Chevreuil – Chateauvallon

3 out of 5

Label: Sickroom

Producer: Steve Albini

After a wonderfully trippy synth lead-in, Chevreuil snarls at you by way of introductions with the epic 9-minute ‘Turbofonte’.  Structured – live – off of guitarist Tony C. looping riffs back at himself while Julien F. somewhat improvs rock drums over the whole thing, Chev seems like its bred to kill, stomping out jaw-dropping (admittedly it sounds like a more direct What Burns-era Don Cab until you read about how it was made… then it’s jaw dropping) layers that masterfully battle back and forth between a sense of looseness and planning.  Albini is the perfect choice for this kind of work, as his generally raw recording sensibilities sharpen this where the more playfully anarchic Oxes are dulled by the studio sound; thus this rocks on disc and would most certainly rock just as well when executed ten feet away on a stage.  ‘Turbofonte’ ends… or does it?  The problem with ‘Chateuvallon’ – a problem that would be fixed on followup ‘Capoëira,’ when the duo started to mix up their format a bit – is that the group mostly sticks to one playing style: staccato guitar bits punctuated by similarly staccato drums.  So track three, ‘Bastogne,’ mostly picks up right where the previous track ended, and so on for the majority of the album.  The longer songs – upward of 5 minutes and particularly the mid-album ‘Superchâteau – make use of their breadth to stretch the sound out a bit and include some more jangly Storm and Stress type moments, but it’s still all packed between that one sound, so it gets lost in the mix.  The group works best when they actually take a breather to work some dynamics, which is why that lead-in to track one works so damn well.  ‘Chateauvallon’ is a good album – eminently listenable, obviously skilled dudes sweatin’ out some interesting riffs – but it could very well be one long forty minute track, albeit a pretty cool one.

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