Louis Philippe – An Unkown Spring

Louis Philippe
An Unkown Spring

Anyone who still cares to purchase actual CD’s will recognize Louis Philippe’s name from providing the string arrangements for the Clientele’s last few albums as well as working with Sean O’Hagan of the High Llamas. But he also has quite a discography of his own compositions, full of lush pop balladry reminiscent of Johnny Mathis-esque adult contemporary songs. But before you turn away after reading that last sentence you should know that in Philippe’s hands that’s not a bad thing. Really…

An Unknown Spring,, Philippe’s first album since 2004 is a gentle and easy listening affair, without being “easy listening”. His talent with not just string arrangements but with the complete package, is quite impressive. Strings on the album are kept subtle, not overwhelming and leave room for acoustic guitar to weave in-between the melodies. There is also prominent use of bouzouki giving the songs an uncommon edge to them. Drums are kept minimal, or non-existent, with other instruments picking up the rhythm.

“Lights Were Dancing On The Ceiling,” perhaps the best song, brings to mind the Walker Brothers or something from Scott Walker’s 3 album. It’s full of a laid back confidence with the accompanying string quartet embellishing each recitation of the song’s title in a quick descending flourish. Though most of the album is a quiet affair the energy level picks up with “Fallen Snow,” a poppy little number complete with a backing drum machine.

Despite titles such as “No Sun, No Sky At All” and “I Didn’t Like The Film,” this isn’t an album of negativity or skepticism. There is a feeling of hope and calm throughout the nearly 40 minutes, much of which is provided by Philippe’s voice. At times the tone is similar to Archer Prewitt’s quieter works and backing melodies are provided in some cases by The Clientele’s Alasdair McLean & Mel Draisey. The Beach Boys are common influence and reference point and much like everything else Philippe does on An Unknown Spring it’s not terribly overt when the harmonies are utilized. If I told you they were there, you’d really have to pay attention for them.

Like Owen Pallet, Louis Philippe is a secret weapon for any artist he works with. And like Pallets’ Final Fantasy project, Philippe is more than capable of pulling off successful and beautiful works on his own.