Ilo Veyou, by Camille
Suggested by Simon Rodway
I like France.
I like the food. Cheese, bread, cold cuts of cured meats. I like the history, with revolutions and guillotines and puffed, powdered wigs. I like the monuments, their towers and arcs and Pompidou Centres. I like the art, from the enigmatic smile to the hunched back, from Moliere to Papillon to Asterix and beyond. I like the attitude, the laissez-faire shrug and sarcastic contempt for pretty much everything. The one thing about France that I could take or leave is the wine, but I know that’s a point-one dealbreaker for most.
But French music? Literally no clue. I suppose I know Joe le Taxi, but outside Vanessa Paradis, there’s a void. I’ve just googled Famous French Bands, and I hadn’t heard of any of them.
As you‘ve no doubt surmised, Camille is French. And, in a very real sense, a sense which I can’t quite articulate, her album Ila Veyou feels incredibly French. It’s almost a distillation of France, a perfect snowglobe containing, I dunno, Brie and Gitanes and withering distain.
By rights, I should hate this album. Camille is much more a vocal performance artists than a singer, and the short sharp shards of breathy strangeness are pure crystals of experimental weird. Delivered in French and English in apparent equal measure, with peculiarity in both arrangement and lyricism, I’ve piled on the scorn to much more accessible offerings than this. So why not this time?
Before I attempt an explanation, let’s look at some of the songs. We begin with Aujourd’hui, which is nothing more than eighty-four seconds of Camille speaking French in an almost frantic whisper over the gentle sounds of outdoor birdsong. Allez Allez Allez is a symphony of plucked strings over which Camille and a campfire choir wail a Gorillaz-style choral refrain. The title track Ilo Veyou begins with a pure Rolf Harris style gasping beatbox, which is layered with other almost wacky vocal sounds to create a Bobby McFerrin fever dream. My Man is Married But Not to Me is an expressive almost rap performance which is the most accessible track here until she becomes obsessed with horses, and my standout track La France is a comedic waltz that espouses the strength of the French photocopying industry.
It’s fair to say that this album is unlike anything I’ve heard. There’s a haze of Bjork here, especially Medúllah, but even that comparison feels forced, tacked on. It’s unique, and intriguing for it. Each track is a standalone oddity that’s musical enough to engage but short enough to avoid irritation. If you hate this track, and I did a fair bit of hating “this” track, then the next track will be along in a second to reset the gauge.
Il Veyou is the good kind of peculiar, and I give it 6/10. I like that it’s small and contained and creative and gloriously odd. It’s not for everyone, sure, but it’s spiky quirkiness should be embraced, and it’s cocky enough not to care what the listener thinks. As I said earlier… it’s France.