Les Heures de Raison, the stateside debut for Belgian duo Soy Un Caballo, is a great example of how music can be a universal language. Though the lyrics by duo Aurelie Muller and Thomas Van Cottom are sung in a foreign tongue, they fit so well into the tapestry of the composition that after a few minutes, the words are no longer a barrier to the enjoyment of the music. Rather than sounding like an example of imported pop music that’s cool because of its origins, Les Heures de Raison is simply excellent music that happens to have been produced in a foreign country.
Soy Un Caballo have a sound that is light without sounding oversimplified. They recorded Les Heures de Raison with a backing band including Will Oldham, Sean O’Hagan and Charlie Francis. The skill of the musicians is apparent, perhaps even more so when the lyrics have, for the great majority of stateside listeners, been reduced to another part of the tonal palette. The resulting songs, which build from a simple melody and the lilting voice of Muller, are tightly focused and add flourishes sparingly as highlights. Though they lack a certain distinctness from each other, the album flows from beginning to end as a complete statement featuring a beginning, middle and end. That Soy Un Caballo could achieve this level of communication without the use of language indicates the power of thoughtfully arranged sound to make a profound statement.
Les Heures de Raison is perfectly enjoyable as is, but after repeated listens, there is an impulse to understand what Muller and Cotton are singing about. Though the act of translation is no mean task and there is the possibility that the song roughly translates to “I Kissed a Girl,” I would much rather take my language lessons from Soy Un Caballo than in a classroom any day of the week.