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Etienne Jaumet - Night Music

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Artist: Etienne Jaumet

Album: Night Music

Label: Domino

Review date: Nov. 3, 2009


Etienne Jaumet - "At the Crack of Dawn" (Night Music)


One-half of the lesser entity currently releasing records under a living-dead moniker, Etienne Jaumet has thankfully produced a debut album that easily surpasses the kitschy electro-grotesqueries of Zombie Zombie. While double-Z appeared to be picking up where Add N to (X) left off, Jaumet solo is a far less pointless proposition. No goofily ghoulish airs here, only quasi-kosmiche voyages. With Carl Craig producing, Jaumet offers a fittingly stripped-down suite of tense, stomach-churning tracks. Dappled with oily synth slicks, frittered timbres and blacklight radiance, it can be a heavy listen.

Jaumet immediately tips his hand by titling his opener “For Falling Asleep.” A queasy 20 minutes of gut-busting bass wobbles, thick clammy oscillations and séance wailings, it’s certainly no one’s idea of a bedtime soundtrack. Even a coda of quietly plucked strings is perturbed by a coiled tone greasily snaking through the edges. If Ghost Box were ever to go techno, it’d likely sound this disquieted.

The rest of Night Music offers smaller iterations of this sizable introduction but only “Through the Strata” matches its vertiginous wooziness. A catatonic hurdy-gurdy grinds along to a chorus of queasy synth birdies crying. Another fowl likeness is found on closer “At the Crack of Dawn,” which has a comparable spray of chirps peppering Jaumet’s tolling synth and locked horns.

Save for the gentle harp and maddened warbling of Emmanuelle Parrenin on “For Falling Asleep,” Night Music is an all-Jaumet effort. That wouldn’t exactly be notable for an electronic album, but Jaumet also does all the sax work here. Given the nearly tactile textures he emits from his crates of analog gear, his sax playing is entirely unruffled. Steady, short columns of breath pile up in loop clusters or trail off like half-thought harmonies. Their cool colors contrast with the album’s hot splotches of electricity.

But Night Music is not all crepuscular atmospherics, lest we forget the autobahn-ready conveyor belt metronome, spastic whinnies and zuckerzeit melodies of “Mental Vortex.” Clearly, Jaumet needs no reanimator shtick in order to thrill.

By Bernardo Rondeau

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