Front Line Assembly
Civilization
[Synthetic Symphony/SPV]

The newly rejoined Leeb/Fulber pair is back with a "Civilization" which is at first as much disconcerting as "FLAvour of the weak" was in 1998. Disconcerting because very rich, and looking towards the two protagonists' other side-projects. It's a bit like when you meet an old friend you had lost for a long time, and you start telling him, in an non-ordered way, all the events he missed, while remembering the good old days. So, of course, Bill and Rhys spoke about Delerium, Noise Unit and Conjure One while writing the new Front Line Assembly tracks. It's in the beginning of the album, with Psychosomatic and especially Maniacal (as good as Provision from "Caustic grip"), that you'll have to look for the long time promised hard FLA tracks. For, honestly, "Civilization" is far less powerful as it had been announced to be. Transmitter, Vanished and Dissident will remind you of some Delerium tracks Bill Leeb would have decided to sing on, and Civilization is somewhat slow nu-metal. However, Rhys has come back with a very big sampler which memory is filled up until the last bit with film samples and sounds of any kind. Those elements had disappeared during the Leeb/Peterson collaboration (on the band's three last albums), and he is certainly responsible for the classical music sample on Fragmented, a real innovation! Despite the confusion during the first listening, one is allowed to wonder if FLA wouldn't be starting their third life by becoming the Canadians' exclusive project.

Bertrand Hamonou



Air
Talkie Walkie
[Record Makers/Virgin]

It might be just luck, but the release of Air's new album coincides with the release of the second and excellent movie of Sofia Coppola, "Lost In Translation". If, this time, only one title has been composed for the movie (the track Alone in Kyoto), the ten tracks of this fourth album may well remind you of the light and sentimental ambiences of the "Virgin Suicides" soundtrack (which was entirely composed by the duo from Versailles) and the main title Playground Love: the same feminine tact and the same ethereal sensuality, with for the first time, the voices of Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel who sing on almost all the tracks, convinced to do so by Nigel Godrich (who also worked on the last albums of Radiohead and The Strokes) who was sure that their French accent would perfectly go with their dainty electronic melodies. And obviously, it works, we're fascinated by tracks like Mike Mills, the melancholic Biological or the delighted pop songs, Cherry Blossom Girl and Another Day. There's nothing to add about the ten little electro pop gems of this album which is another faultless try in the duo's discography (which we're very proud of!).

Renaud Martin



Celluloide
Words Once Said
[Boredom Product]

No great change of style for Celluloide between their previous "Naïve Heart", and this new "Words Once Said"; no resonant meteorite crashed to redefine the Provence-based trio's musical landscape. And it's not so bad for it's a genuine feast, as every track already sounds like a retro-like classic, but timeless. With quite an offhand and humanoid-like female singing, the whole record is just very attractive, and even sensual. Besides, It wouldn't be difficult to imagine that the female singer is a virtual one, as her voice could be a nice cyborg's one with cute red locks. But be reassured, the three members of celluloid are made of flesh and blood, and they're able to create an efficient and touching music. Listen to This Aching Kiss, I Missed You or I Stay With You and you'll be given a chance to redefine the term "heady". The sounds on the album are deliciously obsolete and remind of Depeche Mode's "Speak and Spell", as well as some of Erasure's work, like their I Say I Say I Say. Far from hiding their musical (p)references, for they're experts in successful covers (as proved with their recent "Naphtaline e.p"), the original compositions gathered here can be listened to like we swallow sweets after a dentist appointment: without any fear and with great pleasure.

Bertrand Hamonou



Einstürzende Neubauten
Perpetuum Mobile
[Mute]

Since their noisy begining in the 80s, the release of a Einstürzende Neubauten's new album, had always looked like a musical ravings' laboratory for the Berliner band and a huge playground for Blixa Bargeld's prose. It is still the case here. Even more calm and simple than the previous album "Silence is Sexy", "Perpetuum Mobile" comes out, from the first seconds of Ich gehe jetzt like a record full of space, tactile and volatile, light and heavy at the same time. Much less striking than before, except for the epic (14 minutes) and formidable eponymous track, this album is yet powerful, even in its silences. Like in Ozean und Brandung, the strength of the wind and other natural elements is as well reported now as the urban and industrial miasma was yesterday. We can't help noticing some kind of melancholy in "Perpetuum Mobile"; Bargeld still plays with words, but it's less cynical, more disillusioned than before and dare we say, it's almost romantic ("They fail, fail and try again / Fall off a cliff, succeed, and fall, fall again"). Hanging to the lyrics of its singer, the music becomes slow and muffled, bracing itself on Alex Hacke's bass to distill its characteristic sounds (metal pieces, plastic tubes, iron cables, wind's rustles, metallic percussions) as well as strings, guitars, and even a gas igniter and dried lime-blossom tea's leaves! An ethereal and delicate symphocacophony which strange and out of phase charm is never broken. This is a new side of the band who seems to reveal itself with tracks like Boreas or Grundstück, a surprising and excellent album.

Stéphane Leguay



Growing
The Sky's Run Into the Sea
[Kranky]

"Less is more" is a motto that would suit well to Growing, the new champions of simplicity. Indeed, it's only with a bass, some guitars and samples that this American trio fills up the acoustic space with an unusual ingenuity. Some passages of bass' rumbles in loops are followed by stretched riffs, only interrupted by a cymbal rolling which disappears as quickly as it came. The moves are extremely slow, they let to the tracks the time to settle quietly and sometimes get close to the ambient universe of Brian Eno. This ballet of a priori simple motives also got some magical and surprising moments. Like in the first move of Life in D, which starts with an organ track on which a dissonant electric guitar is overlaid, then a second, more dull which progressively rumble until it covers the whole. Then the cymbal comes back again and it's a sedated Sonic Youth's spectre who appears on Tepsije and Cuting, Opening, Swimming. Between doom and drone-noise, Growing offers, with this almost instrumental "The Sky's Run Into the Sea", a fascinating piece.

Catherine Fagnot



Hecq
A Dried Youth
[Kaleidoskop]

"A Dried Youth", the very first signature of Kaleidoskop, Denis Ostermann's (In Strict Confidence) label, discreetly released at the end of 2003, is much more interesting than it first appears. If the electronica ambiences seem rather metallic and humaneless, we quickly discover that they're rather enticing. Because on these apparantly scrawny tracks, the melody is present and the mix between an asepticized electronica and more natural sounds is rather amazing. So, after a rather classic, even austere start, the album engages the clutch to a quicker pace with Numb Woods and its "dance" rhythmics which breaks with the ambience that had settled until then. This new development, which could appear at first like a disappointment, gives to the album a really pleasant relief. We then realise that the construction is more surprising than it seems at first: we discover some against nature mixes between strange rhythmics, dark synths and a constant precision in the use of the sounds. If Hecq isn't really original (we know the limits are quickly reached), "A Dried Youth" is nevertheless a real good surprise.

Christophe Labussière



Kid606
Kill Sound Before Sound Kills You
[Ipecac/Southern]

So much has been said about Miguel De Pedro's skill to play with sounds that it would be useless to do it again here. But, it won't prevent us to give you the recipe of his amazing sonorous mix... First: share most of Knifehandchop's obsessions, then add a good lump of Planet-Mu, a zest of Rephlex, a spoonful of humour and another of skill. Then blend a bit of drum'n'bass, of techno, of electronica, of ragga, of gabber and diverse sound experimentations. Season the whole with all kind of international samples, of video games and cartoons dating, more or less, of the last twenty years. Add a touch of disuse (always welcome, it cheers the ears up and draws a nostalgic consensus), mix the whole well, shake it frenetically, and here you are, it's done. Baffling, but always jubilant, this funny cocktail will please the most curious of your friends with its refreshing side. But beware, it can be extremely indigestible for people sensitive or allergic to one of the ingredients.

Carole Jay



Laurent Hô as Carla Elves
Soundtracks
[UWe]

It's under the pseudonym of Carla Elves that Laurent Hô delivers this marvel of finesse and acoustic richness. Stamped down tempo, this electronica project is a major turn in this artist's musical style. How come this star of the hardcore techno radically changes direction? With a very cinematographic approach, this opus sounds like the soundtrack of an imaginary film. Very clever and with a great musical maturity, each track has a sound scenario. Throughout the listening, the characters come to life and the plot appears. On a very structured electronic grid, the music is adorned with vocal samples and urban sounds. The collage of voices and sound effects make a scheming universe and keep us in suspense until the last track. "Soundtracks" is undeniably a great success. By slowing down the rhythm, Laurent Hô brilliantly managed his musical turn and gave new perspectives to his career.

Delphine Payrot



Lisa Gerrard
& Patrick Cassidy
Immortal Memory
[4AD]

It took some time before the former half of Dead Can Dance made a following to her second, uneven solo album, "Duality" in 1998. It's true that the Australian blonde, who's more and more wooed by Hollywood, has been quite busy during all these years, singing on some American blockbusters like "Gladiator" and "Ali" and lately on the more confidential "Whalerider". It seems these experiences have influenced Lisa Gerrard who release here "Immortal Memory", an album full of cinematographic atmospheres and less ethno-world than the previous one. Patrick Cassidy (composer of the sountrack of "Hannibal"), also contributed to this change, he took the place of the ex-Eden/Soma Pieter Bourke. So, it's a colder and more austere third opus which opens on the great The Song of Amergin where Lisa sings a few lines in Gaelic. Between power and light, the ten tracks of "Immortal Memory" slowly, almost peacefully elapse. Sheltered from any external commotions, Amergin's Invocation, Paradise Lost and Elegy unfold their atmospheric and classical wings around the diva's beyond-the-sky voice. Devoided of any percussions, of strings or even of the famous yang ch'in dear to Lisa, this album, which still has the spiritual and contemplative strength of its predecessors (Sailing to Byzantium), appears nevertheless under a more religious and baroque light that will please the fans of Dead Can Dance in their period "Within the Realm of a Dying Sun" / "The Serpent's Egg". Doubtlessly, this is the first great album of 2004!

Stéphane Leguay



Métal Urbain
Chef d'œuvre
[Seventeen]

Let's recap here. 1980: "Les Hommes morts sont dangereux", first album of the best French punk group. Punk? That's not sure, because Métal Urbain was innovating, with great talent, opening the way for the noisy-pop, the American hardcore, the techno and so on. 1985: "L'Âge d'or", took the essential of the previous album adding some demos, novelties and live tracks. 2003: "Chef d'oeuvre", takes the contents of "L'Âge d'or", with the quality of the remasterisation and some rarities. What to think of this album? If you already had the previous album(s), you'll be pleased, but nothing more, because there's nothing new, and unless you're a real fan of Métal Urbain, this isn't the greatest record of the year (even if the inside book is wonderful). Obviously, if you only knew Métal Urbain vaguely, this is the chance to discover this band and receive a slap in the face, because except for the rhythm box, it hasn't aged at all, and "Chef d'oeuvre" is of the same kind of, dare we say it, "Never Mind the Bollocks", of the Sex Pistols. Nevertheless, let's relativize a bit: "Chef d'oeuvre" is only a collection of tracks created between 1976 and 1982, and what we would really like is that the band, made of the original members (without any addition) go in studio and compose some real new tracks.

Frédéric Thébault



Phillip Western
World End
[Colour Speaks]

If you're not familiar with the name of Phil Western, it's simply because he always was amazingly discreet; but you won't believe your eyes if you read his C.V.: coming from Vancouver, this man is at the origin of projects like Download and Plateau, two formations which also include cEvin Key of Skinny Puppy. "Worlds End" is his third solo album and it offers a brilliant following to "Dark Features" (2000) and "The Escapist" (1998). The album is made of two CDs, the first, "Dynamic", is a subtle mix of electronic, atmospheric, world and sometimes tribal ambiences where you can hear some discreet voices offering a really agreeable enhancement to an electronica of an other kind. We discover a combination of electronic sounds and a more classical instrumentation where guitar, drum, violins and synths live happily together. "Worlds End" proposes a deluge of sounds and arrangements for a really spectacular result. A strange atmosphere comes out of these tracks which sometimes have a cinematographic construction carrying your imagination along. Phil Western is a talented musician and he proves it once again. The second CD is made of 29 tracks grouped in two parts, "Asleep" and "Awake". Here, we're more in the atmospheric and we find with these short tracks the same ambiences as in Plateau or Doubting Thomas. "Worlds End" is a real breath of fresh air and an amazing trip in the artistic meanders of a genius out of references, excepted those he has given during his carreer.

Christophe Labussière



Piano Magic
The Troubled Sleep of Piano Magic
[Green Ufos]

Piano Magic is decidedly very productive! After the great "Artists' Rifles" (2000), the band signed at 4AD for two records: the relatively disappointing "Writers Without Homes" (2002) and above all, "Son De Mar", a very good sountrack for the eponymous film of Bigas Luna. This time, their new album is released at the Spanish label Green Ufos which is celebrating its tenth anniversary. The program for these restless nights includes ten songs written between 2002 and 2003, which will remind you of the atmospheres on "Artists' Rifles": from the dark guitars of Speed the Road, Rush the Lights (probably the greatest track of the album) and the ethereal sweetness of Help Me Warm this Frozen Heart, to the martial rhythmics of The End of a Dark, Tired Year (taken from the essential The Cure's Figurehead), and the moving Comets (so magical like This Mortal Coil was), "The Troubled Sleep of Piano Magic" is one of the best album of the group which seems to be at the top. The only flaw is that this great record would seem to be ony distributed in small amount in France for the time being. So don't expect to find it at your usual record shop and try to get it online, for instance you'll find it on the Rough Trade's website.

Renaud Martin



Raison d'Être
Requiem for abandoned souls
[Cold Meat Industry]

Peter Andersson is undeniably one of the more productive artist of the Cold Meat Industry's team. As well as being one of the oldest representative (1991 and the tape "Après nous, le déluge") and being present on the label's catalogue with several side-projects (Atomine Elektrine, Svasti-Ayanam, Panzar...), he's also releasing Raison d'Être's seventh production. But, there are few changes in his musical intention. We can find a procession of bells, layers of keyboards as minimalist as monolithic, some superpositions of underground and aquatic rustles, yet we're still not tired of it. Always little incline to let some sunrays shine on his winter landscapes, Raison d'Être goes on marvellously materializing melancholy and introspection through five tracks which aren't easy to separate one from the other, their titles put together form one sentence: "In abandonned places/ the shadow of the soul/ disintegrates from within/ towards desolation/ becoming the void of nothingness". This album seems to be wailing and sobbing in the shadow of this endless loneliness, a cruel thing which omnipresence is yet forever linked to the creative "raison d'être" of Peter Andersson.

Stéphane Leguay



Rose et Noire
Rose et Noire
[Discordian Records/EMI]

We discovered the sensual voice of Marie Möör a few months ago on the EP "Quelque chose de nouveau (je veux)". So, logically we find the duo again now with the release of their new album. We wondered if the particular intimity found on the six tracks of the EP, and which charm embarrassed us so, was still going to be present on all these fourteen new titles. Well, it is indeed, the compositions of Rose et Noire, always characterized by an uncommon approach in the construction and the composition of the tracks, seize the listener again and delicately immerse him in the strangely acidulous ambience of theirs. We find again the flavour of this sensual voice and the padded and affectionate climate to which we were so much attached. Their suave, light and poetic pop, less electronic this time around, keeps its plumpness and manages to make the listener settle cosily.

Christophe Labussière



Rrupt
Traverser
[Egone]

After several years spent publishing the luxurious fanzine, Rose Noire in Bordeaux, then some magnificent books with very specialized concepts, the mysterious Egone throws itself in the sound production by editing on its catalogue the first album of Rrupt. More than a simple musical project, "Traverser" is in fact the meeting point of various uncommon artists. The ethno-industrial music of the sound designer David Baque is mixed with the calligraphy of Thomas Foucher and with the minimalist and abstract snapshots of the photograph Jean-Marie Arnouil who give some sound and matter to Lionel Tran's novel, "Traverser". With its superb digipack in which we can find some excerpts of the book, the album Rrupt carries us away in the hero's wake, accompanying him with obsessing sounds, desert whispers and oriental loops. An ordeal in which you'll also find the wind, a scorching sun or an icy night that impose, track after track, a challenging sensation of infinite length (Silque). Juggling with the electronic, percussions and natural vibrations, this Rrupt's first album is very impressive as much for the quality of its sounds as for its evocation power; we really feel like we're walking out of a desert at the end of the record. To be discovered and followed.

Stéphane Leguay



VAST
Nude
[456 Entertainment]

Try the following mix of colours: two third of turquoise and one third of crimson certainly come to some king of beige  human skin colour, don't they? Otherwise, Jon Crosby's rainbow is definitely a virtual and random one. It's hard to have an idea of what to expect from that "Nude", as VAST's approach has been very unique since last summer. As a matter of fact, this band's third album is made of eight tracks from "Turquoise" and four from "Crimson", the previous mp3 albums available on the band's website. For those who already own both of them, the rule of the game is to detect the new things along with the new arrangements created for the occasion; and for the others, it's necessary to close the eyes to discover, shamelessly, what's hidden behind this nudity. The songs have improved in brightness and even in "class", even though nothing's really changed much apart from a few effects or additional guitar parts. Desert Garden is still that superb acoustic track, unusual for VAST. Don't Take Your Love Away acquires the robustness it deserved at first place, as well as Lost is wonderful thanks to its new electronic sequence that's been added to reinforce the weight of guitars. Ecstasy becomes richer with extra guitars, and I Can't Say No to You with a beautiful violin sequence. All I Found Was You has a new drums track on it, and has become Japanese Fantasy for that special occasion. With a colourful artwork without fail, this VAST's third album will quickly assert itself as essential in a unique band's discography, and even ahead of time.

Bertrand Hamonou

Express

Current 909 is the project of the Austrian Peter Votava, also known as Pure. His album, "The Price for Existence Is Eternal Warfare" (Doc / Atmosfear), regroups a live concert recorded in Vienna in 1997 and several tracks with a dark, enigmatic and very cinematographic ambience, some of them are inspired by films like "Ghosts... of the Civil Dead" or they're completely built around a sample. Anyway, all of them had been written during the 90s and unfortunately... you can hear it (one sometimes thinks of John Carpenter). Only one of the two new tracks (Metatherion), extricates itself from the album, but the whole lack some relief.
Completely different from "Seqsextend", the album of I/Dex (Nexsound), from which comes out an extremely pleasant and appeasing atmosphere. The depth and the fluidity of the very ambient compositions of this Bielorussian, wraps the listener up, from the start, in a padded cocoon which brings it out of time. Jazzy crackings, electronic rustlings and natural elements mix happily together for our greatest pleasure. One sometimes thinks of the fragility of Sogar. This is a breath of fresh air which we recommend to all the stressed townys.
Now then, let's talk about Cordell Klier. It's quite difficult to follow the news concerning this productive musician, who almost stopped playing music (and running his label Doctsect) a few months ago because of a lack of money. But everything's fine now, and those who still haven't heard the music of this artist (there is yet more and more choice!) should get "Winter", his second opus on the Ad Noiseam label. Even if musically, it doesn't bring anything new (clicks & cuts and ambient layers unfold as usual all along the ten tracks), this icy album admirably manages to catch our attention thanks to its compositions' acute sense. A seasonal record.

Carole Jay


Express

Improvisation is a scabrous exercise, as much for the musician as for the listener. On "Be Mine Tonight" (Kranky), Dean Roberts proposes four tracks which mix improvisation and post-rock folk electro arrangements. If it first appear linear, this album is actually full of delicate melodies and destructured moments where the multi-instrumentalist, sometimes accompanied by Giuseppe Lelasi on guitar, let a muffled voice come up. Somewhere between Xiu Xiu and Labradford, Dean Roberts manages to carry us in his padded rock universe.
We thought we knew everything about slow post-rock. Yet, Charalambides reaches a wailful zenith with this re-release of "Unknown Spin" (Kranky), which first came out in 2002 at 300 copies. The Texan trio delivers to the patient listener four endless tracks (30 minutes for the first one and about 10 minutes for the others) where some rare pseudo-psychedelic guitar's chords (the only dissonant instrument) meet some female whispering. Unfortunately, as it isn't experimental, tense or gracious enough, this album leave us cold.
Always in the extreme minimalism, but in an other genre, here's the doom and crushing heaviness of Khanate and its second opus, "Things Viral" (Southern Lord). Neurosis are amateur in comparison of these sound terrorists (let's mention the presence of O'Malley - Sunn O))) - and James Plotkin - Old, Scorn) who make the New Yorker quartet. Indeed, "Things Viral" is made of four tracks, the two first ones are 20 minutes long and each of their bars (?) last for ever because the guitar and bass notes are so stretched, the drum is rare and terribly opressing and the vocal is tormented and nerve-racking. This would be a torture for some and an ultimate experience for the fans.
Let's also mention the excellent initiative of the label Nihilistic Records for the release of the double album tribute to Godflesh regrouping 26 bands, all musically and geographically different from one another. Unfortunately, this record isn't easy to find, but it has got some exciting covers, like the one of Kill The Thrill (for a rather faithful and very powerful Us and Them which is quite hopeful for their next album), Counterforce, Dee'n Dee, Cylens, Fuck the Facts and Kamp Chaos, Dutch indus à la Prime Time Victim Show.

Catherine Fagnot