‘Grande Est La Maison’, is an astounding sweep of orchestral folk/pop that bears similarities to meditation. Though hard to achieve, being in the moment brings about a deep sense of relaxation and calm. Listening to Cabane requires similar focus to let in the layers of melancholic vocals that flow around anything from a string quartet to full-on pop. It is demanding, but keep trying and the effect is correspondingly serene.
Cabane is a project that spans music, photography and video, the brainchild of Belgian composer Thomas Jean Henri. He augments his influences with the vocal participation of Will Oldham (Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy) and Kate Stables (This Is The Kit). The undertaking expands with the string arrangements of Sean O’Hagan (The High Llamas) and a choir of five singers. Henri wrote the lyrics with the help of various other collaborators.
First impressions are slightly overwhelming but persistence is rewarded. Trying to separate lyrics from music and attach meaning to each was beyond this reviewer. Instead, just let it happen and the beauty and originality of everyone’s contribution begins to emerge. Listen further and like the ascending sun, light floods the entire scene.
Finding a ‘sounds like’ isn’t immediate but if pushed Nick Drake seems reasonable. Will Oldham’s roots in folk, roots, country offer a signpost for the Americana fan, (but be warned, this is not Americana) and what has been described his “fragile, warbling sound” is perfect for these delicate compositions such as ‘Tu ne Joueras Plus l’amour’.
From an English folk tradition Kate Stables brings a familiar touch with her delicate contributions to ‘Now, Winter Comes’ and ‘Easily, We’ll See’. Together both add substance to the arrangements whose ethereal qualities almost vaporise completely. The harmonies on ‘Sangokaku’ come closest to their respective roots.
The shimmering ‘Ilot’ Parts I and II are the deep breaths in this intense meditation. And perhaps that’s the real genius of Henri; he takes the listener to the edge of consciousness then gently brings everything back to a grounded centre.
Though some of the tracks were released as singles, ‘Grande Est La Maison’ is a complete package. The trick would appear not to try too hard and just let it happen.