Grand Blanc formed in Metz in 2011. Now based in Paris they release their second album, Image Au Mur (meaning Picture On The Wall) two years after their promising debut, Mémoires Vives. According to the band, it’s an album that deals with being inundated with images on social media and being forced to question them.
One of Grand Blanc’s biggest assets is the vocals being shared by, Camille Delvecchio and Benoît David. Image Au Mur was preceded by three singles that show the different sides of this eclectic album and give both singers their time in the spotlight. Delvecchio leads, ‘Los Angeles’ which would fit nicely on the last couple of St. Vincent albums. She sounds playful on the verse before pulsating synths accompany her on the huge commanding chorus. It’s hard not to think of Serge Gainsbourg as David begins, ‘Belleville’ with a similar drawl. The interplay between his voice and Delvecchio’s, “la la la la” backing vocals are addictive, as are the twisting guitars that appear towards the end.
First single, ‘Ailleurs’ is the best song here with its longing melody that recalls the very wonderful, Lykke Li at her most reflective. Once the metallic bass and illuminating synths give way to a catchy piano line, Delvecchio’s voice lifts off giving the album its most devastating moment. After four minutes, the song slowly changes mood as the instruments all disappear and are replaced by eerie harmonies and Delvecchio’s lonely voice. The uneasy atmosphere brings to mind some of the Julee Cruise soundtracked scenes on Twin Peaks (“It is happening again”). The song plays out with layers of backing vocals finally giving way to a slow beat and jazzy bass-line. The introspection and unconventional song structure is very Susanne Sundfør’s Music For People In Trouble.
Opener, ‘Les Iles’ continues the gothic electronica of their debut with a slow-burning rhythm and that builds into a crescendo of colourful synths. It sets the scene for the rest of the album nicely. They continue to expand their musical palette throughout. ‘Dans La Peau’ is a standout with a forceful chorus that leads to a hazy shoegaze inspired mid-section. The title track takes a New Order styled bass-line and cool groove to great effect. ‘Des Gens Bien’ is one the darkest moments with a minimal and pensive instrumental. ‘Aurore’ shows their obvious affection for 80s synth-pop (especially Depeche Mode) as the industrial synths are illuminating. The jagged guitars even reach Nine Inch Nail levels of intensity in the climax.
Following on from Melody’s Echo Chamber’s astonishing album of the year contender, Bon Voyage, it’s good to hear another French act producing such a satisfying release. They have smoothly blended genres together to make this album an absorbing listen. Image Au Mur is more refined than Mémoires Vives and hints that they could be on track to make something very special.
Image Au Mur is released on September 14th through Enterprise Records.