Smashing the patriarchy never sounded sweeter with Helluvah, a Gallic Riot Grrl songwriter from an indie label in France.
Perhaps, like me, you’ve never seen France as a likely place to find strong female alternative acts. Singer/song-writers of the angular persuasion are known to be mostly British or American, those ladies who twist and turn their guitar lines, injecting generous helpings of rage and anger into sometimes seductive, sometimes taunting melodies. The French language does not seem appropriate to convey such feelings, which is why Helluvah aka Camille Warmé sings in English.
Her new album As We Move Silently is a follow-up to 2008’s Emotion Pills. On listening it could almost have originated from the lands of PJ Harvey or Shannon Wright, if it wasn’t for the slight gallic accent that comes through in her singing. It’s all there, though. Helluvah’s guitar lines can go from gentle strumming to angular pickings within the same song. The sound is bare and intimate, drums and guitars are dry but dense, recorded with maximum warmth, avoiding the sometimes too-bright sounding production sheen of singer/song-writers as well as their lo-fi bedroom recording sound.
The themes of the songs vary from the evocation of personal memories to more social observations, like on Patriarkill (“I’m the target and you’re the target. They don’t want me now, they’re coming for you”). Helluvah can start a song by singing “The city is a cemetery” on Come On. And she only leaves her guitar alone when she takes up the ukulele on “Santa Fe”, the piano on the ballad “Snow” or a toy keyboard on “Song for Lucian”.
All in all, Helluvah has the chops of the great ladies who bare it all in a brutally honest way while seducing the audience with inventive melodies and arrangements, creating a distinctive mood. Helluvah’s songwriting stands out as unique in her native France and I see her as a peer to many of the best English-speaking solo artists.