Tess Brunet’s debut album under the Au Ras Au Ras moniker is a feat of quiet determination. The phrase “au ras au ras” is Cajun French for “equal footing” and Brunet comes off as a partner in a slow dance with the songs. They are possessed of a beguiling tempo verging on the languid, a balance not a lot of people can maintain; perhaps informed by her tenures as the drummer for deadboy & the Elephantmen and Generationals. She is suspended, lovestruck, yet in emotional transit with her vocals and lyrics. “When the Night Arrives” opens with “I knew it was time to go / it was overdue,” and on “Wasted Waiting,” she is “so tired from waiting on you.”
The cozy indie rock palette (fleshed out by Seth Kauffman and Michael Libramento of Floating Action) curls up with these sentiments like a cat on a thrift- shop sofa, pawing at dust motes in an apartment window sunbeam. Think Yo La Tengo’s more intimate moments or Belle & Sebastian’s less Baroque ones and you are close. Think the self-assured, understated louche of Luna or the Velvet Underground’s third album and you are getting warmer. “Jon” opens with little more than a subdued beat and barely plucked bass, a guitar and keys spinning in after a minute as if to fill up an empty dance floor.
Nothing rushes in on Au Ras Au Ras. You can lose track of where you are on the record, but then the spotlight hits the mirror ball like in the middle of “1993” or the trip- hop pulse takes hold on “Pulling Curtains Back” and you’re just happy to be there. Brunet descends from her cloud with the folksy, autoharp-centered anthem “Right or Wrong,” a song I could easily see dolled up with diva pyrotechnics and a sweeping string section. Maybe she should shop this number around.
What separates this from a zillion other records like it is the chilled conviction of the delivery. “We are moving from different directions toward the same place,” she offers in “Oh Claire”, implying she is on a vector of her own defining and for this whole thing to work between us, you better make sure yours intersects. That’s about as real as a love song gets.