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Sylvaine Hélary - Glowing Life

Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery

Around six years ago, French flutist, Sylvaine Helary, left us with her self-titled trio record. Not having heard of her before her first visit to DMG, I was knocked out by her disc. It didn’t sound like anything else I had heard as it was in between categories, featuring some crafty keyboards by Antonin Rayon and equally fascinating vocals by Ms. Helary, sung in French and similar to two of my favorite singers, Robert Wyatt & Dagmar Krause. This is Mr. Helary’s fourth disc as a leader and she is still working with keyboardist Antonin Rayon, who has collaborated with Marc Ducret and Dominique Pifarely. I hadn’t heard of Benjamin Glibert before now although their drummer, Christophe Lavergne, did work with Louis Sclavis.

The opening piece is called “Apres la pluie” which means “After the Rain”. It starts off slow and mysteriously but soon kicks into a crazed chorus of a repeating vocal line, then back to the slow ballad-like song with poignant vocals by Ms. Helary and simmering organ from Mr. Rayon. “Thinking to Dance” has some effective spoken words (in French) by Ms. Helary over a some prog-like organ & guitar-led passages which later turn into some sixties-like French chanteuse pop for a short stretch. Things slow down a bit for “Glowing Life” which is a long, superb flute solo with some extraordinary keyboard (Moog!) interplay. Later in the same piece, there is a section that sounds like Soft Machine when Robert Wyatt was the vocalist, most enchanting! The final piece, “Where it Begins”, is the longest piece, and Ms. Helary uses the (English) words of PJ Harvey, which are mostly spoken rather than sung. This piece unfolds slowly and is spacious, skeletal and filled with cautious suspense. The piece goes through several sections and at times sounds like a soundtrack to a film, moving from scene to scene. I like the way Ms. Helary’s and guest vocalist, Mark Thompkins’ voices change and are utilized in different ways throughout this entire piece, speaking quickly, altered voices like some weird ghosts haunting a house or quickly conversing at times. I get the feeling that it will take some to figure out exactly how things disc fits together and what is being said or expressed in each section. My favorite records are the ones that reveal something new with each listening and this disc sounds like a contender.