Although Emilie Simon is a conservatory-trained experimental musician with a strong theoretical grounding, she has also made a name for herself both as a mainstream soundtrack composer and as an electronic pop musician not far removed from Björk or the Knife, with a distinctively soft, almost babyish voice that at times recalls both early Kate Bush and Claudine Longet. Born in the small coastal city of Montpellier, France, in 1978 into a musical family (her mother is a pianist, her father a sound engineer), Simon began studying music at a young age, and followed her conservatory training in voice with advanced studies in early music at the Sorbonne and electronic composition at the Institute de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique Musique (IRCAM) at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. The combination of cutting-edge electronic theory and a strong grounding in ancient vocal traditions gives Simon's work its unique tension. Simon's attractive mixture of art rock and catchy electronic pop was first unveiled on 2003's Emilie Simon, released to positive reviews and eventually winning a Victoire de la Musique (the French equivalent to the Grammy) for best electronica album of the year. Documentary director Luc Jacquet then contacted Simon to score his immersive 2005 nature documentary March of the Penquins; Simon's expressive soundtrack won the composer her second Victoire de la Musique and was nominated for a Cesar (the French equivalent to the Oscar) but lost to Bruno Coulais' score for Les Choristes. Inspired by the musique concrète elements of the soundtrack, which featured sounds of cracking ice floes and other elemental source recordings, Simon's third album, 2006's Vegetal, outdoes Stevie Wonder's Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants by not only including lyrics about vegetation but also sampled sounds taken from actual plants. In late 2006, Emilie Simon was finally properly introduced to American audiences through the release of The Flower Book, a compilation of tracks from her first three European albums. The following year's March of the Empress repackaged her March of the Penguins music with two bonus tracks; a live album, Olympia, arrived in 2007 as well. Her third proper album, The Big Machine, featured songs sung mostly in English and was released in France and the UK in 2009, while US fans had to wait until 2011 to get the album domestically.
© Stewart Mason /TiVo