Luniculaire is a sonic experiment in avant French pop by ambitious Casey Dienel, whose first release under the White Hinterland moniker earlier this year, Phylactery Factory, ranks as one of my favorite albums of 2008.
In choosing to cover songs made famous by the likes of Serge Gainsbourg and Francoise Hardy in addition to penning two originals, also in French, Dienel proves she's not afraid to experiment.
Marketed as indie rock, Dienel's music is more akin to experimental jazz than anything else, although categorizing it at all seems an injustice. Dienel accompanies herself most often on the keyboard, although she also breaks out the ukulele.
Unlike Factory, Luniculaire features electric guitar prominently, especially on clanky percussive opener "Requiem Pour Un Con." Dissonance reigns as scratchy, heavily bowed violin slurs against nearly random-seeming reverby strums. "J'ai 26 Ans" unfolds similarly.
Dienel's vocals, which she sings in a sultry confident French, are front and center for her rendition of "Mon Ami La Rose," framed minimally by jazzy keys, percussion, and bass. Her keys come in most prominently in closer "Lunirascible," an original that sounds closest to material from Factory. Twinkly piano played in the upper register, with lots of high hat cymbal, the song eventually builds with layers of choral synths and horns.
Although less satisfying than Phylactery Factory, Luniculaire is intriguing and challenging, leaving listeners to only ponder what Factory's full-length follow-up will sound like. • Katy Henriksen