Crépuscule by Rêves sonores is a beautiful, intriguing record. Stefan Christoff’s piano and Nick Schofield’s synthesizers form the basis of the ambient-adjacent works, with contributions from Ari Swan (violin), Devin Brahja Waldman (saxophone) and Nick Kuepfer (field recordings). The descriptions of the main instruments doesn’t tell the story of the record, though: the album is a wide-ranging sonic adventure that moves through many different states.
Opener “Alight” sets the tone through a complex set of electronically manipulated string runs, accentuated by an elegant base of slow-moving strings. The tension of speed and still that is depicted here runs throughout the album. Highlight “Mondial” builds out a fascinating piece from a speedy saxophone pattern, pizzicato violin, a dancing lead violin melody, and gentle synthesizers. It’s not ambient, because it moves; yet it’s still very peaceful despite its motion. It is a unique, wonderful piece.
“Soliloquy” contrasts the joyful “Mondial” with a slow-moving, ominous soundscape. Distant piano, eerie synths, and suspense-movie violin create a harsh, yet intriguing, space for saxophone to play around in. It sounds like someone having a good time in an empty lot at midnight, preferably under a single streetlight. “Seers Theme” and “Spirodon” continue this noir vibe, but they strip out even more action; these tunes approach ambient music via economy of notes, if not in lush washes of sound. (See “Svalbard” for those interested in as close as this album gets to “lush washes.”)
The rest of the album lives between these two poles of dancing movement and stark economy. “Swan Song” pits the motion of “Mondial” against the emptiness of “Soliloquy” and “Seers Theme,” creating a distinctive, unusual vibe that draws me in over and over. “Hearken” and “Lucidity” flow together neatly as a single track, with “Hearken” being an acoustic section and “Lucidity” being a distorted electronic version of the same noir-ish moods (if not quite the same theme). Closer “Reprise” is conceptually similar to “Alight” but for a minor-key song instead of a major-key one.
Crepuscule is a difficult record to describe but an easy one to enjoy. I’ve listened to it many, many times in the past few months, and its intrigue has not failed me yet. It’s not a grower, an album that originally doesn’t click but opens up after multiple listens (“it grew on me”). Instead, it connected easily with me at first, and then revealed further treasures on repeat listens. It’s a truly lovely and interesting work of art. Highly recommended.