Wendy Martinez’s new release La Chevauchée Electrique (The Electric Ride) is steeped in the long history of French pop and chanson that has traversed the Channel from the likes of Serge Gainsbourg, France Gall, Françoise Hardy and the more recent Carla Bruni and Sandrine Kiberlain. On this six track EP Martinez has created a dream-like world that’s part slow motion reverie and part heroic views from the top of the mountain but is overall as smooth and gratifying as caramel.
The opening track ‘Mon Aviateur’ slides around dreamily like a music box with a captivating twinkle that also features a Theremin-sound. Title track ‘La Chevauchée Electrique’is a processional, slow build of a song that develops into a happy canter with a gloriously uplifting chorus. ‘Kilometre Zero’ feels like the most French of the tracks (from an English POV) and despite a slight African cadence in the vocal delivery it’s the song most likely to inspire kicking up leaves in Paris at Autumn time. ‘L’Aube’ (Dawn) has the sound of a haunted folk track, with hymnal backing vocals, a reed organ and the feel of a ceremony in a deconsecrated Church. ‘Ecran Triste’ (Sad Screen) is up-tempo and ‘Les Vielles Filles En Fleur’ (‘Old Girls in Bloom’ although I’m not sure I trust Google translate on this one) is a gentle cool down from our kaleidoscopic trip.
There are keyboard washes and compressed bass sound reminiscent of fellow French band Air and La Chevauchée Electrique wraps the acoustic and the electronic up in a psychedelic bow. Wendy Martinez has a very compelling voice, and the French language allows for a lilting delivery with the notes moving around on a gentle trapeze. Kid Victrola also appears on the album and together with Martinez they also play in the band Gloria who I am happy this review led me to discover.
It’s a shame that more French pop of this calibre doesn’t make it to England, so props to Outré Label Services for trying to redress that balance and even though we can’t travel to France at the moment La Chevauchée Electrique is a great way to imagine you are having coffee and pastries in a picturesque French square. It inspired me to have le sourire jusqu’aux oreilles.
Review by Paul F Cook