Listen to the audio:
Breathe In (Radio Edit)
Breathe In (Watkins Radio Edit)
After month's of waiting, Frou Frou's debut single
Breathe In, is finally released is the UK on
Monday 24 June, through Island Records.
The single, taken from their debut album Details,
set to be released in the UK on 1 July 2002 and the
US on 13 August, features the Watkins remix which has
been tearing up the Club charts and counts Pete Tong
amongst it's biggest fans. It also features the brilliant
Aphrodite remix and a new track Close Up as a
Frou Frou are singer-songwriter Imogen Heap, and songwriter-producer
and part time Francophile, Guy Sigsworth (think Seal,
Bjork and Madonna).
If the challenge for a pair of skilled musical parfumiers
is to connect up all five senses and create a sixth
realm of heightened emotion, rediscovered memory and
awakened dreaming, the debut album by Frou Frou is an
A couple of lifetimes in preparation, Details
is as hyper-evocative a record as the post-digital era
has yet produced. Imogen and Guy have summoned up a
supersensual song-world of whispered intimacy, firefly
dances, sky-kissing elation, opiated warmth, pillows,
bliss, fingertips, half-light, swirls, curlicues, closeness,
interpersonal dissonance and captured stillness. Oh
yes, and the swishing of erotically charged silk.
the Folies Bergeres when the women were dancing 'frou
frou' was meant to be the sound of the swishing skirt,"
explains Guy. "There's meant to be a poem of Baudelaire's
where he'd taken opium and was tripping out on the skirts
swishing and getting delirious, and there's this old
French song called Frou Frou which is the sound that
drives men mad. And I suppose when I was getting this
together with Imogen, not just because she's a girl,
but I was conscious of there being a kind of femininity
to things. The delirious guy looking at the women is
probably like I am, listening to them singing down the
Since working with Seal at the start of his career,
Guy Sigworth has gone on to prove himself as an outstanding
producer, collaborating extensively with Bjork and was
the man behind Madonna's What It Feels Like for a
Girl. Imogen's debut solo album, I Megaphone,
made when she was still a teenager, clearly demonstrated
that here was a singer of astonishing emotional eloquence.
Those of you that have been following our coverage of
LHB, will probably have come across her guest vocals
on Tell 'em Who We Are.
Guy and Imogen have met their match in each other with
Frou Frou - an almost perfect dovetailing of voice and
vision. The pair first collaborated when Guy produced
a track called Getting Scared for Imogen's '98
debut album, as a passionate fan of great singers Guy
had sought out the owner of the precocious voice he'd
heard on a demo tape. Working together on a longform
project then became a matter of obligation to the world
of ravishing, high pop.
think we'd always known that we'd do an album together
but it took a while to get there," recalls Imogen. "Every
month or so Guy would phone me up and say 'I've got
a new song, would you come in and sing it?' and then
before we knew it we'd already started the album."
"I guess I'd been a hired gun on other people's records
to come in and do funny noises," explains Guy. "And
often I'd come in and listen back later and think 'Why
does this all sound like shit?í. I kind of realised
that the key is the vocal, because if, in the back of
my mind, I didn't like the vocal, I'd just be using
these silly noises to hide it or draw attention away.
So, working with Imogen just made sense, because she's
such a fantastic singer. And I'm such a snob about voices.
I don't mean they have to be technically perfect, but
when someone has a voice like Imogen you can just run
with it wherever your fantasy takes you."
Their debut album Details is neither electronic
or trad organic, it invents its own sound language without
being self consciously radical. Naturally, it didn't
come together overnight after a binge and a game of
soccer with the effects rack. The Frou Frou sessions
spanned several seasons at the turn of the century,
Guy working on the big picture upstairs in his west
London studio, and Imogen downstairs, in a room full
of cellos, auto harps, guitars, mad keyboards, Indian
drums, toys, books and a mirror to dance in.
With the exception of the trumpet solo on Dumbing
Down Of Love, played by occasional Eno collaborator
John Hassell, and a purl of orchestration from Bombay,
the sounds woven into Details were mostly generated
by Imogen and Guy, feeding keyboards, guitars and briefly
handbells into the computer. The passages where it appears
there's an orchestra under the duvet came from the multi-tracking
of a single violin and lone Swedish double bassist Mitch
Much of the instrumentation was put in around an initial,
early take vocal. Guy and Imogen co-wrote many of the
lyrics, refusing to put in implausible lines and seeking
to create a conversational truthfulness within the songs
Textures, tones and moods shift through the record.
The desire to reach out and touch without using the
obvious attention grabbing techniques is rooted in Imogen
and Guy's past. During her solo career, Imogen carried
her keyboard though five American tours and Guy worked
as musical director for Bjork's live shows. Neither
would have been content to settle for anything less
than graphic enchantment.
"When music really gets you, you hear it on the radio
and it possesses you and you just have to track it down,
and you know you're not going to be happy until you've
got it," says Guy. "And there must be something really
magical to make you like that, itís not like needing
a new pair or trainers, itís something much more intense.
For me music is totally like that and it wouldn't be
worth doing if it wasn't."
"I think we knew what we didn't want to achieve,"
adds Imogen. "We didn't want to go rock, we didn't want
to go angry, we wanted to make this a feelgood album
and we wanted it to be real. I've done 'angry' when
I was 18 and I want to be happy now. I want to sing
subtleties and clarities within Frou Frou are the result
of deep experience and constant exploration. Imogen's
accelerated journey from South London college, to signed
up solo artist, threw her into the middle of the musical
bazaar before prejudices could set in. In between her
solo album and Frou Frou she recorded with London jazz
rap ensemble Urban Species. Still only 21, she's now
as likely to be listening to the Aphex Twin as seeking
out Finnish composers.
Guy's initial co-writing work with Seal came about
because the singer was then living in a neighbouring
London squat. From there he came across a series of
like-minded artists, hooking up with Tim 'Bomb The Bass'
Simonon, Talvin Singh and Bjork. It was not, however,
his co-writing work with Bjork that attracted Madonna's
attention, but his production of the debut album by
the under-rated Mandalay. The Mandalay album failed
to go overground but Madonna loved it and called in
Guy, leading to his co-writing What It Feels Like
For A Girl on Music.
Guy's vast enthusiasm makes him one of the most widely
analytical of current artist producers. It would not
be unusual to find that in an hour of weighing up Frou
Frou's place in the scheme of things, he has also digressed
into the guitar layering of My Bloody Valentine, the
influence of UK ragga on two step, the connection between
Kraftwerk and Africa Bambaata, the interface of Euro
angst and disco, 2 Unlimited's debt to the cancan, ring
tones on rap records and the brilliance of David Sylvian's
"As a musician, you love lots of things and then you
gradually work out, OK yes I love nu-metal, gangsta
rap and classical music but then you start thinking
'What is it I can do that other people don't do? Cause
I love ragga music but I wouldn't try and do it. So
you think 'What is it I can do and as a producer, what
can bring to the table?
"I just hope we can open people's horizons. Because
I think some people are very innovative with soundscapes,
but they don't write songs, and I think the song is
still very important to me. I still think that form
is great even if the sounds are a bit unusual. I think
its a classical way to express what you're feeling."
Frou Frou is by no means a uniquely pure musical phenomenon,
but certainly the two of them are less likely than most
to be guided by ego and self -promotion. Imogen was
doing very nicely by herself and was initially wary
of sharing the creative reins. Guy had endless producer/co-writer
doors open and is decidedly camera shy. Yet they couldn't
resist what Imogen describes as "a beautiful meeting
of minds", and they wanted it to be presented right.
To that end, there will be great visuals and lap top
proud live band selected on the basis of the originality
of the musicians.
"For me atmosphere and fantasy in music are really
important," says Guy. "I think I'm an escapist really,
even though I like dark things in music, and I think
there are moments of darkness in this, but I like darkness
when itís fantastical and Scary Movie-ish rather than
just bleak and gritty. I suppose that if music didn't
give us this glimpse of something better I don't think
we could stand to go on with our lives, we'd just give
up. I think in any type of music, not just mine, the
best of it gives you a glimpse of paradise, or a better
world or some hope. Its like you can achieve some sort
of... I don't know if I'd say perfection, but something
free from all the shit of your life, in music."
So there you have it, Frou Frou, a sound that drives
1 - Breathe In (Radio Edit)
2 - Close Up
3 - Breathe In (Watkins Mix - Radio Edit)
A - Breathe In (Watkins Mix Vocal Mix - Full
B1 - Breathe In (Radio Edit)
B2 - Breathe In (Aphrodite Full Vocal Mix)
Frou Frou Breathe In is released on CD and
12" vinyl through Island Records on 24 June. Their debut
album Details is released on 1 July 2002.
For more information visit the Frou Frou website www.froufrou.net.