4 out of 5
Label: Astral Spirits
Produced by: D’Incise
This definitely takes a while to “find,” in terms of getting ahold of its sound: across two, 15-minute tracks, French trio La Tène commit to music that’s not exactly drone, not exactly noise, not exactly improv, and yet is all of those things – repetitive; boisterous; experimental; and it is somehow too much from each of those categories to let it right be described by any of them.
The recording style doesn’t assist much, as the depth of the music is somewhat flattened out, making the hurdy-gurdy driven sound’s nuances hard to discern; on a first listen – my first listen, at least – it was even difficult to determine how things were changing, though I could sense they were.
But once you do find the sound, the range, and the approach’s effectiveness, become clear, and inseparable from the experience. Long, 15-minute blankets of samey marching rhythms blossom into surprising changeups, that satisfyingly return to center. It’s purposefully starts all-out; it purposefully is rather inapproachable; and by giving it time to tune your ears into it, you “fight” to hear the rhythm and beauty of it, and that effort adds to its worth.
La Tardive is, initially, the more impenetrable of the two songs, with a wall of sound approach and driving hard on drone for several minutes. But it’s also the more varied of the tracks, with lots of fun shifts in pace and instrumentation across its runtime. Pa Di Issime is meanwhile more direct with its melody, and less abrasive, but also slower to the punch, using that accessibility in its favor to remain in a droning lull for quite a while, before it, too, opens up, and its harsher layers become more distinct.
If you’re game for digging in, this is quite a unique offering.