Release Date: Nov 3, 2009
Genre(s): Dance, Electronic
Record label: Domino
Music Critic Score
How the Music Critic Score works
The background to Etienne Jaumet’s Night Music might suggest that Carl Craig is some fairy godmother of techno. The story might not have the same fairytale element as Recloose’s discovery, where Matt Chicoine was famously signed to Craig’s Planet E label after slipping a demo between two slices of bread for Craig in the Detroit sandwich shop where he worked (in fact Craig agreed to man the mixing desk for Night Music at the behest of Versatile label boss Gilbert). Still, the notion is still that, with one wave of his magic wand, the genius behind Paperclip People, Innerzone Orchestra and some of the best techno records ever has transformed someone from lowly beginnings – whether that’s bread-butterer in Recloose’s case or an alt.
For a film genre that gets so little respect, horror-- especially the grungy, lo-fi, 80s straight-to-video sort-- is a major influence on indie comics and DIY filmmaking at present. Even in music, an entire generation seems to have been introduced to electronics via horror's flea-market musique concrète and perverted keyboard themes-- the knife-on-bone analog scraping and primitive digital squeals heard in The Shining and Texas Chainsaw Massacre; the way John Carpenter managed to sneak proto-techno minimalism into America's drive-ins and living rooms. I've no idea whether French producer Etienne Jaumet was exposed to these films during his formative years, but while the title of Night Music seems, on first blush, like another limp evocation of techno-cool, I think he's got something more sinister up his sleeve.
The track names do suggest a more precise programmatic conceit of a single night's journey through sleep and dreams, but this is hardly a restful affair. As hypnotic as it is, "For Falling Asleep" -- the album's 20-minute opener, centerpiece, and statement of purpose -- would be nearly impossible to actually sleep to, and would seem to portend, at best, highly troubled dreams. The track, built on a constant yet constantly shifting arpeggiated analog synth figure, sometimes accompanied by hissy, wobbly beatbox percussion, glides through a gradually evolving soundscape populated by unobtrusively ominous synth pads, eerie wordless female voices, and a haze of noodly saxophones -- only giving way in its final minutes to a curious, beatless liminal space where, of all things, a deftly plucked harp crops up, coexisting somewhat queasily with still-menacing synth swells.
If only Etienne Jaumet had been around when Ridley Scott was looking for a musical arranger for Blade Runner. At a whopping 20 minutes, Night Music’s opener “For Falling Asleep” conjures an image of a forbidding metallic metropolis, basked in neon while something sinister effervesces and billows out like steam from the city’s manholes. Apart from the synths gurgling beneath a mist of Middle Eastern influence, there’s a forlorn sax, played by Jaumet himself, that provides the key brushstroke to a neo-noir sound epic.