Les Fragments de la Nuit: Demain, c'était Hier
Equilibrium Music

Bringing together the romantic melodicism of the Balanescu Quartet and the pulsing attack of The Michael Nyman Band, Les Fragments de la Nuit's sophomore outing Demain, c'était Hier is lush neo-classical chamber music that'll no doubt appeal to fans of Rachel's as well as the aforementioned outfits (Les Fragments de la Nuit's first album, Musique de Crépuscule, appeared in 2008). The quintet was formed in 2005 by two film score composers, violinist Ombeline Chardes and pianist Michel Villar, so that their compositions could be performed live. In simplest terms, the French ensemble augments its piano-and-strings (three violinists and cellist) core with an occasional dash of French horn, percussion, and female vocalizing in a fifty-one-minute opus designed to be heard as a unified work containing individual episodes of varying character. It takes little effort to experience it as a single whole when many of its dozen pieces segue into one another without interruption.

After “Zenith” introduces the recording forcefully with an impassioned overture, “Cyclogenese” raises the temperature with agitated strings driven by pumping steam engine rhythms reminiscent of Nyman's band. Elegant and melancholy, “Teletemps” features the plaintive cry of a lead violin supported by the group's other strings and piano, and the album's nocturnal character comes to the forefront in mystery-laden settings such as “Soupir.” Halfway through Demain, c'était Hier “Allegra Aeternae,” accompanied by percussion, the bluster of a French horn, and the wordless wail of a female choir, builds into a crescendo of sorts, after which the choir assumes a lead (and at times screeching) presence during the macabre “Marche Nocturne,” its diseased quality reinforced by a topsy-turvy feel (the singers also return for the impassioned closer “Thaïmiz Dih Enemy”). The album balances moments of melancholy splendour (“Cyrius B” and the waltz-styled title track) and aggressiveness (“Des Restes Vivaces”) in a rewarding chamber-classical recording that definitely justifies one's attention.

December 2010