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๐—–๐—ผ๐—ป๐—ป๐—ผ๐—น๐—น๐˜†โ€™๐˜€ ๐—–๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—ป๐—ฒ๐—ฟ - this week: TOTEM - Amaury Laurent Bernier

Welcome all to ๐—–๐—ผ๐—ป๐—ป๐—ผ๐—น๐—น๐˜†โ€™๐˜€ ๐—–๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—ป๐—ฒ๐—ฟ, a series of weekly reviews by Charles Connolly - an artist in his own right. Here, Charles delves into the greatest brand new singles brought to you by the best unsigned artists on our electrifying and eclectic set of ๐™‰๐™š๐™ฌ ๐˜ผ๐™ง๐™ฉ๐™ž๐™จ๐™ฉ ๐™Ž๐™ฅ๐™ค๐™ฉ๐™ก๐™ž๐™œ๐™๐™ฉ playlists.

In disbelief, Charles is inspiredโ€ฆ

Some of you may wonder about my reviews. โ€œWhere does he get his ideas? Where does his inspiration come from?โ€ Others of you might not give the slightest damn! Well I'm not concentrating on that impolite fraction. So, these ideas are usually me and my very best constipation face, until something good springs to mind. Then I simply jot it all down. This time however, it was sheer inspiration in being moved by the music. I couldn't help but put pen to paper. Simple as that! Amaury Laurent Bernier has had much attention of late, in and around the New Artist Spotlight and the rest of the internet. Much praise, various interviews - you know. I like to go a little off the beaten track. So as not to repeat what has already been said elsewhere. Of course, there will be SOME repetition, because I did not entirely detest the record.

I have talked about religion hither and thither, and from time to time. But I wish to speak about something rather more meaningful to most. To more. Belief. This might at first seem rather similar or even synonymous with religion, but this specific word, โ€œbeliefโ€, carries weight even with the most irreligious of us. To be religious means one has to believe, but does that therefore mean that believing forces one to be religious? It does not. And I am not even delving into spirituality here. I am talking about an altogether more grounded notion. We all believe in something or someone. It can come in many guises. Belief makes me break rules. Like a parent defending their own crime-ridden child. Technically they shouldn't, but they feel they must. It is innate. It is love. Well for me, art hits me like love. Its strength is, well, strong. Belief is to have faith and to love something or someone. It doesnโ€™t have to be a god. I personally believe in my own musical abilities, and that is what keeps me going. If I were to think little of my talents, it would hardly give me the impetus to finish a single piece. One must be honest though, and never lie to oneself. Donโ€™t tell yourself โ€œitโ€™s geniusโ€ when it is at most mediocre. And is there much point in โ€œmediocreโ€? I donโ€™t think so. I donโ€™t see the point in the attitude of โ€œthatโ€™ll doโ€. If it doesnโ€™t make YOU tingle, it ainโ€™t gonhโ€™ do much for anyone else.

With little to believe in these days - stale mainstream music and ahem, British politics, for example - one has to hunt perhaps more than one should. There is one thing though, that always seems to bring me a sense of hope and a feeling of sanity. The smile on a childโ€™s face. The simplicity in what brings said smile to its natural resting place. It is their vivid imagination, able to mentally conjure the most fabulous impossibilities so effortlessly. That simple twisted logic, quaint and sweet in a child, yet that would land an adult in a mental institution (or whatever weโ€™re supposed to call it these days). It is their belief that has not yet been tainted or crushed by the internet and the โ€œreal worldโ€ around us. A childโ€™s belief is innocent. It is pure. And it coincidentally brings me to the subject of a giant porcupine. Which may or may not be the leader of the British government in weeks to come.

February of 2023 will bring us something from the Netherlands in the form of a motion picture. A flick, talkie, movie, or as I call it, a film. TOTEM, a fully fledged feature film directed by Sander Burger, is being put forward for nomination in the Cinekid awards - the largest childrenโ€™s film festival in the world. TOTEMโ€™s basic premise is this:

โ€œAma, the daughter of Senegalese asylum seekers, feels completely Dutch. When Amaโ€™s mother and brother are arrested, Ama sets off in search of her father through Rotterdam in the middle of winter, hoping to avoid deportation. During this frightening and exciting journey, she discovers her roots, thanks in part to her extraordinary totem animal: a gigantic porcupine.โ€

A gigantic porcupine. Only the mind of a child could create such fantasy and wonder. Only in a childโ€™s mind could such a concept be believable and so utterly normal. It is, as you can gather, her belief in such a thing that gets her through the tough times. Proving the power of belief. When โ€˜part-of-the-furnitureโ€™ New Artist Spotlight member, Amaury Laurent Bernier was asked if he would like to compose the music for TOTEM, he had to know the filmโ€™s plot first. This sensible, shrewd man needed to know what he was getting into before confirming and accepting the offer. Rather startlingly, this stubborn Frenchman (if you can make fun of the British, I can make fun of the French) was instantly affected and moved by the story, that he had what he needed in order to get stuck in: Belief. He believed in the film, which gave him the inspiration he required to start making magic. Of course, he took the job.

Despite the film not being released until February, Christmas (or Valentineโ€™s Day) comes early for us. The soundtrack is out now. This gives the music a head start and allows it the full exposure it deserves before being thrown into second place by the visuals, as the film inevitably steals the limelight. The funny thing is, if you close your eyes and listen, it IS visual. Amaury has managed something rare in forcing oneโ€™s imagination, mood and inspiration to run riot. It is pure immersion. He does this with the use of a full orchestra, choir (which strangely enough I am part of) and his own self-taught techniques of varying renown. He follows in the footsteps of the great film composers such as John Williams, Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfmann and Michael Giacchino, yet doesnโ€™t come close to copying any one of them. Amaury is his own man. Influence on great artists does not always have to be noticeable. The Beatles were supposedly influenced by Elvis, Carl Perkins and Hank Williams, yet is Eleanor Rigby or Strawberry Fields anything like any of these artists? The greats (Picasso springs to mind) absorb the past rather than using it as a platform from which to spring. Now, I have a vague recollection of Amaury saying his previous soundtrack was his best work to date, upon its release. And with TOTEM, he rehashes and repeats this mantraโ€ฆ Something a little artificial here to tease and draw the crowdsโ€ฆ? Am I starting to feel a little bit Jew-byus (Doo-beeus in America)? Not in the slightest! You see, true artists learn from every work of theirs. They improve by doing so. They always strive for perfection, and heaven hopes they never reach it, or they will stop trying. Amaury meant it then, and he means it now. And this is what we want.

Amaury is not interested in releasing single by single. Yes, it makes for good business and potential playlist placement. But it also shreds, scatters and shatters the album to pieces. It would break apart the integral form of the one-sided LP. For this very reason, I had to force myself to watch the trailer of the film. NOT because I really didn't have any interest in it and just felt the need to support a fellow artist. But, for this very idea of breaking apart the whole into smaller pieces that do not satisfy nearly as much as the entire work. I donโ€™t like trailers. Would a chef like you to taste the gravy, then the chicken, then later on in Brussels, perhaps a sprout? It is the amalgamation of everything that makes the meal. It is also the very reason that I cannot stand Spotify's free tier on the mobile app - an album will play in random order. That is simply impossible for me. Frankly, unlistenable. I will of course in the future break my own rules in the most blatant show of hypocrisy. But that is me in a nutshell. Why, I should become a Prime Minister! And if it didnโ€™t work out within a couple of weeks I could always pass on the baton. Itโ€™s apparently what we do these days. Artists however, are not like politicians. We are in it for the long haul. Even if it makes us go a little crazy.

The first time I reviewed Amaury, I was jealous and in awe. But now, this time around, I am exhilarated yet calm. Like we have come together and shaken hands. There is resolution. A feeling of peace in the budding friendship of two Europeans. The unity of "we're always right" (France) and "we admit we're absolutely useless" (Britain). The artist and the artistic listener, sharing the same space. It is universal, yet personal. This soundtrack is monumental. A staggering work. You will genuinely feel uplifted after having listened in its entirety. Film or no film (as the case may be, at least for a few months), it is incredible how Amaury has managed to sweep us up and take us elsewhere, as usually only Hollywood can. I rejoice in the music. It is purely visual. It is ethereal. It is emotive and deeply moving. I have been inspired. Thank you, Albert (it took me ages to realise that ALB was not in fact short for Albert).

You might have noticed that I have not zoned in on any specific song/track/piece. This is because I didnโ€™t want to pick and praise one, while leaving the others to gather lonely dust. Out of respect for the artist, I have chosen to leave the sum of its parts intact on my Connolly's Corner playlist, available on greedy, horrible Spotify, and also on well mannered, respectable Apple Music. I deliberated for a while on this unprecedented decision, but ultimately came to this conclusion because I can. Because I believe in what I preach. Because I believe in Amaury. And because I believe in his thinking, that the soundtrack as a whole is one piece, not to be broken up. It will however stay this way for one week only, where upon I will regretfully be forced to pick just one song. This is because I believe that I must pay equal respect to all the artists I have reviewed thus far. Sorry, Albert. Ahem - Amaury.

You may also have noticed that I havenโ€™t gone into the music itself in the slightest. This is because I would like there to be no whiffs from the kitchen to give you a sense of what you are about to receive. It is however, phenomenal. Please listen, in full, via my playlist below. Great speakers or headphones preferred for full effect, if you want that great big porcupine to come to life. Having listened to TOTEM around 6 or 7 times, I am now pretty familiar with it. I would be fascinated to know your personal favourite tracks on the album. I have certain favourites, but will not mention them here for fear of influencing your own thoughts and views.


British politics and TOTEM have one thing in common: they are both beyond belief.

But we wonโ€™t talk about the big porcupine in the room.

Listen to ๐™๐™Š๐™๐™€๐™ˆ on the ๐—–๐—ผ๐—ป๐—ป๐—ผ๐—น๐—น๐˜†โ€™๐˜€ ๐—–๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—ป๐—ฒ๐—ฟ Spotify playlist HERE!

Listen to ๐™๐™Š๐™๐™€๐™ˆ on the ๐—–๐—ผ๐—ป๐—ป๐—ผ๐—น๐—น๐˜†โ€™๐˜€ ๐—–๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—ป๐—ฒ๐—ฟ Apple Music playlist HERE!

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