Bertrand Burgalat

While Julie Andrews twirled around the Alps as Rodgers and Hammerstein's favorite singing fräulein, little Lord Bertrand Burgalat, the son of a minor government official, languished in Corsica. Forced to learn classical piano under the threat of constant Brie, he grew up to not only dazzle jet-setting Euro-hipsters but to wear the multiple chapeaux of composer, producer, arranger, singer, engineer and entrepreneur. Kinda makes vous wonder.

French majors and Burt Bacharach fans will likely rejoice over Burgalat's long-playing solo debut album, a cosmopolitan batch of romantic pop and synthetic laissez-faire, equal parts silken reverie and ultrasuave lounge fantasy. Already the subject of a tribute album (with artists such as Air, Depeche Mode and Nick Cave honoring the remix maestro), Burgalat displays his sparkling production skills throughout, opting for cool, quirky elegance over anything boasting commercial potential.

With an intro straight out of a late-night Hearts of Space broadcast, "Aux Cyclades Électronique" moves effortlessly through a wide-eyed, airy instrumental of stratospheric proportions. It also sets the disc's overall mood of sunny melancholia. Girly voices occasionally entice from the celestial netherworld, namely those of French celeb Katerine ("Ma Rencontre"), British VJ Joanne Colan ("Sunshine Yellow") and April March ("OK Skorpios"). But as lush and easy-listening as Burgalat's ambient tinkering gets, there's consistently playful and ex- perimental flair here, with unexpected fits of timpani, honey-dipped flügelhorns, breezy flutes, pizzicato violins and the occasional stuttering, acid-jazz skronk of a wounded-goose saxophone.

It's easy to picture Bertrand hosting his monthly soirees at a Parisian bowling alley to such whimsy and ooh la la. Persistently glamorous and danceable, Sssound celebrates its own contrived and decadent sensuality. Without aping the passion of Jacques Brel or the lewd sleaze of Serge Gainsbourg, Burgalat manages to keep a tidy space-age bachelor pad, all right -- one better suited to Coco Chanel than any of those damask-frocked von Trapp brats.

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John La Briola