Release Date: Feb 10, 2015
Record label: Infine
Genre(s): Electronic, Indie Electronic
After releasing no less than seven EPs in as many years, as well as two full-lengths and contributions to the National's acclaimed sixth studio album Trouble Will Find Me, French electronic producer Erwan Castex — aka Rone — has made a name for himself as a purveyor of whimsical, glittery, minimal techno and IDM. But early material from his third full-length, particularly early single "Ouija," presented a marked shift in Rone's sound, shying from the smooth and pleasant compositions to which listeners had become accustomed, and transitioning to a much more complex and at times darker industrial territory. But "Ouija," as it turns out, was not a great indicator of the shape Creatures would finally take; it's far more inviting than the foreboding first single would intimate.
French-born, Berlin-bred producer Rone creates music that slowly drifts into the unknown and otherworldly, with the scratchy, Aphex Twin-like flecks of glitch and other post-laptop touches gently messing with time and space. Previous work with the Antipop Consortium (the single "Let's Go"), Com Truise (a tour), and the National (soundscapes provided for their album Trouble Will Find Me) can be spiritually linked to this mesmerizing third effort, but Creatures also suggests that this tasteful and informed artist sneaks off to give Coldplay and their ilk a non-flippant listen, gaining inspiration from arena pop's ability to not just float, but soar. As such, "Sir Orfeo" with vocalist Sea Oleena, calmly unfurls into a siren song that's either Cocteau Twins- or Sia-sized, while the off-kilter and kickin' "Freaks" sounds as if Boards of Canada got a gig composing for Pixar as Tim Burton took over the reins of the studio's Toy Story series.
Over the course of the six years that French producer Erwan Castex has been releasing records under the moniker Rone, the main throughline in his work has been a casual disregard for the usual functional categories of electronic music. Existing somewhere in the intersection points of an imagined venn diagram between dance-y beatmaking, ambient composition, and neon-tinted synth-driven film scores, he's cannily zeroed in on making music for similarly liminal headspaces. On his third full-length Creatures, both for better and worse, Castex doubles down on the in-betweenness of his compositions.
There's a fine line between nostalgia and Luddism, and it's one that Rone treads heavily. Creatures, the French artist's third album, doesn't pine for the heyday of late-'90s electronica as much as it sounds stuck in that era. Erwan Castex's sweeping compositions echo the likes of Mouse On Mars, µ ziq and Warp's influential roster, rarely updating their proven ideas except in their impressive sound design.
It feels wrong to fault the ambition of French electronic producer Erwan Castex on his third album as Rone, but had he set his sights a bit lower, Creatures might have been consistently stronger. The results are often unique and occasionally amazing, but also unfocused and inconsistent, preventing moments of greatness from truly shining. As on too many electronic albums, Castex worked with a large cast of collaborators and blurs the lines between live musicianship and electronic music.