French analogue power trio spark up in epic cosmic jam session
Jamming has been the lifeblood of music’s evolution since time immemorial, fuelling blues and jazz, birthing rock ‘n’ roll through R&B, and providing the creative impetus for everyone from The Grateful Dead to Can. The very nature of technology has also meant that many of electronic music’s most inspiring, epoch-making landmarks have come from improvisation and experimenting with little idea of the consequences. See Eno and ‘Acid Tracks’. Now, with jamming a massive genre in itself, spontaneous electronic sessions have been throwing up some major works. Last year’s titanic workout between Can drummer Jaki Liebezeit and Faust’s Hans-Joachim Irmler, which resulted in the tumultuous ‘Flut’ album, immediately springs to mind.
This is the ethos that fuels the likeminded French trio of prolific composer Yann Tiersen, Lionel Laquerriere (Nestorisbianca, Geysir) and Thomas Poli (Dominique A, Miossec, Olivier Mellano, Montgomery, Laetitia Sheriff). The idea to record an album came after Laquerriere joined Tiersen’s live band in 2010 and the pair started messing around on analogue versions of Tiersen’s songs at soundchecks. Inspired by the unpredictable nature of their equipment, the pair turned it into a project in its own right when they were asked to play the Acusmatiq Festival, roping in fellow synth nut Poli to complete the line-up of the group they decided to call Elektronische Staubband, before abbreviating it to ESB.
After further festivals and a seven-inch single for the Thoré Single Club, the trio have now found time to hook up at Tiersen’s studio and record their first album. Each chose two items from their analogue arsenal, plugged in and spent the next 10 days jamming in the old fashioned way. At the end of the sessions they emerged with an album full of life, surprises, fantastic accidents, different moods and sonic plateaux rarely glimpsed in traditional recording strategies, which Poli then mixed in Rennes.
The three musicians are obviously having a blast after being let off the leash, nodding at recognisable influences and long-embedded faves over the course of seven tracks. ‘Market’ marches in like the opening stretch of fellow countrymen Magma’s 1973 masterpiece ‘Mekanik Destructiw Kommandoh’, with its dark, brassy sheets and ominous drones, before the apocalyptic wall-of-sound aura is stacked higher and bolstered by crashing beats on ‘Spoon’. Krautrock titans such as Popol Vuh, Klaus Schultze and Neu! are evoked on tracks like ‘The Flashlight’. The simmering keyboard atmospherics of ‘X2’ again hark back to early Magma, although oddly mated with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, while ‘Jellyfish’ bursts in like a breezy bolt of motorik light as if the trio decided they were going to be Kraftwerk for the day.
The last two tracks see the threesome cut loose any ties to earthly rhythms and structures, floating in their own space, devoid of gravity or restraint. ‘Late’ sounds like slow-motion meteors colliding in a black hole, and ‘Kim’ takes the album out on a weightless space rhapsody. All in all, there’s a compelling energy and aura around ‘ESB’, which makes yet another strong case for this sort of unfettered behaviour and brand of electronic anarchy in these increasingly sanitised times.