Ensemble Excerpts

Ensemble Excerpts
Under the guise of Ensemble, Montreal-based musician Olivier Alary has been turning heads thanks to a series of remixes he did for Björk, but his music has managed to under the radar, more or less. Album number three, Excerpts, looks to change that. Gone are big name guests like Cat Power and Lou Barlow, which should have provided its predecessor with more column inches than were given. Instead, Alary is joined by vocalist Darcy Conroy and composer Johannes Malfatt, and the trio create a heavily orchestrated album of pop songs not unlike mid-period Stereolab, especially when Conroy takes the lead and sings in French. The numbers are inevitably pretty and swirl around satisfyingly with layers of guitars, strings and voice, typically having an urgency, which means Excerpts flies along at a decent pace and doesn't drag. It's a very likeable record. The downside is that no matter how well conceived and beautifully executed the music is, everything is very familiar. The whole thing sounds more like someone else than it does Ensemble, making Excerpts more homage than a band finding their voice, but in the best possible way. (Fat Cat)