After enjoying the light, acoustic stylings of Seabuckthorn, I started checking out Bookmaker records for some similarly oriented artists. That's how I found myself stumbling upon the French musician Valentin Féron (aka Henryspenncer, hopefully not as a reference to Eraserhead). And while Féron is of course true to Bookmaker's heavily folk-influenced sound, he brings in so much more, all of which is more than audible on his latest release, Saturn.
The album is incredibly hard to classify in terms of genre, as Féron switches styles radically at the drop of a hat. The most firm grounding for the work seems to be in post-rock, but he also delves off into psychedelic, folk, progressive, drone, and even straight-up ambient music at times. Heavily guitar-driven motifs abound, ranging from doodling acoustic interludes to borderline-metal crunches, all working together to ensure that the album never sounds staid. The compositions (ranging from six to eleven minutes) are created from several distinct parts, each comprised of disjoint musical ideas, and Féron's heavy use of dynamic movement makes listening to each song not unlike listening to a suite from Godspeed You! Black Emperor.
The track "Sarah" (named after the lady to whom the album is dedicated) is the highlight of the whole album; the song develops from slight ambiance to hard rock to blues-driven solo guitar, all in the space of an all-too-short ten minutes, closing out the album on the best note possible. The opener "Gambetta" is also one of the stronger pieces, setting the stage for the following pieces very appropriately, and the intricate "Canyons" sounds like it was ripped directly from a Western soundtrack.
Sometimes the album can feel like it drags on--this is especially true during the more heavily ambient or repetitive sections (like "Mirages" or parts of "Nebula"). And to some tastes Saturn is likely going to be too flavourless, dawdling too much in ideas that seem like they should develop more than they do. These are all legitimate complaints, but they don't impede the album's light nature by much--I definitely suggest giving it a listen and deciding for yourself.
Saturn is an incredibly unusual album, and not in a bad way--fans of almost any genre of instrumental music can find a lot to enjoy in this album's odd wit and charm. I can only assume that, when Féron dedicated this album to Sarah, some part in the back of his mind must've known I'd pick it up and be thrilled by it.
...shut up, let me have this one, okay?
7.0 / 10
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