Album reviews

Chloé & Vassilena Serafimova – ‘Sequenza ‘

Chloé & Vassilena Serafimova – Sequenza
(Lumière Noire Records. Album Review by Chris Wheatley)

An intriguing collaboration here, between electronic dance producer Chloé Thévenin (who performs simply as Chloé), and marimba player Vassilena Serafimova. Both are notable talents. Thévenin grew to prominence as a DJ in the 1990s Paris nightclub scene, releasing a string of remixes, singles and long-players, before founding her own label. Beyond the dance world, she has worked with artists and choreographers, and explored the avant garde with live experiences and sound installations. Vassilena Serafimova has won international awards for her marimba playing. Astonishingly, Serafimova made her debut on this wooden counterpart to the xylophone at no less a venue than New York’s Carnegie Hall. She is co-founder of the International Marimba and Percussion Festival, in Bulgaria. The pair met through Sourdoreille – a cooperative of journalists and videographers with an interest in contemporary music. Sequenza is their first release.

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Opener Studio Venezia makes for a fascinating listen. Serafimova’s spiralling marimba lines swirl like autumn leaves picked up on a breeze, over a shimmering backdrop of “found sounds” and delicate electronic tones. Snippets of percussion blow and rustle, summoning a skeletal framework which suggests, more than builds, a sonic base. Mare A Mare, in contrast, rattles along at pace, the perfect score for a classy, contemporary thriller. Drums thud softly yet urgently, unidentifiable sounds click and drive. The marimba is the glue which binds these disparate elements together, weaving fascinating lines. As a percussive instrument, it provides both melodic and rhythmic elements. This is beguiling music indeed.

There’s an impressive variety here. The Dawn, with its ghostly vocals, unfurls slowly but also urgently. A thudding bass drum pounds the beat. Mesmeric marimba patterns whirl in stereo. An ominous bed of synth arises. If this were the soundtrack to a film, it would have to be one by Christopher Nolan, playing with big ideas and notions of time and space. White Circle Canteen offers up a dazzling waterfall of sound. Hidden voices chant, chimes ring and, when the beat comes, it is compelling and never obvious. The melody, too, is gorgeous in a thoughtful manner. Were they to make simple pop, Chloé & Serafimova would be in-demand producers for all the leading R&B acts, but that would restrain the pair’s creative imagination far too much.

Balani bounces playfully in off-kilter rhythms, building steam like a retro-future express train, running joyously and magically through a fairytale night. It’s worth stating, once again, that although this is highly accessible music, there is plenty of depth on offer. Repeated listens will bring much reward. Driveway slows things down, in pace if not in feel, hitting a spot somewhere in-between John Carpenter and Kraftwerk. A slower-tempo version of Mare A Mare makes for an enjoyable end to this fine, fine album.

LINK: Sequenza on Bandcamp

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