Now, it is time to introduce you all to something really special. Avec Sans (French for ‘With Without’) are Alice Fox (vocals) and Jack St James (electronics). The duo have been together now for 4 years, and have gained something of a reputation for their moving electropop and their exciting live performances. A variety of songs had seen the light of day before they broke through into my chart in a big way with ‘Heartbreak Hi’, the title track from their newly released debut album. You will already know how highly I rate ‘Heartbreak Hi’ – it’s a gorgeous song, combining a reflective verse with a soaring chorus, and it has climbed as of this week to No 21 on my singles chart. Indeed, Avec Sans have a lot of the hallmarks which I really like in a band – spiralling, sweeping electronic music, heartfelt lyrics, evocative song titles, excellent female vocals. So I was pretty excited to take my first listen to ‘Heartbreak Hi’ the album this week. I was not disappointed.
This is an absolute cracker of an album, and the tone is set right from the start. ‘Even The Echoes’ is a superb lead off track – atmospheric, with beautifully layered synths and a real sense of unease behind the music. ‘Heartbreak Hi’ itself comes next, and ‘Shiver’ adds some extra touches. The verse is sparse, but as the chorus comes in and the song continues the instrumentation becomes more and more intricate. There is a lot going on in these songs behind the classic synthpop music. There is a minor dip at this point – I didn’t find much in either ‘We Are’ or ‘When You Go’ to remember – but the album bursts back to life with the nicely defined ‘Hold On’ and the swirling ‘Resonate’. There are hints of School of Seven Bells and of Chvrches layered throughout the music – Lauren Mayberry’s vocal particularly came to mind during the classically mid tempo, sure fire potential single ‘Close My Eyes’. And there is something of Phoria in the pulsing bass backbeat to ‘History’.
And then, we have possibly the best song I have heard all year. If you like ‘Heartbreak Hi’, then you are going to absolutely adore ‘All Of Time’. This song has actually been around for a couple of years now – it was one of the first that Avec Sans released onto Soundcloud. I hadn’t come across it before though – so thank God I have now. I don’t actually think your life can be called complete until you have heard ‘All Of Time’. It is a stunning paean to lost love. The song kicks off with a beautiful key change vocal from Fox, and as the song builds it gets more and more bewitching, and more and more heartbreaking. The imagery in the lyrics is gorgeous. “The sadness of leaving will crystallize, and break into pieces that we can hide – So no one will ever know that I was ever lost without you” sings Fox in the bridge, before the chorus kicks in. “I spent all of time on your trail, trying to find you – I spent all my life on your trail, trying to reach you”. It’s a passionate, extraordinary song that swells and twists its way into your heart. Honestly, after two or three listens you will be completely hooked. I absolutely adore it.
And the rest of the album is great too – there’s a nice build from the slow paced bass start to ‘Perth’, and then the closing track ‘Mistakes’ brings us full circle with the same kind of carefully constructed, atmospherically haunting music with which we opened the album in ‘Even The Echoes’. So, there we have it. A superb album full of songs that could stand alone just as well as they stand together. There are pop hooks a plenty but with a huge variety of ideas floating in the background. It is uplifting in places, and in others your heart is shattered. It is a truly outstanding work – and Avec Sans have become one of the most important bands of the year in the blink of an eye.