The fizzing French confection Aquaserge, makers of highly individual left-field pop-prog that explodes on your tongue like sherbert dip (Google it, non-Brits!), released their second album earlier this year. It is a joyous and celebratory affair, and a welcome tonic when all around us is fast turning to shit, as we enter the Age of the Slough of Despond. The fact that the French saw fit to send the appalling neo-fascist Le Pen packing is an indicator that the large majority of our nearest Euro neighbours have their heads and hearts in the right place, further exemplified by the five young sons and daughters of Joan of Arc grooving about on this fun record. This can but give one hope for the future, of music, and indeed humanity.
Laisse ça être (Leave it be) is the group’s second album, their debut À L’Amitié arriving out of nowhere some three years ago now. That debut displayed much promise, which is realised and then some on this otherworldly mix of French cabaret, pop, and jazz, all cut through with that indefinable Gallic charm, and rendered woozy by off-kilter rhythms. The lyrics to a few of the tracks have accompanying English translations with their videos, all gathered together on the band’s website. The band use automatic writing techniques and coded messages in their lyrics, but if like me your French is somewhat lacking and you are not inclined to be glued to a video while listening, then you will be pleased to hear that the music is strong enough on its own to draw you in.
The opening track sets the scene. Tour du monde, with its irrepressible groove and faux-disinterested singing, will have you finger poppin’ like Serge Gainsboro on a TV special. It’s not all wacky fun though, for just below the surface a lot of these tunes have an underlying studied seriousness, a contrast that means you can indulge this record in any number of moods.
L’ire est au rendez-vous has a video that includes an English translation of its impressionistic lyrics, which apparently deploys codes as used by the French Resistance in WWII. See, I told you it was serious! As the cryptic lyric unfolds, images of war, insurrection, and imprisonment belie the calm and stately progression of the music. Aquaserge still have the Canterbury feel from the debut album, especially when Julien Gasc’s deadpan vocal delivery is upfront, and on Tintin on est bien mon loulou they sound like an updated version of early Soft Machine at their most psychedelic. For all that, they have refined their sound into something that is definitely theirs.
Charme d’Orient has the latent danger yet still enticing qualities of the twisting back alleys of a disreputable souk. Closing track Les yeux fermés (Eyes closed) is what the house band in a Parisienne jazz café might play as the waiter stacks the chairs in the small hours, the last punter having just left. The band, left to its own devices and playing to itself, hits on a strange groove, the bartender smiling wryly in their direction.
Yep, quite enjoyed that…
01. Tour du monde (4:04)
02. Virage Sud (4:01)
03. Tintin on est bien mon loulou (6:00)
04. Si loin si proche (8:18)
05. C’est pas tout mais (5:37)
06. L’ire est au rendez-vous (5:39)
07. Charme d’Orient (5:28)
08. Les yeux fermés (6:36)
Total Time – 45:43
Benjamin Glibert – Guitar, Vocals
Julien Gasc – Keyboards, Vocals
Audrey Ginestet – Bass, Vocals
Manon Glibert – Clarinets
Julien Chamla or Julien Barbagallo – Drums
Sebastien Cirotteau – Trumpet
Olivier Kelchtermans – Saxes
Record Label: France – Almost Musoque/Rest of World – Crammed Discs
Date of Release: 3rd February 2017