Album Review: Solide Mirage by François & the Atlas Mountains
Fairly Good, Based on 4 Critics
AllMusic - 80 Based on rating 8/10
With the release of their fourth album, 2014's Piano Ombre, French-English outfit Fránçois & the Atlas Mountains moved into subtler territory, painting darker hues and tones into their finely crafted indie pop. In the intervening years since its release, frontman Fránçois Merry relocated to Brussels, a multicultural capital in the heart of Europe, which helped nourished the socially conscious new material that would become 2017's Solide Mirage. A journeyman of sorts, Merry formed the band in his adopted city of Bristol, England before moving them back to his native France to record Piano Ombre.
Hear the noisy squall that kicks off 'Grand Dérèglement' and you might wonder if Frànçois & The Atlas Mountains have gained an layer of in-your-face, defiant strength. The answer to that isn't exactly straightforward, but then again that's probably the point. Having infused his band's music with African rhythms, performing in Istanbul, Lebanon, Alexandria and Cairo in 2015, Frànçois Marry started asking himself a lot of questions about why he shrouded his words in a psychedelic, poetic veil, instead of just telling it how it is.
Like its title, there's something contradictory about this fourth album from Frànçois Marry and co - not least in the way its mastermind sees it. "Grunge" is a word that comes up a lot when Marry describes opener Grand Dérèglement, but it's as far from the likes of Soundgarden and Nirvana as you could expect. Sure, The Atlas Mountains have largely shut the piano lid and picked up the guitar, but the results are more dreamy than aggressive; any rebellious stance is perhaps more against their natural inclinations towards melancholy.
D espite song titles such as Apocalypse à Ipsos, non-Francophones might struggle to find the political edge in Frànçois & the Atlas Mountains' fourth album. It's supposedly "a response to recent world affairs", but their fey, dainty indiepop could just as easily be the soundtrack to a lazy summer as to, y'know, the end of the world. African highlife influences return, but more striking this time is their gift for deftly intertwining rhythms and melodies, as on the viscous, Phoenix-like Grand Dérèglement.