Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Darius Jones Quartet (featuring Emilie Lesbros) - Le Bébé de Brigitte (Lost In Translation) (AUM FIDELITY, 2015) ***½

By Joel Barela

This record may be destined for greatness. Perhaps in an era where every album wasn't immediately available for streaming; perhaps where we had a little more time to fall in love before the next something else. For now, its arrival is still pending. It's not from fear. For anyone familiar with Darius Jones, think Little Women. The man is not afraid. In fact, the album's title alone makes reference to Brigitte Fontaine and, in doing so, shows his hand before you hear a single note. The quartet is joined by French vocalist Emilie Lesbros. On the slow but hopeful opener, 'Two Worlds, One Soul', it might seem a mistake, her inclusion. By the time the song gives way to 'Chanteuse In Blue' however, Lesbros has thoroughly poisoned such doubts. More on that in a bit.

'Universal Translator' stumbles pleasantly and sticks to a morphing rhythm section. Its nod-ability is important, as 'Beneath the Skin (We Are Already One)' returns to the silkiness of the opening piece, pleasing, if uneventful. 'I Can't Keep From Weeping' shifts its initial sonic deployment to match Lesbros's devastating vocal conclusion before the album finishes with 'Quand Vient la Nuit', a Lesbros pinned track and one that returns the record to the singer's smoky and twisted blasts. Which brings us back to 'Chanteuse In Blue'. It isn’t often that a nine-minute freight train of a track begins with a bassline that walks around simultaneously dipping its toes in playful cliché and something sinister enough that it reminds us that this form of music largely originated in brothels. By the two-minute mark however, Lesbros’s vocals turn from the incantations of a bouncy temptress to a hybrid scream/retch, at once furious and in absolute despair. Jones’ saxophone returns the noise with a solo like a bid to win her heart back. She eventually responds with her own “solo” of sorts, a series of spoken blasts that seem to reduce the evolution of human language to one fantastic leap from primal, stone age grunting to the cadence of malfunctioning robots. At the seven-minute mark, Lesbros returns with another retch before the band launches into a jackhammer funk that sees the track to its swaggering, sweltering close. It is one of my absolute favorite musical moments of 2015 thus far. And it almost rescues the aforementioned slower moments of the album. Almost. That it exists at all makes this album worth listening to. Jones is on the brink of something, composing without restrictions to defined form, without haste, and absolutely without fear.


 


7 comments:

  1. To get some information about this album and listen to excerpts, go to:

    http://www.aumfidelity.com/home.htm

    It's a pity that The Oversoul Manual (AUM Fidelity, 2014) didn't get a review on the blog. Jones makes some lovely music.

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  2. Mark says....
    for me one of the albums of the year. Lesbros's contributions are absolutely crucial. I don't hear them as nearly as dramatically as "primal, stone age grunting to the cadence of malfunctioning robots"or "hybrid scream/retch" but as more subtle and considered than those 'violent' descriptions suggest . To my ears her vocal style recalls that of Jeanne Lee with Gunter Hampel, sometimes wordless but always complementing the composition to great effect. Through the album the vocal and non-vocal contrast never jars and the album has an almost suite like arc. "Chanteuse in Blue" is indeed the initial stand out track and in a way can be seen to define both Lesbros's contributions and the themes of the album. Jones's tone throughout this album is sublime and the band sound like one that's played together many times. The overall effect is a collection of music that seems so natural that it just had to exist

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  3. Agree with everything you say Mark. The Jeanne Lee comparison is apt.

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  4. And for anyone confused by the first few sentences: the album is available now and it can be streamed via Spotify.

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  5. And I will have to disagree with much of what you say, Mark. Apologies if it was unclear in the review, but the "scream/retch" and "primal, stone age grunting to the cadence of malfunctioning robots" applied only to Chanteuse In Blue. And, in my opinion, far from being the track that defines Lesbros's contributions to the album, I find the track to be the absolute anomaly. The lone bit of dissonance in an album otherwise existing much as you described the rest of it. Whether the descriptors were a tad more "dramatic" than you found the album or not, I would ask you to revisit Chanteuse In Blue at the 1:53 mark and tell me that a stirring, indeed "violent", moment doesn't occur. As for the "grunting to malfunctioning robots" - again, applying only to this one track, the moment begins around the 4:23 mark, and there are definitely beeps, blips, glitches, grunts and even a growl or two present. Yes, much of the album shows Lesbros in a more complementary form, but, as for Chanteuse In Blue, well, her contributions are more like the acid in a dish cutting the fat.

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  6. Mark says....
    Fair enough Joel and thanks for taking the time to reply to my observations. This brings to mind previous discussions on the blog about 'extended techniques' (and the use of that term or not). Having relistened I still don't really hear Lesbros's vocal technique in the same way that you do and therein lies the wonder of listening to music. We all have our own pair of ears.

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  7. I am searching this blog for Nils Økland (and Nils Okland as well) but no reviews? Does your search work never reviewed any of his albums?

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