Cinélux
Cinélux

By Ed Chamberlin

 
I know it's lazy to draw comparisons between bands simply because of their country of origin, but sometimes it can't be helped. The late ’90s saw a sudden resurgence in interest for French music, mainly on the back of Air and Daft Punk. And rightly so: both bands managed to achieve huge mainstream success with music that was defiantly untrendy, yet only the worst kind of philistine could deny their appeal. Whether this was due to the famed French arrogance or just welcome naïveté of what was 'cool' is open to question. But while these two bands had their sound rooted in the past (Daft Punk's Hi-NRG disco and Air's Moog-obsessed lounge-pop), Rennes-based collective Cinélux have their sights firmly set on the future.

This is Pardon My French's first volume of a series which 'intends to push the boundaries of their music' as the press pack rubric has it. They certainly have a novel approach, fielding a 50/50 mixture of originals and international remixes on each release. While you may expect contributions from other artists to ruin the flow of an album, or at least take the attention away from the vision of the original band, it hasn't happened here, and the album works well as a whole.

The Tepr remix of Rob illustrates how Cinélux's sound rests comfortably in the hands of others. The original, which also appears here, is ominous future jazz-funk, with delicious live drums/drum-machine interplay and throbbing atmospherics. Tepr takes these elements and subtly re-arranges them into a pounding electronic rush, maintaining the atmosphere of the original, but putting it in a totally different light.

How to describe the Cinélux sound then? Well, there's not much point really as they have smeared their fingerprints over such a wide range of incompatible styles. Sure, it's rocky, but there are also elements of jazz, IDM, ambient, sample-plundering hip-hop and even, on the Capitol K remix of The Butter and the Milk, funky electroclash. No, this is an album that wants to be appreciated, not categorised. It's avant-garde and inventive. But rather than push the listener away with their outlandish ideas, Cinélux invite you into their strange world, making sure you're understand what they're getting at. Take the Mitchell Akiyama remix of Hydrocephalus Enjoyment (no, I don't geddit either), where they patiently build a lattice of echoing melodies, static, feedback, clicks and beats. The sound grows ever hazier throughout the song, until it is an enormous mess of mangled beats. But, somehow, your brain manages to unravel the complex melody, and it becomes as comforting and sweet as a lullaby. The balance of high and low brow is perfect; with every odd time signature there is a gorgeous melody, with every searing burst of noise there is an enormously funky beat.

They save the best for last though. The nine-minute-plus L'élite (Une Porte) features a relentless, clanking beat, reminiscent of Autechre, throughout, as the band layer ever more menacing bass rumbles and dissonant textures. You wanna say it's funky, but it's really far too scary, so instead you find yourself rooted to the spot, endure the barrage until it's over, by which time you feel exhausted and satisfied.

My main criticism would be that the vocals sometimes appear lazy and rushed off, and tend to get in the way of the amazing feats performed in the background. But really, anyone who's wondering what can might sound like today, or who's gagging to hear a To Rococo Rot you can sing along to, there is much to love here.
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