Laura Perrudin – Poisons & Antidotes
(Volatine. CD Review by Alison Bentley)
‘Some poisons are antidotes,’ intones French singer/harpist/composer Laura Perrudin in the first track on her new album. It’s a theme of opposites that runs throughout the whole album, both musically and lyrically.
Inks opens with an Arabic-infuenced vocal theme, electronically-enhanced harp (all the album’s sounds come from her voice and harp alone) and a deliciously angelic grunge that recurs through the songs: ‘…some brandy in the shaman’s face to set him free.’ The impressionistic lyrics are mostly her own, and four songs are in French. (Lyrics on the CD cover or a web page would have been good- sometimes they get lost in the electronica, and they sound too interesting to miss.)
Le Poison has clicks, breaths and ethereal vocal backing behind the delicate chords of her specially-made chromatic Celtic harp. The voice tips into distant reverb, Cocteau Twins-style. The Ceiling’s Maze owes a lot to 90s Erykah Badu, with its laid-back R&B feel; loose multitracked vocal harmonies embellish the beautifully complex melody. The harp often sounds like a guitar teasing out jazz chords. The Trap has a two-chord flamenco feel with distorted bells, crackles and an irresistible hook line. ‘Write a song with this poison and maybe it will save you from madness.’
Perrudin can sound a little like Gretchen Parlato, her delicate breathy voice making tricky melodies sound natural and relaxed. Diurnal Fireflies and Ghosts have restless, unresolved chord sequences placed off-beat. They recall Robert Glasper’s arrangements for Parlato, but the harp sounds like Lionel Loueke’s guitar at times. Ghosts has a gentle drum and bass groove, and delicate counterpointed vocals over thundering percussive sounds. The harsh reverb brilliantly counteracts the delicacy of the voice. The Loueke feel continues in Train, where the vocal harmonies have an African feel.
Mesopelagic and The Falling Swans are dreamy, the first evoking the ocean bed with washes of vocal harmony. The second is a jazz-inflected melodic ballad, drawing the trailing electronic clouds of the harp arpeggios. Heliotopie is almost whispered, like a simple nursery rhyme against the portentous accompaniment of mysterious organ-like sounds. The sinuous vocal lines of Pavane de la patte d’oie radiate out like the paths (‘patte d’oie) idiomatically described in the title. Gentle polyphonic vocals are interwoven with harp harmonies.
Perrudin’s first album Impressions set a number of English poems; this album has two by Blake. A few lines from Auguries of Innocence swoop between drifting vocals, a trip hoppy backbeat, and gorgeous harmonies. The Sick Rose has always been a gift to composers. Blake’s subtitle for his Songs of Innocence and Experience– ‘the Contrary States of the Human Soul’- could equally describe Perrudin’s album. Her singing style is more folky here (she has also played Celtic music and comes from Rennes in Brittany.) The melody is haunting, with Debussy-esque harmonies and glittering harp arpeggios.
Björk is clearly an influence, and the album’s been mastered in Iceland by Björk’s producer Valgeir Sigurðsson– but Perrudin sounds like herself. This beautiful album brings together classical, folk, hip hop, rock, and above all, jazz: it’s a personal, original and highly musical vision.