Eglantine Gouzy: Boamaster

VA: 4 Women No Cry Vol. 2

Eglantine Gouzy packs a considerable stylistic range into Boamaster's fourteen electroacoustic miniatures. Singing in both French and English, the Paris-based artist blends minimal electronics and guitars with child-like vocal whispers and obliquely skewed melodies. Her debut album clocks in at a compact 36 minutes but that still allows the chanteuse ample time to establish an idiosyncratic European sensibility. Though the songs vary widely, the album consists of light-hearted, at times theatrical songs and multi-coloured instrumental vignettes. Standouts include “Cowboy,” which backs her romantic French musing with Mathieu Tiger's tremulous guitar playing, “Zone A,” where Gouzy underlays a sensual vocal with a gently soaring tropical melody, and the breezy “12H12” wherein skittering beats, bright melodies, and multi-layered vocals collide. Her accent assumes a Yoko Ono-like quality when she speaks English in the lulling “Nurse,” while similarly child-like settings are sprinkled throughout (“Tout I'an,” “Attention”). On the instrumental front, the fittingly-titled “A Gnome” resembles an electronic interlude emanating from the center of a magical forest, while carousel organ, galloping clip-clops, music box patterns, and bell tinkles add sparkling colour elsewhere. Boamaster may be somewhat of an acquired taste, but the flavour's not unappealing.

Gouzy was one of four artists featured on the first 4 Woman No Cry collection and now Gudrun Gut's Monika graces us with four new female artists—Dory Chrysler, Berliner Monotekktoni (Tonia Reeh), Mico (Mieko Shimizu), Barcelona resident Iris—on the consistently strong volume two. Monotekktoni lets her analogue sound stay a bit rough around the edges, especially on the raucous “Hands Up” which could be heard as a tribute to ‘80s new wave and punk. “Pappelin” is a brooding piano and vocal-based song reminiscent of Jane Siberry's When I Was a Boy style but Reeh's best moment is “Operation” which courts a controlled delirium using swirling keyboard patterns, chanted vocals, and techno pulses. Relative newcomer Iris (her live debut occurred in 2004) starts off strongly with the charming “Already Ready” which pairs Eno-styled synth elements with soft vocals and pitter-patter rhythms. The innocent quality of songs like “A Bath” and “Rolling Don” recalls Caroline though Iris's material gravitates towards the eccentric experimentalism of Björk too.

As decent as such offerings are, Chrysler and Mico are the disc's top draws. With their lush arrangements and vocal harmonies, Austria-born Chrysler's five songs are particularly notable, especially when her Theremin leaves its indelibly woozy fingerprint upon the material (“My Sweet Chimera,” “Animoso”). She opens the album with a warm choir of ‘la-la-la' voices (“Spring Breeze”), follows it with a lovely ambient setting (“Satellite”), and then the vibrant “Chlorophyll,” vocal electropop so infectious it could make Lali Puna jealous. Dramatically different but equally memorable, Japan-born and now London-based Mico layers stream-of-consciousness poetry over heavily electrified techno-pop bases in three songs. She treats her vocals almost percussively over a crackling electro-tribal pulse in “Signal Found,” merges strong melodic hooks with a subtly funky vibe in “After Rain,” and pairs slithering techno patterns with felinesque vocalizing in “Fruit Tree.” Judging by the strengths of this collection, one imagines that perhaps a year from another volume will appear featuring four new artists equally deserving of exposure.

December 2006