C’est cette force quasi animale
Chaude comme un baiser
Fraiche comme la rosée matinale
Qu’on nomme chaleur humaine
This is the poem that ties UMAN`s Chaleur Humaine together, that lies at the set`s heart. The press release refers to these four lines of French as a “mantra”, and they are woven throughout the LP, repeated no less than eight times. On each occasion, translated and recited in a different tongue – Arabic, Dutch, English, Hebrew, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese – I guess, intending to underline that we are all intrinsically the same, human, irrespective of race, religion, or geographic location. The words speak of kisses, an animal warmth. The pieces, effectively short interludes. Spoken passages partnered with chamber orchestration, soloing saxophones, stretched, synthesized sonics, that seem hyper-modern (think Fatima Al Qadiri or Visible Cloaks). The album was originally released in 1992. Tribally-tinged rhythms gently bubble, in arrangements, similar to, say, someone like Asa Tone.
The overall air is peaceful, romantic. One of soft focus synth-pop serenades, where other musical points of reference might be the alumni of Trevor Horn`s ZTT, Art Of Noise and Propaganda. Frequencies fluttering beautifully, to programmed percussion, like Malcolm McLaren`s Madame Butterfly. Stylish like Japan’s Dip In The Pool.
The work of siblings, Danielle and Didier Jean, produced in the seclusion of their suburban Parisian studio, the album as a whole is defined by Fairlight, or maybe more affordable Fairlight-like, technology, which allows Danielle`s voice to be played as if it were an instrument. Her lullaby lyrics pitch shifted, up and down, through folk, madrigal-edged, melodies, hushed harmonies and operatic soprano, in stuttered but highly polished productions, collages of sampled and treated sound. Compositions playfully poised between Enya and an Eric Serra score. When I close my eyes, the music soundtracks the intimate rollercoaster moments of a passionate, but potentially doomed, affair.
Acoustic accompaniment comes from guitar, marimba, piano, and violin. The hammered keys, bowed, plucked, and strummed strings, dancing on an ECM-esque intersection of classical, jazz and new age. Aubade tangos – as flamenco hands and feet stamp and clap, and faux woodwinds whistle like a wise owl`s “toowitt toowoo” – while the trumpet-led track, Atmosphere, is an immediate standout. Cordes Sensibles is pretty much / nigh on essential.
Freedom To Spend will reissue UMAN`s Chaleur Humaine on September 17th. You can also order copies via RVNG Intl. At the request of UMAN a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Greenpeace France.