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Vendredi Sur Mer
MÉTAMORPHOSE Austin Nguyen , March 16th, 2022 07:52

Charline Mignot's second Vendredi Dur Mer album provides a sultry, sumptuous feast of sleazy synths and sad pianos, finds Austin Nguyen

No one makes synthpop as impenetrably sumptuous as Charline Mignot. With her debut album Premiers Émois, released under the nom de plume Vendredi Sur Mer (“Friday by the Seaside”), she luxuriated in the whirlwind rapture of new love, streaked with flutes and strings. Its cover was, fittingly, inspired by Botticeli’s “The Birth of Venus”: Mignot enthroned in a pure-white shell, looking out with the steely gaze of a goddess.

On MÉTAMORPHOSE, her second album, no such divinity exists. Mignot has become painfully, effortlessly human. Opener ‘Le Lac’ is the closest she’s ever been to a ballad on a lead single: melancholic piano chords that glint like moonlight off water, her voice quiet and pleading like a prayer. ‘Dormir’ feels just as rich in its yearning; ‘American Car’ offers synths which throb in the night, with violin strings and coos spritzed in between. Even with the wounds of a severed relationship, Mignot’s presence feels elegant, refined by the grace of her spoken-word delivery.

Break-ups are messy too, though, and Mignot isn’t afraid of getting a little dirty. ‘Comment tu vas finir’ (“How are you going to finish”), true to its title, is one of Mignot’s horniest songs to date. With ‘Disco Tits’-levels of neon sleaze and synths, she hurls come-on after come-on while the beat shudders and moans loop in the background. It’s second only to ‘Désabusée’, with its supercharged lust and heaving techno. With words minimised, each growl and whisper carries the intensity of a witch chant, Mignot’s inhalations sharpened into a knife. She can bring the dancefloor into the bedroom, just as easily as she can pine in it.

Not all of MÉTAMORPHOSE is as successful. Lewis OfMan, the head producer of Mignot’s debut EP and LP, has been switched out for Sam Tibab, whose production credits consist primarily of Francophone rap songs and a few stray dance tracks. For most of the album, Tibab possesses a deft hand to guide Mignot as she manoeuvres between classical and experimental sounds. ‘Déçue’ is a sad banger in the mould of lite disco, plush with airy harmonies, while the piano of ‘S’il Est’ proves to be a supple partner for Mignot’s voice to wince and waltz with. ‘Capable de Toi’ feels stilted by comparison, cluttered with a mellowed-out trap beat that sounds misplaced.

MÉTAMORPHOSE ends, however, in a place of unimpeded simplicity. Backed by crepuscular synths and gentle accents of guitar and piano, Mignot’s voice sounds effusive yet unhurried as a new day seems to emerge, and her heartbreak transforms into hope. “Hold me, I’m ready / To imagine the aftermath,” she whispers into the sky, before strings enter with all the grandiosity of clouds parting. Buried under the sex and tears, beneath the pain there exists, perhaps, something like possibility.