'Encounter' Shows Beyries' Hunger for Discovery

'Encounter' Shows Beyries' Hunger for Discovery
If you want a masterclass in building a song that simmers without stagnating, "What We Have" is a good place to start. The opening track on Amélie Beyries' new record is lush and dewy but never gaudy — a slowly cresting wave of sound that builds gently without crashing. Every strum and sigh, every wiggling bass tone and plunk of keys, and every pulsing beat is placed just so. It's a subtle and dazzling way to introduce a record, easing the listener into Beyries' world.

The album that follows never quite lives up to the small majesty of its opening track. While beautifully rendered, some of the bigger songs feel swamped by their busy arrangements, with most attempting a rousing payoff through layers of piano, percussion, choirs, strings and production flourishes. The density of the songs might not be noticed otherwise, but knowing what Beyries can do with a more delicate sound — see "What We Have," the gentle build of "Closely," or French ballad "Nous Somme" — they start to feel a bit overburdened.

Sometimes she strikes a balance between her two modes, as on the starry, crushed velvet lounge of "Into You." It allows Beyrie's smooth-stone voice to explore its smokier depths in an arrangement that feels deservedly sumptuous, though the string section almost dominates the song's tender sensuality. Another highlight, the chugging "The Story of Eva," is proof of Beyries' dynamic range with near-grunge guitars and a distant chorus vocal sending her sound plummeting to its heaviest point.

While sometimes falling just shy of baroque-pop splendour, Encounter is an ambitious record, full of passion and a meticulous attention to detail and structure. It risks overwhelming at times but, crucially, never feels dull or lazy — a record made with great care and a hunger for discovery. (Bonsound)