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Intense, emotional atmospheric raw BM needs distinct local flavour - 78%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, January 13th, 2020

Here in Australia right now (early 2020), il fait si chaud so an act with a name like J'ai Si Froid ... (French for "I'm so cold ...") bringing out an album called "Loin des hommes" ("Far from men") is very welcome. J'ai Si Froid ... is the solo project of Brouillard ("Fog" in French) who lives in southern France near the Pyrenees mountains and this album is inspired by her travels through the landscapes of this region. The album title may be a reference to the isolation and silence of the mountains, and the contemplation of one's purpose in living such a location invites. The front cover photograph reinforces this idea though as a promotional picture it's hardly very inviting.

After a quiet and mellow acoustic introduction, we hit the business end of the album with the first proper BM track "La Débâcle", for the most part a slow-burning piece of controlled and channelled aggression. While the percussion is hardly much to write home about, the churning layers of sizzling guitars, cutting through looping riffs, carry the entire song almost to the end with accompaniment from scratchy witch-like BM vocals. The glacial pace of the music lends an almost dream-like melancholy bordering on blackgaze to the abrasive hornet guitar shower-noise textures. This approach continues into the next track save for passages dominated by graceful acoustic guitar melodies which have an air of wonderment, even where the raw BM tremolo guitar riffs continue in the background.

While long, slow and mostly instrumental tracks feature layers of raw and intense guitar acid-shower deluge, the really interesting parts of the album are short pieces of ambient acoustic melodies, often with a sense of awe, wonder and curiosity, attached to the long tracks as introductions, short interludes or codas. These pieces come as a huge relief and metaphoric breath of fresh air to the often highly emotional, almost shrieky, long BM instrumental tracks, highlighting as these do a great deal of anguish and sadness about the human condition. For all its quiet contemplative moods and the emphasis on acoustic guitar melodies, these little non-BM pieces can be more complex than the longer BM music, featuring as they do many keyboard-generated tones and effects.

Not surprisingly for a long album of minimal and intense atmospheric BM with a limited range of instrumentation for the most part, the music can be exhausting to hear out in one sitting and an argument could be made for editing all tracks for length without any impact on the extreme emotion that is sometimes generated. The album might also have benefited from the inclusion of folk music native to the southern Pyrenees region.

While the recording is technically very good and consistent, there isn't a great deal to distinguish it from other atmospheric BM albums also inspired by nature and the local environmental conditions of other artists. When there is quite literally an ocean of such music about, artists in this genre need to think carefully about how to communicate their feelings and ideas about their environments so that what music they create not only conveys their messages faithfully but also captures something of their environments that is unique to those environments and transmits it to listeners.