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Familiarity breeds contempt, or so the saying goes. I disagree; there's a lot to be said for the familiar when we're talking about the intimate, the comfortable and the informal. It was maybe Fránçois Marry's decision to relocate to Bristol in his late teens to form Fránçois and the Atlas Mountains that made their last album E Volo Love such a familiar record, one you could connect with and understand even if you didn't have a good grasp of the French language. Maybe it was the marriage of Gallic flair to tried/tired '60s pop tropes, electronics and shambling '80s indie music that we could hold on to like a comforter, or maybe we just like smart pop songs written well.

Whatever, the palindromic breeziness of E Volo Love hid the beginnings of difficult times for Marry, who relocated back to France to record the songs (in a proper studio for the first time) that make up new album, and second for Domino, Piano Ombre (translation: Calm Down Shadow). Marry's familiar might be a slightly different definition of the word; followed by personal strife and talk of - a word that should send warning flares off in the synapses - "discovery", his "familiar" is the shadow that dominates Piano Ombre thematically. Yet it's not a shadow that casts a pall of depression over the album but one that Marry confronts and takes the positives from meaning that once again we're left with something familiar... and very often something quite wonderful.

Whatever went on in the past twelve months of Marry's life, Fránçois and the Atlas Mountains (the AM's this time are Amaury Ranger, Pierre Loustaunau, Jean Thevenin and token Glaswegian Gerard Black) are the beneficiaries. E Volo Love's breezy charms have been replaced by a confident approach that starts to make this record so incredibly loveable before you're more than halfway through one listen. It's not the beginning you'd expect from F&TAM though: opening track 'Bois' is moody and powerful space rock powered by horns and very Spiritualized Electric Mainline, and much more groove based than anything Marry and co have ever done before.

'La Vérité' is the sound of the band we've come to know and love, parping horns and synths over a foxtrot beat, sweet as hell and a bridge you could swoon over again and again, 'The Way to the Forest' combines folk music and electronics in a way that could only have come about through hanging with Fife's Fence Collective (while also combining French and English lyrics) and you could waltz forever round the beauty of the string-laden 'La Fille Aux Chevaux De Soie' (The Girl with the Silken Hair).

The title track is perhaps the most downbeat moment on Piano Ombre despite Marry's positive messages about the meaning behind it; it's a piano-led ballad enhanced by gorgeous harmonies from the rest of the Atlas Mountains and a high organ whine that simply adds to the plaintive feel. It's not all introspection to move forward though as tracks like 'Summer of the Heart' and 'Fancy Foresight' hark back to E Volo Love in their own sweetly twee way.

So, you see: familiar doesn't have to be boring and samey. Piano Ombre proves that by being romantic, intimate and even forward-looking in the way the album positively addresses difficult times. Onwards and upwards, Fránçois.