Everyone seems to agree that we'd be better off without January. Even if you've got a birthday at the start of the year you probably still spend the month picking at memories and bemoaning resolutions broken too soon. So, what better time to release an album like Excerpts, which deals with reflection in a beautiful and uplifting way.

Though the moniker might not suggest it, Ensemble is the musical alias of one man, Olivier Alary. That said, Alary has upheld the meaning of his stage name by collaborating with various artists, from Bjork to Lou Barlow of Dinosaur Jr fame. On Excerpts, 'the ensemble' is completed by the addition of award-winning composer Johannes Malfatti and vocalist Darcy Conroy.

It's difficult to slap a label on Excerpts. Roughly, the album sounds like a mixture of French folk-pop à la Yann Tiersen and more experimental stuff reminiscent of fellow Fat Cat Records artist, Max Richter. What is certain, however, is that Ensemble's sound always manages to stay unique and, unless you're a Francophobe, largely accessible. A good example of this would be 'Valse des Objects Trouves', easily the best track on the album and probably the furthest left field. The song is a kind of classical trip-hop piece, which floats around light violins, plunges into a slowed down piano with softly-uttered (French) spoken word and then erupts into an 'A Day in the Life' style cacophony of noise. These sudden shifts in emphasis, snatches of strange sounds and ethereal quality are indicative of the whole album, as is the sheer beauty that makes the track so easy to take.

Behind the sound of Excerpts is a playful exploration of consciousness, centred around, according to FCR, 'the theme of fictional and false memories'. Nowhere is this more evident than on the second track, 'Things I Forget'. This is a wistful mix of waltzing pizzicato strings and gorgeous vocals, which melt into a spiralling harpsichord, shimmering electronics and snatches of dialogue recalling past events. The shifts in texture and melody are evocative of the fleeting impressions of everyday life; that is to say, experiencing, to quote the title track, 'things in brief, as on a train.'

The concept of Excerpts is completed by the repetition of elements from past tracks. Sounds and, especially, rhythms heard earlier on the album later resurface in the same or similar form, like clear and distorted memories. This is arguably the main shortcoming of the album, because unless you're in the mood for a musical Mrs Dalloway you're likely to stick to your favourite tracks, rather than absorb the whole record. Then again, from the skin-shivering vocals of Conroy to the layers of melodic noise, there is a lot here to attract your favouritism.

If January is set to be an existential nightmare for you, Excerpts will make the perfect soundtrack. If you're simply a fan of elegant, intelligent music, Excerpts is also for you. Finally, whilst the horror is fresh in my mind, I would like to register my firm objection to a Mrs Dalloway musical.

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