Cheval Sombre - Mad Love - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Cheval Sombre - Mad Love

by Daryl Worthington Rating:6 Release Date:2012-10-29

The press release to this album has a copy of a hand-written letter from Cheval Sombre on the back. I won't bore you with the contents of the letter, but it ends with:

"It is all a long delirious swoon -

Yes -

A delirious swoon

And an embrace."

As well as being a nice touch for a press release, it is also a nice and succinct summary of the album. This is ultimately a pop album. However, Sombre doesn't rely on catchy choruses, quirks or big beats for his hooks, but texture. As such, the emotional resonance of the music relies on enveloping the listener into the world Sombre has created, to join in, in his 'delirious swoon'.

Album opener 'Someplace Else' is built upon softly strummed acoustic guitar and wobbly synths, setting out a sonic template that isn't deviated from massively for the rest of the album. The opening line to the song - "I wasn't made for this world' No, I belong someplace else" - seems very appropriate, Sombre sounds like his contemporaries are in the past. This isn't to say that his music necessarily has a clichéd, retro sound to it, but the overall aesthetic and Sombre's sweet, broken-heart songs conjure up a psychedelic naivety which feels more comparable to the likes of Syd Barrett or Nick Drake than anything contemporary.

The album features Peter Kember from Spacemen 3 and Spectrum, and his influence in the textures used over Sombre's songs is obvious. Many of the oscillating synths and drones sound like they could have been lifted directly from a Spacemen 3 album. Whereas Tomboy by Panda Bear (another recent album to feature Kember) successfully fused the influence of Kember and Noah Lennox to come up with something new and natural sounding, Mad Love occasionally feels a bit contrived.

This is purely a subjective observation, but some of the songs sound like the drones and textures were thrown in at the last moment, seeming detached from the songs themselves rather than complementing them. 'The Nearness of You', to my ears, is a particularly grating example of this. The shrill, high tremolo notes and spacey washes of sound seem to clash with the sweet love song Sombre is singing. In fact, clashing is the wrong word, it implies some sort of relationship. The two components of the song just seem unrelated.

As mentioned at the start, this album is all about enveloping the listener. The come-down love songs it contains can be exceptional at pulling the listener in with their warm tones and textures, allowing the listener to become enthralled in the subtle shifts and alterations in the details of the songs. 'I Couldn't Do Without You' is possibly the best song on the album for generating that effect, that delirious swoon. A nine-minute song built over a looping vocal, the subtle shifts in the ambiences and sounds in the background are the album's most emotive, providing a contrast to the static vocals and creating something akin to a sonic hug for the listener.

Sombre's album is a very pleasant listen, at times creating a wonderful swirling blanket of sound to engulf the listener, the 'delirious swoon' Sombre mentions. By this standard, it is a success and, if the listener is in the right frame of mind for it, it really does pull one into its world.

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