Mood Music

Sound Tracking: Benjamin Schoos’s ‘China Man Versus China Girl’

Sound Tracking: Benjamin Schoos’s ‘China Man Versus China Girl’

You know when you are walking along and you think, “Mon Dieu! If only I could have a French soundtrack to my life?” Well, Benjamin Schoos’s album, China Man Verses China Girl, is exactly that. It is the French soundtrack to your life that you never had. And, now you do.

You know when you are walking along and you think, “Mon Dieu! If only I could have a French soundtrack to my life?” Well, Benjamin Schoos’s album, China Man Verses China Girl, is exactly that. It is the French soundtrack to your life that you never had. And, now you do.

As an artist, Schoos draws inspiration from French singer/songwriter legend Serge Gainsbourg and orchestrator Jean Claude Vannier. His music focuses on a complex method of layering of genres and sounds. Most tracks feature traditional-sounding French lyrics sung over an electronic and melodic soundscape. With China Man Versus China Girl the artist makes his North American debut, featuring some heavy hitting guest vocalists like Laetitia Sadier of Stereolab, and Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders.

The album opens with an instrumental number called “High Flying Melancholia,” made up of what sounds like looped crowd noise or a speech laid under electronic sounds and a saxophone. It is only 49 seconds long. (This would be you leaving the house and heading out into the world, bombarded by sounds and sites and the excitement of what lies ahead.)

China Man Versus China Girl then moves forward through genres. Early track “Marquise” mixes old-school-style French singing with a more electo-pop background. Then, the album jumps into a ‘70s-style pop duet with “Je Ne Vois Que Vous” featuring Sadier. Middle track “La Chinoise” is a melancholy ballad accompanied by piano and strings. Schoos keep listeners guessing the entire time; we are left wondering where the album will go next, and what era we will be thrust into.

The overarching tone of the album is relatively low-key; most of the songs focus on slow, classic French crooning, and the vocals maintain the same octaves throughout. Many of the tracks feature electronic backing, either mixed in with strings, horns or piano, or holding a solo spot against the vocals. China Man Versus China Girl is a unique album in this way, and captures the ability to surprise and jump through the years, while also keeping a steady theme.

But, Schoos’s album is not for everyone. The disjointed nature of the genres can feel piece-meal, while the constant electronic background can make the songs bleed together. The tracks are unique for a North American release, because they are all in French (with the exception of the final song). This might appeal to some who doesn’t care about lyrical meaning, while others may be put off by singing along to something they don’t understand. But regardless of personal preference, China Man Versus China Girl is interesting and worthwhile in its method and vocals.

China Man Versus China Girl ends with the English language song “Worlds Away”, an interesting choice and a fitting beginning to a career here in North America. It is also one of the largest and most upbeat tracks, finishing the soundtrack to your day with the lines “if we lose ourselves, we’ll find ourselves, worlds away.” (Also fitting for an overseas debut.) With this sendoff Schoos’ enters the North American realm, leaving us with a memorable block of music from somewhere that comes across as classically romantic with a flare for being accompanied by new world of electronica. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqY1T_gfgEE

Photos by Pascal Schyns

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victor

October 9th, 2012

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