ne Switch to Collision, Aqua Nebula Oscillator, Total Peace—these are certainly names not yet familiar to the indie cognoscenti, but if Parisian Romain Turzi has anything to do with it, this family of contemporary psychedelic visionaries will prepare a new history for his countrymen. The band that bears his surname, Turzi, and their debut album A, is the first of such imports, the spearhead of his lofty Francophone revolution in sound. On paper and in practice A should make a few converts; it’s a quasi-conceptual, synth-driven head-trip, in which all of the songs begin with the letter “A” and are woven together into one exasperating, non-stop piece of cinematic undulation.
In pretense though, Turzi sets the bar quite high. He claims his music may result in physical and mental states of ecstasy and elevation, that he experiments in frequencies unfit for the human ear, and that A is embedded with a narcotic quality designed “to create a malaise as well as pleasure.” Ridiculousness aside, the question is simple: is this truly transcendent psychedelic music or simply a clinical exercise in epic pretentiousness? Something that stands as singular and unique or ultimately a time-wasting bore?
Perhaps it’s the lengthy number of influences that causes such debate. Name dropping a laundry list of kraut luminaries (Can, Faust, Neu, Cluster), Amadeus, minimalist Steve Reich (which his group, the Reich IV, are known to cover live), and fellow French madcap Daevid Allen of Gong, expectations stand at the threshold of exhalation.
There are stretches of A that perfectly emulate the white-knuckled hypnotism of early Can and give the sensation of something organic. Both “Animal Signal” and particularly “Afghanistan” become unhinged fits of fuzz and spooky atmospherics around taut and locked motorik grooves. Beyond that, “Acid Taste” is perfectly suited for today’s micro-house. It’s a post-Moroder motif of sparkling synths and dark mechanized disco. The lasers, pagan organ, and ethereal fog that envelop “Amadeus” recall horror-scorers Goblin as much as they do John Carpenter’s moments of terror clarity. But the sad realization is that Turzi is best heard as background music.
When Turzi do regale in the full-band experience, as on “Attila Blues,” their faults become apparent. To take a quote from Jose Canseco, most of A is “juiced”—that is, psychedelic shined, muscular, and sophisticated to the point that it lacks human error and the flimsy or brittle excursions that make Neu’s ’75 or Cluster’s Zuckerzeit such emotional roller-coasters. A is drunk with idea, but without purpose, and subsequently faceless, vacuous, and ambling. By the time the eight-minute “Axis of Good” rolls in, you’d swear it was a lifted Muse riff set on infinite repeat; there’s no mindless meandering or accidental characteristics, only one mood: set to stun.