CD, Ant-Zen, 2009
Time to come clean, first. Despite various people playing previous Lingouf releases to me, I’d never got around to listening to his work of my own accord prior to getting this to review. The website, while a little out of date, helps to give an idea of what you are letting yourself in for – an extraordinary, cartoonish construction that appears utterly unique, with some fantastic artwork and some very, very odd interactive pages that appear to be mini games.
So what of the album itself, and the music therein? Well, things aren’t much less strange, and wildly inventive. The opener is the glittering highlight, though – “Le Carnaval des Animaux”, which, as its name suggests, borrows some inspiration and moments from Camille Saint-Saëns’ glorious 19th Century suite. I played it to a classically-minded friend, whose jaw dropped when she realised which part of it was being used (“Aquarium”), followed by a big smile as the languid, lazy beats allow the magical atmosphere to unfold. To Lingouf’s immense credit, though, it’s not all about what has been borrowed – it’s more about what he does with it. Samples and beats sweep around the central motif, gradually consuming it and moving onto other ideas. Really, though, the nine minutes of this don’t feel like enough, which I mean in the best possible way. It would almost be fun to wonder what Lingouf would do with the whole suite, rather than just one movement?
Of course, that then begs the question of what I think of the remainder of the album, shorn of such a recognisable reference point? Well, it’s no less interesting, just somewhat less immediate. None of the tracks here are short – the six tracks take things well over fifty minutes – meaning that they certainly take their own sweet time to develop. The title track is a case in point – and it feels almost like something is being held back. Rhythms bubble away, but rarely take centre stage, but even so it’s more approaching a tribal feel when they finally do for a fleeting moment.
The leash is finally released a few minutes into the (very) lengthy “Garage”, as a bruising, distorted metallic beat punches through, but even that is twisted and morphed into different forms in a brisk fashion, and imperceptibly – initially, at least, picking up pace before being subsumed into some mightily odd effects. The finale, “Dorpramepasu”, sees the leash released in a totally different way, as just about everything is almost allowed to spin out of control, listening to it being a (pleasantly) dizzying experience as you try and keep up with the multitudes of melodic features that (gently) assault your mind, before it is all coiled back in for the album to close and gently as it began.
What is most remarkable, though, is that there is a coherent, thematic link that I can’t quite put my finger on through the whole CD. I think it’s in the playful nature, of the willingness to experiment, of the surreality of the whole thing. This isn’t breakcore, or industrial, or any other pigeonhole you want to chuck it in. This is the sound of an astoundingly talented electronic music composer, taking reference points from wherever he damned well feels, and making a striking album from the pieces that result.
Needless to say, it’s perhaps time I investigate the rest of his work, eh?
— Adam Williams