Album Review :: Bernice :: Eau de Bonjourno

by Olivier La Roche

With only their third full-length project since 2011, Toronto band Bernice offer a rather stunning mix of jazz and ambient that “openly plays with the shape of a pop song,” as lead vocalist Robin Dann shares on the band’s Bandcamp page. Eau de Bonjourno marks the first collaboration between the group and the grand multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily, who acts as producer. Ismaily’s impressive resume, which features work with the likes of Iggy Pop and Lou Reed, comes as no surprise given the pleasant, pristine production throughout the album. 

Sitting at just under fifty minutes with ten tracks, Eau de Bonjourno offers a level of immersion and depth only attainable with such a robust track list. No measure is wasted, each track offering pleasant glimpses into altering worlds and musical universes. This couldn’t be more true for the opener “Groove Elation,” a gorgeous song that begins with a sparse, skeletal beat and faint synth melody, both carried by Dann’s gentle, upbeat vocals. Separating these ethereal sections are interjections of saxophone and keyboards, before the song descends into an increasingly groovy breakdown that closes the track. After only the first track, this project has sent the listener floating along and then bobbing their head.

The album is characterized by lofty, almost erratic lyrics that jump from subject to subject at lightning speed. The song “Empty Cup” is a perfect example of this quality, with Dann going from describing a beaver chewing on bark, to her friends’ heart pain to her admiration for her parents within seconds. While varied, the lyrics never come off as disjointed, as they align well with the tone of each track. This unpredictability fits in perfectly with the music, which reflects the same quality, creating an important synergy between vocals and instrumentation, between lyrics and chords. 

As a whole, the record feels just cohesive enough to be taken in as one single experience, without becoming monotone or repetitive. Each song undertakes a similarly stripped-back approach, often relying on Dann’s light but entrancing vocals. This is not at the detriment of the album, however. The instrumentation throughout acts as support for the main focus on vocals, making it a simultaneously calming and intriguing listen, that leaves you wondering where the sound will go next at every turn. 

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