls have produced something special.

With Alexis playing nylon guitar, percussion, and toy piano and Wesley vibraphone, cymbals, and glockenspiel, Belle Arché Lou produces a refreshingly pure acoustic sound that's stirringly represented on the two framing cuts. The haunting opener “Dans la gueule du temps” is distinguished by a graceful blend of nylon guitar and vibraphone textures, while the elegant “Un frère et la mer” closes the release with a lovely serenade that even makes room for some spirited fingerpicking by Alexis.

“Make Haste” suggests that the Pauls and Thomas Meluch should definitely consider collaborating again, given how splendidly their respective talents converge on the piece. Imagine a prototypical Benoît Pioulard ballad enhanced with vibraphone and other instrumental touches and you'll have a pretty good idea of the song's entrancing sound. And a true collaboration it is, too, as Meluch contributed lyrics, singing, and bass to the song. The mournful cry of Hratchian's doudouk gives “Solace” an entirely different and rather unearthly character, though the sparkling presence of nylon guitar and vibraphone once again draws a clear connecting line from the song to the EP's other tracks. In fact, the ones with Benoît Pioulard and Hratchian are so strong, Belle Arché Lou might be wise to consider a full-length album conceived along similar grounds.

August-September 2014