CURIOSA – Arnaud Rebotini

A stylized French historical drama set at the end of the 19th century, Curiosa tells the story of a love triangle between Marie de Régnier, who reluctantly marries to pay off her father’s debts but who loves another: Pierre Louÿs, a poet, photographer and erotomaniac. First-time director, Lou Jeunet, tells the story from Marie’s point of view and documents her journey as model for Louÿs’ photographs from victim to taking her destiny into her own hands. The director’s decision to provide a modern twist to the story is echoed in the music which is by French musician Arnaud Rebotini who is probably best known for his work with the French band, Blackstrobe which fuses electro and synth-pop of the 1980s with the techno and electronic dance music of the 1990s. Rebotini mixes electro, techno and dance music beats with a small ensemble of orchestral instruments including percussion, woodwinds, harp and strings to create a fascinating aural journey.

The tone of the score is set out in the opening track, “Curiosa”, and features a strong synth beat that immediately catches the attention. Rebotini then introduces what sounds like a celeste (or it could be a glockenspiel) into the mix, then a harp. It’s a heady opening to the album and signposts what will constitute much of the remainder of the score. Other tracks that showcase the effective blending of rhythm and orchestral instruments include “Zohra” and “Les deux amants”. There are moments when the score puts the rhythms to one side in order to emphasis on orchestral instruments: “Le miroir” and particularly “Noircissement direct” has woodwinds and strings playing meandering passages. A prominent harp adds a fragility to the mix. It’s unusual to hear a harp feature as prominently in a score as it does here and for it to exude such emotion. The solo harp heard in “La bouquetière” oozes melancholia. As well as the score promoting a particular sound with its mix of synths and solo instruments, “Noircissement direct” introduces some thematic material: a repeating 3-note motif that appears only occasionally. The final original score track, “Les deux sœurs”, bring together all the elements of the score together (including the 3-note motif) for an expressive modernist – and satisfying – finale. The album closes with two tracks taken from Rebotini’s 2016 electronic-acoustic album, Frontières (co-written with Christian Zanési). How these fit into Curiosa I am not entirely sure.

For Curiosa, Rebotini melds the old with the new to great and interesting effect. The tracks that blend the strong beats with the solo instruments are particular highlights and a lot of that is down to the recording and mixing of the album: the orchestral instruments are boldly mixed so that they are heard on a par with the strong rhythms. Curiosa comes with a strong recommendation as it’s always good to hear a score that is a bit different from the majority of what’s composed today.

The album can be purchased HERE or at other online stores as a digital download or to stream.

Rating: ***½/*****

  1. Curiosa (4:11)
  2. Le miroir (1:22)
  3. Noircissement direct (2:44)
  4. Les égouts (0:47)
  5. La bouquetière (1:50)
  6. Zohra (4:55)
  7. La demande en mariage (1:11)
  8. Marie et Zohra (3:19)
  9. Les deux amants (4:02)
  10. Pierre et Henri dans l’escalier (1:00)
  11. Marie lit sa lettre (2:02)
  12. Marie et Henri (0:53)
  13. Rocking Chair (1:27)
  14. Autoportrait (1:03)
  15. Les deux sœurs (3:24)
  16. Approche / Accumulation (6:59)
  17. Riding The Rails (9:09)

Running Time: 50:24

Blackstrobe Records (2019)

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