Julien Jacob – Cotonou

Julien Jacob has created his own language to express his message of peace while leaving the business of interpretation up to the listener. Originally from BÈnin, he could have chosen one of the 50 or so languages spoken there and it would have had the same effect on all but those who speak that language.

It is a neat trick and one that throws up questions about what is going on in the mind of someone listening to a song sung in a language they do not speak. But it would be misleading to dwell on this when he has created an album rich in resonance and full of songs both beautiful and unique.
Julien has been in France since he was an infant and there is a definite French twang to his lyrics. This feeling of familiarity withheld reminds me of Manu Chao with whom he shares a love of mixing sounds up.
Like the music of his label mate and collaborator on the song ‘Yacob’, Rachid Taha, his is a sound that could only have been made by someone who lives in between cultures. An array of African percussion instruments provides the backdrop for what is otherwise mostly a guitar and voice affair. But what a voice: deep, soft and sonorous.
It is hard to pick out top tracks from this release, partly because it all of a similar laid back vibe but also because each track grabs you as it happens and makes its predecessor recede. Always a good sign.
So if you are looking for an album that is full of interesting musical ideas but unfailingly graceful and attractive, this could be just what you are after.
Wrass 138
Release date: 19-1-2005

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