Robyn Archer




Had his music not done the job, Astride Bruant’s immortality was assured by Toulouse-Lautrec’s posters famously depicting the singer-songwriter in black hat and scarlet scarf. A third of this album focuses on Paris circa 1880-1900, featuring Bruant’s scowling view of a corrupted world. Robyn Archer’s English translations reveal chilling parallels with the dark visions of William Blake’s Songs of Experience, and the singer revels in material that suits a theatrical delivery spiked with words spat out with superb venom.

The second third comes from Weimar Berlin before Nazism blotted out a sunnier optimism; songs that play to Archer’s arch playfulness. Moritat and Falling in Love Again aside, they are less familiar pieces, including the black humour of Frank Wedekind’s Granny Murderer and the tender Eine Kleine Sehnsucht. She closes the circle by returning to Paris, this time in the 1950s: the world of Brel. Archer’s singing is expertly supported by Richard Morley (piano, vocals) and George Butrumlis (accordion, bass accordion, vocals). The one quibble is that sometimes she could have essayed a more complete surrender to the wonderment, sensuousness or desolation of these songs. JOHN SHAND