French legend returns to banish the curse of jazz techno. World celebrates
All hail the renaissance of Laurent Garnier. Beginning last year with a series of EPs in homage to routes to and from his home – the ‘A0490 EP’, an Air France flight, for example, or the ‘A13 EP’, which corresponds to the French Highway 13 – it culminates, gloriously, triumphantly, here, in a box set featuring key tracks from the 12s as well as new material, all of it spread across four 12-inches and a CD. The good news? It finds Garnier on peak form, perhaps the best of a glittering 20-plus year career. The bad? ‘The Home Box’ is limited to just 1,000 copies. Don’t sleep.
Choosing where to start presents problems of its own, so we’ll go with CD opener ‘Enchanté (UNER Club Gleam Remix)’, a tremendous 10-minute epic of immersive and glassy progressive house. Next up, ‘LOL Cat’ comes on like Vangelis grooving at Studio 54 and we’re already deep in sit-up-and-take-notice territory. But it gets better. Thanks to a similar vocal line, ‘Beat Da Boxx’ – here given the Marc Romboy mix treatment – is reminiscent of 69’s techno classic ‘Jam The Box’, and is the cue for Garnier to shift his gaze to the Windy Motor cities, where the majority of the album resides.
Highlight follows highlight. From ‘Boom’ to ‘Bang’ to ‘MILF’, Garnier’s command of jacking house and chunky techno is a potent reminder of his place among non-US producers of the early 90s. While David Holmes tilted towards soul and movie soundtracks, and Andrew Weatherall to dub and post-punk, Garnier always had Detroit and Chicago in his sights. His skill in bringing them together reaped seminal techno in tracks like ‘Crispy Bacon’ and ‘Acid Eiffel’.
In 2000, however, when his ‘Unreasonable Behaviour’ album gave us the ubiquitous ‘The Man With The Red Face’, it also signalled the dreaded jazz direction beloved of so many of his contemporaries (Dave Angel, Ian O’Brien, Russ Gabriel, Stacey Pullen). Yes, the album was his commercial high point and helped define an era in which no hip young kiddie was seen without a copy of Straight No Chaser under their arm, but it also marked the point at which Garnier began to lose his way. When 2009’s ‘Tales Of A Kleptomaniac’ appeared, bogged down by a plethora of disparate styles, it looked like the writing was on the wall.
Which is why it’s so gratifying that ‘The Home Box’ finds him excelling at what he does best – for the most part crafting wondrous house and techno, and elsewhere moving gracefully from the harsh siren call of ‘The Rise And Fall Of The Donkey Dog’ to smoother and more downtempo cuts like ‘Psyche Delia’, and even a couple of straight-up sex tracks. Laurent Garnier’s back, back, back, and the title of this set fits perfectly, not just because of the travel theme that runs throughout, but because for the first time in, oh, at least a decade, you sense he feels right at home.