Lo’Jo ‘Fonetiq Flowers’ CD (World Village) 3/5

French roots group Lo’Jo hail from north-west France, but their pioneering brand of world music takes on board multiple influences from North Africa (the two lead female vocalists have Algerian roots) to instrumentation that incorporates the musical traditions of Iran and even Korea. Despite this, the sound is still immediately identifiable as French, and therein lies part of the problem with this latest album, which is overwhelmingly bleak in tone.

The music has a tendency to be wildly eclectic in places, with the emphasis on French lyrics as befitting the French chanson tradition. For non-francophone speakers, this combination of traditional French language lyrics and experimental world beats is likely to confuse and, sadly, there are no obvious songs to these ears that can elevate the band sound to a wider and non-specialist audience. Thus, the dissonant guitar and use of piano on ‘Chabalai’, is pure French chanson, but without a commercial hook. Further on, the slightly futuristic-sounding ‘Figurine’ has electronica accompaniment alongside violin and female vocals. It is true to say that the band have sought to diversify by including English lyrics, as on ‘Noisy Flowers’, but this is delivered in a quasi US rap fashion, and with a female chorus that is straight out of a South African township. All wildly eclectic, but will a general audience be enthralled, or bemused by it all?

Lo’Jo are a group who are uncompromising in their ethos and that is to be applauded. This is probably their most reflective album thus far. However, it remains to be seen whether an audience beyond those already committed, will understand and be able to follow the music itself.

Tim Stenhouse