Snowdrops are a chamber duo from France, and their debut album, Volutes, is an elegant blend of strings, piano, mellotron, electronics, and the Ondes Martenot, an instrument notorious for its difficulty. Mathieu Gabry and Christine Ott formed Snowdrops in 2015, and the duo largely work within the field of contemporary classical music, although their compositions have enough breadth to include fingerprints of jazz, electronic music, and the film score.
In their early years, Snowdrops primarily scored soundtracks, composing specifically for the screen (their credits include composing the score to Manta Ray, winner of the Lion Award for Best Film at the 2018 Venice Festival, and a soundtrack which appeared a year later on Gizeh Records), and this seeps through into Volutes.
Through this combination of instruments, a haunted sound is produced. Sparse, cool tones slide around in the air while the strings play on, both of them engaging without directly interfering or coming into close proximity with one another. The music prefers to strafe around the edges, doing everything in a balletic way while still providing plenty of powerful moments. This is where their experience comes into play. The duo understand when they need to step it up and when to retreat, and there are no inconsistencies within the album.
Anne Irène-Kempf adds an exquisite viola to proceedings, and her background in classical and baroque music helps to further strengthen the album. Running like a constant current through their musical philosophy is the notion of setting music to imagery, and this theme continues on Volutes, which is based on ‘an intimate and intuitive relationship with deeply expressive imagery’ – the only difference between this and their soundtrack work being the fact that Volutes creates its own imagery and its own ongoing, personalised film, rather than being scored to and at the mercy of a specific image. In a sense, Volutes is another soundtrack…but this time, the listener is directing.