What do you do when a bear attacks? There are plenty of suggestions from standing still, running like the clappers (FYI, the top speed of a bear 35 mph), playing dead, or offering it marmalade sandwiches? And here’s another to add to the list; have the Marsen Jules album Herbstlaub ready to play as this completely blissed out album could soothe even the most savage of beasts.
I’m normally focused on the hunt for gold amongst new releases so it’s rare for me to get excited by reissues but as soon as I started listening to Herbstlaub I was instantly captivated by the blissed out ambient bubble it formed around me. However, I struggled to reconcile the PR information telling me it was originally released 17 years ago in 2005 with the fact that it sounds as fresh as any ambient title released this year. Marsen Jules says “The noughties were a special time, it felt like there was a new tool made available practically every day that allowed you to create new musical worlds on your computer”.
This is an album that seems to have shuffled off its corporeal form to exist on a higher plane; above the clouds and bathed in never-ending sunlight. It appears to take in the universe as it calmly breathes in through the nose and out through the mouth. It’s a zen antenna picking up signals from space, electricity from rocks and absorbing goodness from everywhere.
The opening track ‘Fanes D’Automne’ (Autumn Tops) starts with a muted orchestral pulse, as if the album is waking up after years of lying dormant. ‘De La Mort D’un Cygne’ (From The Death of a Swan) seems to loop back in on itself like space being folded, so you can access all parts of the of the track at the same time. ‘Aurore’ (Dawn) evokes a million harps at sunrise bathing in both infinite reverb and solar rays, ‘Aile D’Aigle’ (Eagle Wing) is held aloft on the musical equivalent of thermal currents, ‘Tous Les Coeurs De Cette Terre’ (All The Hearts Of This Earth) is fluid with ripples of harps that stretch away from the listener into an infinite ocean and ‘Chanson Du Soir’ (Evening song) closes the album with a held breath that has a resolution every bit as rewarding as a glass of cold water on a hot day.
Herbstlaub is a floatation tank without leaving home, a ticket to the astral plane without having to go through security and an instantly calming experience. Despite taking 17 years to reach me I couldn’t be happier to have it there ready for when I am in need of travelling to a higher plane or when I am confronted by a bear.
Review by Paul F Cook