Les Fragments de la Nuit: Musique De Nuit
Denovali Records

Anyone still mourning the demise of Rachel's can ease their pain with this latest collection by Les Fragments De La Nuit, even if it's an updated version (remastered and featuring newly recorded tracks from the early days supplemented with a small number of new pieces) of a 2006 originally self-released set by the neo-classical chamber outfit. By way of background, the Versailles band was formed in 2005 by pianist Michel Villar and violinist Ombeline Chardes, film score composers who decided to establish a quintet of three violins, cello, and piano in order to have their music performed onstage. In addition to the ‘new' release, Musique De Nuit, the group also issued Musique Du Crépuscule in 2008 and Demain, C'Était Hier in 2010.

A three-person female choir and oboe player also appear (the former draping its siren-esque voices across “La dame Blanche” and the latter to wonderful effect on “Et puis la pluie”), but otherwise the album is a pure piano-and-strings affair. In most cases, all five musicians play, but in a few tracks a sub-group performs (the lovely “Hypocondrie,” for example, is a short duet for violin and piano). That fifteen pieces have been fit into a thirty-three-minute album obviously speaks volumes about the track lengths but more significantly the group's penchant for brevity. If a point of comparison were to be invoked, it would be with Michael Nyman for the simple reason that Les Fragments De La Nuit emphasizes melody in its compositions in the same way that the British composer does in his operas, songs, and soundtracks.

Many of the group's dramatic settings for brooding piano and emotive strings exude a mournful character (“Toi le fou,” “Scène Final,” “Hypocondrie”), while others are vivacious (“The Gate,” “Les Divinités”), mournful (“Après le combat”), eerie (“Presence”), and Romantic (“Petite rosée,” “Souviens-toi”). In other words, the full range of human emotion is captured in the album's passionately delivered pieces. Interestingly, the group's profile received a recent boost when its music was featured in the soundtrack for the movie We Need To Talk About Kevin. Such a move is wholly in keeping with the group's style, given how much the album's luscious settings seem tailor-made to accompany cinematic scenes of intense drama and emotional sweep.

February 2012