Judith Juillerat: Soliloquy

Listeners who cottoned to the cyborg style of Antye Greie-Fuchs' Head Slash Bauch may want to check out Judith Juillerat's hour-long debut Soliloquy. The French chanteuse filters that AGF style through a synth-pop sensibility, however, making for an unusual and slightly less derivative hybrid. It's an assured and free-flowing set whose mix of analog and digital synths, vocals, beat boxes, samples, and acoustic instruments (piano, guitar) were assembled by Juillerat using a multi-track recorder.

The album's thirteen songs generally alternate between churning industrial-electronic instrumentals that are densely layered with intricate rhythms, synth patterns, and electronic noises (pounding machinery in “Piece of Folk” makes it sound like it was recorded at a factory during peak production time while “Haphazardly” pairs steam engine emissions with foreboding electronics and breathy singing) and vocal cuts that feature a dramatic sprechgesang style similarly favoured by Antye. In addition, echoes of Björk (the album includes “A(r)mour,” Juillerat's contest-winning transformation of Björk's “Army of Me” into a disturbed nightmare of ominous threat) and, in some instrumentals, Colleen emerge. The album highlight arrives with “Ahlan,” a lovely electronic lullaby of elegant piano and vocal melancholia that distills her strengths into a single song.

If there's a flaw, it's Juillerat's tendency to be over-zealous in her arrangements: in “Le jour se lève dans cinq immenses secondes,” crashing waves almost submerge the song's elegant melancholy, while the minimal piano theme in “Forget-Me-Not” is likewise nearly overwhelmed by a vertiginous mechano base; “Pondlife,” too, would be more effective if it weren't so overloaded with swirls of noise and synths. In these cases and elsewhere, a more restrained approach would have given her music more room to breathe—a problem one expects may be rectified the next time around.

December 2005