Percussa micro super signal processor

Émilie Simon is a fantastically-talented artist with a unique background: her work now falls clearly into pop territory, but her lineage is just as much experimental and classical. Conservatory training gave way to time at the avant garde nerve center of Paris, IRCAM. IRCAM’s Director, Cyrille Brissot, still plays alongside her – more on his wild invention in a moment.

Simon has been a big hit in France; you may know her composition from the soundtrack to March of the Penguins. But now, she’s a New Yorker, which brings us to the topic of the headline. The singer-pianist-artist released a new record last fall, The Big Machine. I do miss some of the quirkier style on her older records, and I rather liked the singing in French (I’m sure NYC has its share of Francophones). The new record tends in a Kate Bush-influenced direction which has divided some fans. They are just as well-crafted, however, and Simon’s writing and performance is inventive as always. It’s a new direction, but it’s worth giving it some time. I think you’ll like the results, and it shows Simon’s continued versatility and artistry.

One thing with which you really can’t argue is Simon’s exceptional musicianship. I love her new series, which has her releasing studio sessions shot in her Bedford Avenue apartment. In the edition at top, the work begins with the expected ballad form, but takes a very different direction. Commanding sounds and effects from a militaristic, future-punk controller on her arm, Simon adds electronic textures, aided by a Yamaha Tenori-On and Doepfer Dark Energy synth. The wrist-strapped controller is Cyrille Brissot’s invention, aptly named “The Brissot.” Somewhere, Thomas Dolby is very jealous, indeed. (They would match his goggles.) Episode two, released yesterday, is after the jump.

Few of us would do a multi-cam rig in our apartment (I’d better make some friends), and I could do without the faux-film effects, but there’s still a terrific intimacy of the sessions, and her stage presence shines through. It’s a reminder that adding technology doesn’t have to mean removing that sense of a live performance – quite the opposite, in fact, as a solo act wouldn’t be able to do this much of this on the spot. Electronics are, as I keep saying, the ultimate renaissance of the one-man- (or one-woman-) band.

So, if you think you can do better – heck, even if not – let us know if you release a similar session. And Cyrille, Émilie, if you’re out there, I’d love to catch up on your work for CDM.