New for 2015, the latest album by Orwell – Exposition Universelle – Release date: 9 October 2015
Airy, orchestral-pop brilliance from Jérôme Didelot and friends, propelled by guitars, piano, strings, brass, vocal harmonies, vibraphone and vintage electronics (Optigan, Mellotron, etc.). Richly arranged, but ever ready with the odd synth, tuba, backmasking or unexpected chord to pierce the mix, Orwell’s fifth album is a return to French after the English experience of 2011’s Continental. Vous ne parlez pas français? No worries! Sunshine pop and baroque rock are the lingua franca here.
Exposition Universelle was conceived on the tenth anniversary of Orwell’s debut album Des Lendemains. Listening back to the old material, Didelot felt many leads had been left unexplored:
“So I wrote ‘Exposition Universelle’ as if it was a kind of follow-up. The themes—the light and dark sides of mankind, the way the future is linked to progress, the gap between collective and intimate issues—are rather similar, as well as the instrumentation (quite orchestral) but the writing is more mature, I guess.”
Didelot’s collaborators this time around include Thierry Bellia (Variety Lab), Alexandre Longo (Cascadeur), Vincent Mougel (Kidsaredead), Julien Lonchamp (Jack and The’).
Previous releases by Orwell on Folkwit Records:
Following up on the highly acclaimed album ‘Le génie humain’ – “an exquisite and subtle album” (Mojo), French band Orwell return with another slice of luscious orchestral pop.
“Inspired by Gabriel Garcia Márquez’s novel ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ the French mastermind of Orwell, Jérôme Didelot provides with “Continental” a kind of concept album. These inspirations frame his – in his words – ‘classic pop’ that reveals a complex multi-layered sunshiny, light and politely unobtrusive pop piece. The band uses the whole variety of musical instruments to underline the atmospheric context, ranging from gentle electro pop breezes, Stylophone, rhythm boxes, xylophones and experiments with vague noises. But the art of Didelot’s pop lies in his unobtrusiveness. You don’t need to know his contextual and musical influences. You can just sit back and enjoy it.
The title track “Continental” fittingly hails from the European music scenes, borrowing its drive from the German electro scene, its melodious instrumentation from British guitar pop and its lightness only can be associated with 60s French pop. Also songs like “On This Brightful Day”, “Always” and especially the outstanding “A long way to the start” stand for the sweet and light side of life, shifting the listener deeper and deeper into their addiction. “Anytime” also could have been written for or by Phoenix and shows why contemporary French pop only might work in a genuine state of sunshine and happiness. It is a bit too weirdly cheerful, oscillating between gentle dance-pop and the mania of Bowie’s Space Oddity.
Although the album also contains quite a bunch of fillers that won’t bother the listener as they are too unremarkable in their inoffensiveness, the last song “Everytime The World Is Too Loud” makes you want to press the repeat button. Not only because you want to listen to the addictive first song again, or because you want to unveil more layers of Didelot’s creations. Mostly because “Continental” shows you the light and sweet sight of life. And let’s be honest, we all are attracted by this image. I might go and book my holidays in France. See you all there!”
– Wolfgang Gunther, Tasty Fanzine
“…melodic classic pop influenced by Eno, Krautrock and 80’s (1984 even?) influenced productions that are both enigmatic and cinematic at once.
The album starts with the title track Continental and is at once optimistic, spacey and fresh whilst Didelot sings in English, German and French. Musically it is Kraftwerk meets Howard Jones having a white wine spritzer with Nik Kershaw. Lonely Ride sounds like a journey and is also a song that I would listen to again. A wonderful production that tastefully uses both melodica and stylophone, with arrangements and embellishments that recall early solo McCartney and traces of fellow Frenchmen Air.” 4/5
– Captain Dhilin Kunderan, The Music Critic
“Orwell is essentially the brainchild of French artist and multi instrumentalist Jérôme Didelot (I seem to review a lot of French bands for some reason…) The ideas for this album were apparently inspired by Gabriel García Márquez’s epic novel of family destiny One Hundred Years of Solitude – which I haven’t read, although the missus has and she said it was amazing.
The title is perfect and aptly describes the feel of the album – there’s a breezy nonchalance to the almost casual way in which some classic sounding pop is effortlessly fashioned. The title track opens the set and launches into electronic pulses and lush orchestral instrumentation which combine to form a joyous, carefree romp of a track.
‘On This Brightful Day’ is the perfect soundtrack for driving through the year’s first day of fine Spring weather – my spell checker doesn’t like ‘Brightful’ though – I think they’ve either made that up or maybe something was just lost in translation but either way its an apposite term for the song.
Most of the vocals are sung in English which ensures accessibility and the themes of family trials and tribulations continue on tracks like ‘The Wife, The Battlefield’ (intriguing title) and the smouldering ‘Follow Me, Boy’. Somewhat inexplicably ‘Always’ starts off with a stylophone playing the tune of that annoying noise you sometimes get through the radio when a mobile phone in the vicinity receives an incoming text message. Thankfully it then thrums into glorious life to become the undoubted highlight of the album.
We’re treated to several more slices of cerebrally agile pop before Didelot signs off with the enchanting ‘Everytime the World Is Too Loud’ to close a delicious treat of an album. This is Orwell’s third album, and it’s slightly perplexing that bands like this don’t get more exposure in this country as I’m sure it would appeal to many people who love intelligent classic pop.”
– Steve Claire, Vanguard Online
“I’m surprised at myself for not having picked up on this excellent band earlier, which is centred around songwriter Jerôme Didelot and whose sound reminds me of Alessi, Phoenix, Air and Etienne Daho mixed with a spot of Field Music. “Continental” is their fourth album and on the strength of this fine thirteen-song set, I’m wondering how they’ve not soundtracked at least a few people’s journeys to work or jogs through the park.
It’s mostly breezy summery-pop with a little dink of melancholia here and there, smothered with catchy little choruses that are so creamy, they could be bottled as Gold Top. Put it this way – stick this on near those Cravendale cows and they might just start a bovine riot with excitement.
The first 5 tracks pretty much sum up Orwell and the last 8 occupy a braver new world, without going all weird on us. If you don’t at least get goose-pimply arms while listening to “On This Brightful Day” or a comforting glow from “The Wife, The Battlefield”, then you may as well go back to your Children Of Bodom or Jessie J album and eat baked-beans from a bucket.
Tweeness does rear it’s not-always-ugly head in places, especially on “Them” and “A Long Way To The Start”, but this is no bad thing since Didelot and his lyrical partner Julien Lonchamp have thrown in all manner of synth sounds from across the decades, including Theremin-type squiggles, bags of ARP-Strings and a lo-fi drum-machines. It all works a treat…this is an album that demands repeated listens and sharing with a picnic hamper and a crate of French booze. Winner.”
– Paul Pledger, AllGigs
“The stick that is often used to beat contemporary musicians who write classic pop songs is that they are somehow backward-looking, pining for a long-vanished golden age. With Continental, however, Jérôme has made himself immune to such attacks once and for all. For while this is music that has all the qualities associated with the golden age of pop, unmistakeably its heart and soul is very much engaged with the present – and the future . . .”
“…acoustic folk but with the pop twist that makes it something special to listen to.” 4/5
– Mikey Rush – http://southsonic.com/
Le génie humain – Orwell
- Au-dessus de Moi
- Tout Entier
- Le Bon Endroit
- Plus L’infini
- J’ai Tout Oublié
- Sun Holiday
- Le Génie Humain
- Sans Précédent
- De ce Monde
- Slow Down
“an exquisite and subtle album” ****
“truly irresistible pop..” 4/5
– The Daily Express
“We may have to rethink the adjective Orwellian if this French band keep on making albums this delightful. Far from the forbidding, ominous, corrupt and corroding future the word currently sums up, this Orwell’s flute heavy baroque pop paints an imagined present that’s all sunny days in green fields, with just the lightest of breezes to cool the fevered brow. Mind you, they walk a tightrope here. Done badly, this orchestral pop would become the worst kind of lounge music; but done with the wit and musicality that Orwell display, they carry you along with them (on the handlebars of their rickety old bike, pootling down a French country lane, with a cigarette dangling). If you love 1960s bands such as the Beach Boys and the Left Banke, or even faux-1960s bands such as the High Llamas and the Pearlfishers, Orwell are worth a punt.” ***
– Mark Edwards, The Sunday Times
“.…sophisticated intellectualized pop, imagine the suave cinematics of Le Bleu fine tuning Stereolab’s airy space brass love ins”
– Indie Music Magazine
“My favorite album yet from Jérôme Didelot aka Orwell. Pop par excellence, Le génie humain is packed with orchestral maneuvers, soaring synths, and silky, buzzy goodness that bring Eggstone, Louis Philippe and the space bossa moments of Testbild! to mind. With influences running from the early 60s through the early 80s, Jerome’s songs have a folk-like delicacy, but sail on intricate arrangements featuring strings, voices, woodwinds and keyboards galore.”
– Radio Khartoum Recommends
“..one of those French hidden treasures…perfect Baroque pop”
– Pop ‘n’ Cherries
“..orchestral pop par excellence”
“…an album packed to the rafters with bright and breezy French pop that will just fuse into the balmy hot summer we’re going to have this year. It’s a cliché to suggest that this album speaks of bike rides in country, horse drawn canal trips, picnics with your partner next to fields of corn and poppies, a coffee at a street cafe, the language of love. Can barely understand a word, but the images it evokes, just great.”
– Neil King, FATEA Magazine
“Sometimes national stereotypes are useful shorthand for lazy reviewers, if I say this record is quintessentially French it creates all sorts of images like a sophisticated multicultural blend, stylish without trying, smooth, c’est la nouvelle vague, it is Phoenix and Air, and it is everything we want France to be. It is the musical equivalent of a good bottle of wine, a room temperature soft
cheese and a delicious baguette.
There’s a warm flow to the songs, a lazy drift down an avenue with the top down, it feels that way because of the intricate arrangements that bring in Tropicalia, French pop, baroque pop, orchestral pop and all of the epithets that make you think of bands poring over Serge Gainsbourg records for inspiration, only here there is no enigmatic distance from the source, no irony. The lushness just rushes out and kisses the listener on both cheeks before whispering its seductions into their ear.
Highlights are ‘September’ with Ruth Minnikin on vocals surrounded by a hazy afternoon of banjo and flute that then smartens itself up for a night on the town with a shower of keyboards and harmony vocals, it is everything you’d want a summer evening to be. Not far behind is ‘J’ai Tout Oublie’ with melodica, banjo and glockenspiel woven in with Jerome Didelot’s relaxed almost androgynous voice undulating like a curtain in a breeze. The title track has a battery of vibraphone and piano that could be the theme for the next series of Spiral and it could, with a subtle twist, become a Northern Soul floor filler (the road to Wigan Casino). The closing ‘Slow Down’ with English lyrics and careworn trombone creates a cocoon of sound that you want to crawl inside and pull around you to shut out the world.”
– David Cowling, Americana UK, Thursday, May 21, 2009
“…gorgeous sun kissed vocals and hazy, lazy melodies…lovely album.”
– Russell’s Reviews, May 2009
Orwell lead by Jérôme Didelot attracted high praise in 2009 with their first UK release ‘Le génie humain’ with glowing reviews in Mojo, The Sunday Times, and The Express to name a few. Quite an achievement for an album sung almost exclusively in French and a reflection of Didelot’s immense talent for crafting that sophisticated intellectualized pop paralleled by the likes of Stereo Lab and the High Llamas.
The new album ‘Continental’ proves this was no fluke. Not only another slice of luscious orchestral pop but this time sung mainly in English with songs that draw you in with each listen – articulate, emotive and catchy as hell! Released simultaneously worldwide by a collective of no less than 6 independent labels, Folkwit Records are proud to represent this potential indie pop classic in the UK.