CD, Ant-Zen, 2009
There are some pretty high expectations for “Letting Go At The Steering Wheel” (well not so much from me, but probably from someone), being that it has been five years since his last album. I will confess that I haven’t heard many of L’Ombre’s older tunes, but the stuff I heard I didn’t hate and probably even liked.
Anyway, I heard this record at a time when I losing faith with the seemingly new industrial/IDM trend; the last couple Tympanik and Hymen releases did very little for me, however upon hearing this I was quite pleased. This sounds very solidly composed and very mature, something that was lacking in similarly styled recent records. It sounds like L’Ombre has actually listened to IDM before and knows how to make interesting and engaging compositions. I am a huge fan of the style portrayed here: that sort of sad-but-dreamy, jazzy and melodic IDM with an organic edge. Like walking through the city on a rainy Saturday morning, with the city being a giant collective of small machines that click and hum quietly. There are only two comparisons I can make, because this is pretty damn unique, but they would be: 1. Think of the most recent Displacer album, but instead of trip hop-ish make it IDM-ish, and 2. Some of the grittier Pleq songs. Ok, maybe Burial for the atmosphere (and I like Burial’s atmospheres a lot). Another thing I like about this album is that although I keep saying ‘IDM’, this is not rip-your-brain-apart-ultra-technical-digital-fuckery; this is sort of like smooth jazz IDM where it’s subtly complex but also smooth and groovy. Anyway, what I’m saying is that it is calm and mellow but legitimately complex. About halfway through the album L’Ombre decides to get a little noisier and adds some heavy power noise distortion in between the clicks and pops. Personally I’m down with this type of noisy IDM that is vaguely like older Antigen Shift.
There are only two things I don’t like about this album. Firstly, there is the track “Despond”, where L’Ombre tries to be Converter, which is really boring and monotonous in my opinion. There are some half-decent melodic elements lost in there somewhere, but way too much boring slow wall-of-concrete noise. The lack of distinguishable beats bores me to death. “Combustion Chamber” has a cool name but is basically the same type of deal. It actually has a kick drum though. If you like Converter, however, you will dig it… maybe. The other thing is, for some reason this album is sort of unmemorable. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I’ve listened to it in its entirety probably five or six times, but as soon as I turn it off I couldn’t really tell you what any of the songs sound like. Oh well. It’s good while you can hear it.
Basically, if you like melancholy, jazzy, melodic IDM-type music, and want to hear that occasionally mixed with power noise for some reason, then you will enjoy this record.
— Dan Barrett