Craft Sounds and Voices
n the quicksilver pop landscape, this record is old. It belongs in the frost of last Febrooary and the cobweb basket of the albums we remember liking and forget loving. 2005 is already so, erm, 2005. We are n.o.w. with the hoarse hope of 2006. But sometimes we overlook fantastic records. I know of at least ten records that we here at Stylus, in all of our autocratic consumer-crit greed, failed to cover last year (Datarock anyone? Modeselektor?).
And yet the lean months of January and February, when nobody but the Strokes is foolish enough to defrost our post-holiday blues with a new release, are prime for casting our glances backward. Yeah, we fucked up. We’re inhuman and robotic and full of blind spots. Where was the credit for Matthew Herbert, Dandy Jack and the Junction SM, and Konono No.1 by year’s end? Kelley Polar should have been higher in our polls, as should have LCD Soundsystem. Idiots, we. But in these blue-lip months, we have the time to correct ourselves. So hear me now: Nôze’s debut LP Craft Sounds and Voices should have been one of last year’s most lionized post-tech records.
A moment aside if you will. French dance music is changing. Old vanguards are passing. Look at Daft Punk. Dudes pulled the rug out from underneath us all with their post-ironic Human After All, a whatdafuc moment of unfulfilled expectations and then, bien sur, the requisite reactionary attempts to explain away and endear us all to what they were doing. We here at Stylus were guilty of this mirroring. You’re not hearing this one right! This is irony as punch-in-gut, they’re playing you against yourself! But the razorline between irony and utter contempt was washed clean. The record was as insulting to listeners as any album since End of the Century. There’s a reason none of us remember track one from either.
Fortunately, about the same time, the French duo Nôze was making up for Daft Punk with the astounding Craft Sounds and Voices. Along with new French artists like Jackson (with or without his Computer Band) and Chok Rock, Nôze are dignitaries to a novel Parisian post-tech sensibility. Glitzy disco has hardened into cement-block funk, full of homages to Mouse on Mars, Matthew Dear, and Matthew Herbert. Funkadelic is chiseled and produce-raw again, and the Beastie Boys are twelve-cent novellas. Hausmann be damned, we’re jitterbugging through the forests.
Combining stuttered vocal chants with horns and sharded techno-beats, the Parisian duo of DJ Freak—founder of the increasingly prominent Circus Company label—and pianist Ezechiel Pailhes have forged a stunning mélange of free jazz and techno. After the opening digihymn of “La Coeur Des Miracles,” “La Continiere” settles into a neuronal matte of Bambaataa funk, formed on a relatively organic drum-beat and Freak’s propulsive vocals.
“Fuckinmido” sounds like a barbershop quartet twisted in the sinew of modernity, chopped parts and flailing arms and chain-gang pianos in tandem against no movement and stilled time. One of the album’s greatest cuts, it’s easy to imagine this soundtracking a plank-walk off forty-story sky-scrapers.
After the solemn Drukqs homage “Interlude Piano,” the record’s second half gets underway with “Yucca,” a stumble of Talking Heads-worthy guitar rhythm and shouted, nonsensical blurs of voice. Here, the duo best exhibits its blend of Donald Byrd’s gospel-jazz masterpiece A New Perspective and Matthew Herbert’s Plat Du Jour. The cosmetic line between digital and organic is blurred again, allowing Nôze to showcase their magic through undiagnosed movements.
Moving towards close with the Tom Waits-on-Viagra “Souffle,” the choral confusion of “Los Bulgares,” and the Japanese tomb of “Dong:”—perhaps the record’s most idiosyncratic beauty—Nôze overcomes their reflection points by the simplest of means—creating new angles for old visions. I wish we’d all heard this one last November. Still, I can’t help but see the natural law in it reaching us in the crude bleak of January: Craft Sounds and Voices is top of the heap now, out of place and improperly sorted, frozen into this forget, but at the summit for a while.
JANUARY 9 – JANUARY 15, 2006