Raoul Vignal – Oak Leaf

Album Review | Talitres | Review by Marc Higgins | Stars: 5/5

French singer and guitarist Raoul Vignal creates a music that shimmers and rests lightly on your ears, without ever being throwaway or lightweight. “Pepas Eyes” features his perfect Nick Drake like acoustic guitar and a very intimate, hypnotic vocal. In a development from his previous album there are wafts of atmospheric wind and brass instruments rising and falling around him. Think languid Cool Jazz or Modern Jazz Quartet. “No Faith” continues the ethereal Folk Jazz, with another beautiful melody and vocal on a song that has a John Martyn Solid Air or Van Morrison Astral Weeks feel. The tracks have a stripped back economical beauty and grace, like watching the weather or a slowed down dancer. Tom Chargnard’s Saxophone is just a perfect piece of phrasing, languid and minimal. “The Dream” starts with layered guitars, like acoustic 80s Shoegaze music. The rhythmic looping guitar and Raol’s stunning vocal reminded me of label mates Stranded Horse, another favourite. Stunning, music you have to stop and listen to. Again it is layered with flutters of bird song jazz that draw pictures of movement. This isn’t party music, or dance floor music, but time and time again Raoul Vignal uses small inflections and low volume to draw you in and hold your attention. “Blue Raven” has a vocal that is slurred Martyn through and through. You catch individual words, but the voice is a sound, an instrument, rising and falling as impressionistic as water. Musical accompaniment to Monet’s huge late period, pond paintings or Mark Rothko’s glowing colour abstract images. “I Might” is breathy perfection, small jewels of words with wafts of Cool Jazz. The shimmering reeds and Gregiore Colson’s vibraphone around Vignal’s guitar and vocal are just sublime. “I Have Sinned” lifts the mood a little, opening with a Tim Buckley like electric guitar part. The vocal is pure Nick Drake or early Al Stewart, intimate, breathy and low in the mix. With a guitar motif that recalls Roy Harper, two part “The Waves” is a majestic mood piece. Raoul’s guitar and voice are insistent and edgy, slowly building intensity and mood. The guitar becomes just a mood, waves of sound that evoke the sea, building back up to an instrumental with a wordless vocal that is just beautiful. Chamber Jazz, classical music and Folk entwine. “Mirror” puts Vignal’s vocal against a skittering drum and Double Bass part that reminded me of a beautifully abstract take on Tim Buckley’s version of Fred Neil’s “Dolphins”. Jordy Matin’s Bass and Lucien Chatin’s playing shines here as it does throughout. Like the rest of the album, this is perfectly phrased, heady, intoxicating stuff. “The Valve” blends quiet and disquiet with pure acoustic guitar pitched against longer abstract electric notes. Quiet is also interspaced with louder faster more intense jazzy moments. Raoul’s vocal just flies over both. Contemporary musicians like Ryley Walker and Raoul Vignal make a thoughtful moody Electro acoustic music that Janus like looks back to the more freewheeling looser 60s and 70s sounds of John Martyn, Tim Buckley, Davy Graham and Michael Chapman while sounding bright lively and contemporary. More power to them I say, this is gently powerful music that should be on everyone’s radar. Vignal with his quartet of sympathetic players summon up a quiet storm. Check out too The Silver Veil, Raoul’s previous album and a more intimate stroll through his musical musings, you won’t be disappointed.