review

Foxy Digitalis

I can say with all honesty that before this I’ve never heard an album from a Swiss supergroup, but after hearing this, I hope there’s more out there. This self-titled effort is the first, and so far only, collaboration between Bio, Larkian, and Les Poissons Autistes, all of whom hail from Switzerland. Rather than collaborate face-to-face, the artists involved sent sound files back and forth to build each of the seven pieces. Bio (aka Julien Baillod) contributes guitar and various electronics, Larkian (aka Cyril Monnard) adds more guitar and electronics, and Les Poissons Autistes (aka Philippe Simon and Stéphane Babey) bring electric cello, guitars, and other assorted instruments. Really, outlining who did what is only useful to a point, as they all seem to have become part of a cohesive whole, even over the long distance.

For the sake of brevity (and to arrive at a useful jumping off point), this music might best be described as instrumental ambient post-rock, but that really doesn’t do justice to all of the beautiful sounds that emerge from this album. There are hints of drone, krautrock, electronic music, and math rock that creep up in unexpected and strange ways. As you might guess from the lineup description, guitar is a big part of this, but this by no means sounds like a standard guitar-centric album, as the instrument is used in a variety of unconventional ways and is usually offset by some far-out sounds from other instruments.

Probably the biggest strength of the music is its ability to shift dramatically and fit a variety of styles into a single piece. From the very start of the album, the group showcases this talent. The first track, “Si j’étais chez vous, je partirais,” begins with some uptempo plucked guitar, but this soon gives way to deep, earthy, layered cello drones and field recordings, with off-kilter trumpet and E-bowed guitar coming in later. In a nice touch of continuity, the guitar riff from the opener comes back at the end to close out the piece. It’s hard to describe how beautiful and majestic the drone work is on this song (and elsewhere on the album), but if you can make it through this track without being sold on it, you can go listen to something else, as far as I’m concerned. If you can make it through “Sans rancune,” another monumental, pulsing drone piece, and still not like it, we can’t listen to music together, ever.

Drone isn’t the only thing this group can do, though. The second track, “Le garçon qui ferait plaisir à maman,” finds them doing an inspired, spacey take on what could be a Spaghetti western soundtrack from the future, featuring a dusty guitar riff, distorted drum machine, and electronic crackles for effect. Another interesting piece is “Vous faites vraiment trop chier.” At its root, it almost sounds like a lost Harmonia track, albeit with lots more acoustic guitar and piano than they usually used. Even with this variety, there does seem to be a cohesive narrative running through the entire album, best evidenced by the closing track, “Le kiki dans l’eau froide.” In this epic ten-minute piece, the group effectively combines their more standard guitar work with rising walls of noisy drone, in effect summing up everything that came before, but also striving to create something new.

I could go on writing about it, but the music really speaks best for itself. Give this a chance to wash over your eardrums, and I think you’ll see what I mean. Really, this is one of those albums that you’ll keep turning up just to try and hear everything in it just a little bit better. And in this case, hearing is definitely believing.