Geins’t Naït & Laurent Petitgand – Je Vous Dis (Ici d’ailleurs, 2014)

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Possibly the most characters in any of my review titles to date, I Tell You by Geins’t Naït and Laurent Petitgand has gone through the wringer a fair few times in the two weeks I’ve had the album sitting in my playlist. That being said, I’m still not really entirely sure I’m any the wiser on the record, but I do know that I’ve enjoyed its company immensely.

We’re opened into the weird and janky world of these two collaborators with “Balla”, welcoming us with warped vocals; “come on in” they say, amidst a slow burning background drone and wriggling synths. It’s pretty easygoing, content to sit back and let the languid percussion and MIDI samples carry it along to a relatively unsatisfying conclusion before slipping into the more interesting “Explo”. Intimate piano strokes fill the distant but noisy void as the title is repeated endlessly, menacing in their flat response and unfeeling presentation. It may lack the evolution and progression of the opener but it feels like there’s more to explore behind this soulless facade we’re shown, the origin behind those glitched currents and incessantly repeated vocals.

These comparatively more lifeless affairs are swept aside once the gorgeous “Iroshima” takes to the floor though. It’s got a stronger progressive electronic flavour than the more experimental preceding tracks; there’s a definable and consistent beat, delicate guitar work and enigmatic but absolutely crucial vocoder supplementing the careful melodies, melting into the assistant backing drone and hovering on the edge of coherence. Followup “Reste á la fenetre” seems to crush the pace somewhat with its jovial accordion-like fragments and fractured, crazily oscillating synth shimmers and impassioned but warped vocal cries.

So far then it’s relatively hard to get a pin on what it is they’re trying to convey with this album stylistically given its so far erratic nature, especially as the gorgeous title track comes into view off the back of that curious affair. Piano forms the mainstay of this track, tinkling away delicately and just making sure their stable riff continues despite the increasing textural overprint of miscellaneous instrumentation. Its evolution is careful and almost undetectable as it rises to a wonderfully expansive crescendo with distant saxophones(?) before crumbling away and returning to its primitive and minimalistic initial sequences. “Jm Massou” is eager to remind us that their experimentation is far from over in the rambling, incomprehensible snippets of French voices, radio fragments and crushed, heavily processed guitar lines. It’s a pretty mechanical piece in that regard, clicking and thrumming and grinding over and over itself repeatedly with just the merest hint of melancholic drone floating in from the background to give us a sense of space.

Enigmatically titled penultimate piece “kkkk” is a welcome reprieve from the claustrophobic confines of “Jm Massou” as it embraces an entirely more open and even “chatty” atmosphere, like we’re tidying up a café after hours or something as we hear the clatter and scraping of plates intertwined with the once more buried vocals and vaguely secretive and mischievous toybox tinklings and stuttering synth. This gossipy atmosphere seems to be the first time the album actually lives up to its namesake in its coy wanderings. And then, all too soon, we’re brought face to face with the insanely compelling closer “SMOSN”, really the greatest track of the album by a wide margin that you regret not appearing sooner. A strong beat is forged through the random clattering of some unnameable but elegant machine, driving the piece onwards through a myriad of evolutionary crossroads; pulses of big band instrumentation blaring intermittently through the mix, the growl of car engines, the obliterated wailing of Frenchmen as we speed by. Its vast 9 minute span far outstrips any other track on the record and it’s all the better for it, being granted a huge amount of space to sprawl its intricate and thickly layered textures into before finally closing on one cheeky surge of sound and car noise accelerating away into the night.

Honestly, I’ve done an absolutely terrible job of talking about this record and I know it; I’m absolutely knackered and revision is stifling my creative capacity, and that’s so unfair to these two with this album. While I do have a pretty hard time establishing the concept of this record or even if there is an underlying sense of order and overarching theme, I have listened to this a lot and I’m deeply impressed by their ability to forge seemingly random and oftentimes repetitive melodies into really involving tracks. Something about the circular rhythms and the way new textures seem to organically sprout out of the mix gives it a real sense of spontaneity despite being so deeply and carefully measured. It’s better than I’m making out, take my word for it.

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