Camille ‘Il Olympia’ CD + DVD (EMI France) 4/5

This live concert captures Camille during two evenings in October 2012 and brings together a number of songs from her recent 2011 album ‘Ilo Veyou’ (incidentally the original studio album title is a play on words between French and English ‘I love you’) plus a small selection of her most revered songs in the UK, ‘Le fil’, alongside other original compositions. What is not indicated inside the lavish gatefold sleeve is that prior to these live performances, Camille warmed up with a one hour performance during that summer at the intimate festival des Franco-Gourmandes and by the time she arrived at the prestigious Olympia venue in Paris she was already on top form. For non-French speakers Camille can best be likened to Björk, though in terms of her improvisatory technique alone she certainly borrows from jazz singers such as Bobby McFerrin among others. In contrast to the fuller orchestrated ‘Music Hole album of 2008 which is largely ignored here, Camille reproduces the minimalist feel of the studio version of ‘Ilo Veyou’, but with the significant bonus of her avant-garde theatrical stage presence which simply has to be viewed on the accompanying DVD and has rightly resulted in comparisons with Laurie Anderson who must surely have been an influence upon her.The singer excels on her own highly original repertoire and that includes a large slice of anglophone material, not least because she was brought up in a household with a French mother who teaches English and feels very much at ease in the language and culture. From her early appearances as lead singer with Nouvelle Vague, Camille has developed into a precocious talent who has a sound like no other on the current French music scene. There are thinly disguised allusions to female passion in ‘Wet boy’ which has a floating folk-inspired melody whereas the all too brief ‘Message’ has an inventive nursery rhyme setting. One of the prettiest tunes is ‘Mars is no fun’ and it is worth noting that the song ‘Ta douleur’ ,which is featured here actually won Camille the best artist prize at the prestigious ‘Victoire de la Musique’ French music awards in 2006. Meanwhile for traditionalists the old-time sounding ‘La France has something of a waltz flavour to it. Interestingly the DVD differs from the CD only on one additional piece with twenty-three as opposed to twenty-two songs on the CD, but the pared down visual imagery to the concert has divided opinion since it is not to everyone’s taste. However, this has a good deal more to do with the nature of the stage presentation which is deliberate rather than the actual quality of the DVD itself which is in all other respects exemplary and moreover the sound is excellent also.

Tim Stenhouse