Claude Fontaine - a woman who sounds like her parents used a ‘French names’ bot to generate her birth certificate - clearly loves Jamaican music. She seems to be particularly partial to the golden-age rocksteady, ska and reggae of early Trojan and Studio One. In fact, she’s so enthralled with the scene that she’s made sure her eponymous debut LP sounds like it was cut several decades ago. Over saturated riddims Fontaine coos in a breathy voice that recalls Jane Birkin. All of this makes for an extremely chic listen.
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Claude Fontaine is blessed with the kind of voice that, had she been around fifty years ago, she would be making the kind of painfully cool record that Francophiles these days would be playing in chic cafes all over Britain. She makes music to drink a black coffee to, basically. The first thing that struck me about this record was just how dusty, warm, and nicely muffled it was. She's managed to recreate a classic 60s feel. Part of this is surely down to the band she worked with who have been the backing for legendary figures like King Tubby and Miles Davis, no less.
This LP is interesting because the second side is a pretty big change of direction, going for a more Brazilian, bossa nova, lounge music kinda thang. I think this style suits Fontaine's voice a lot more. Although the first side is good, it stills feels occasionally like a cheap pastiche of classic Trojan or Studio One Records. When she's going down the route of Esquivel! and Martin Denny, the music just seems much more effortless and natural.
Fontaine has said that she wants to make music that would be found in the bottom of record bins but this debut suggests to me this would be a disservice. Here at Norman, her record (or at least, the second side of the record...) will be staying resolutely away from the the bins.
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