Netmusic enthusiasts are rushing to hear French musician Degiheugi's latest release, Only After The Show, because they've already heard the subject of today's egregiously late recommendation of an album that was released a whole three years ago. (Yep, Catching The Waves might as well be called Behind The Times.) Anyway, though Degiheugi's current work is fine and upstanding, it's his 2005 opus, Aquilon, that gets CTW shaking its finely toned and not-at-all-sagging booty.
Aquilon is a pretty seamless whole; tracks bleed into each other in a manner reminiscent of a concept album. No, don't run away. You'd be missing out. It's chock-full of samples, though I've no idea what is entirely original, what's been chopped up or what's been lifted wholesale. The album is ostensibly an instrumental hiphop workout but it's actually a finely detailed piece of experimental electronica. It's like buying a second-hand car from a back-street garage, only to find that you've acquired Herbie.
First off is Comme un enfant sans mère, which starts off with a crushing drum beat, calls in some dubby elements and then quotes from Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child, a well-known Negro spiritual. (Please note that I use the word "Negro" in its historical context only. Don't hit me.) It's a head-nodder.
The second track, Intro: Aquilon, (yes, intros should come at the start - don't blame me) makes good use of doom-laden strings, ambient drones and record scratches to place the listener in a comfortable armchair and a glass of something special, warm with the knowledge that a good album is underway.
There's some witty sampling in Un jour de printemps, featuring a sample from Greenfields by The Brothers Four. Degiheugi raises the pitch of "Once there were green fields..." so that it sounds like the Munchkin Massed Choir, slots it into a trip-hop rhythm, and then cuts it to just the first syllable, punning on the basic funk rule of emphasising the "one", the first beat of four. He also throws in some Spanish guitar, some gently mewling trumpets, and all of a sudden a track that could have been irritating becomes delightful, getting deeper and more reflective as it progresses, notwithstanding, and here my cup doth overflow, a breakbeat workout near the end.
My Rickety Piano is like something Michael Nyman or John Adams might have pounded out on their Steinways late one night in a who-can-use-fewer-notes contest. (A Steinway is not a euphemism. Get your minds out of the gutter.) A two-note piano riff gets chopped up and sampled until it sounds, well, rickety. It's a confident piece of music.
Mild-mannered hiphop is a feature of Ami, tu veux devenir poete until it rips its suit off to reveal a Superman drum 'n' bass costume, turning an atmospheric piece of maudlin Franco-jazz into something more invigorating.
My baby don't cares the shows [sic] introduces Nina Simone to glitchy beats and a thudding distorted bass. I'm not sure if this track is entirely successful. It's followed by Soldier In The Sky, an unusual mix of dub and electro with contributions from Virus and DJ Oscan.
Hot Girl (trip hop with naughty female noises), Entr'track 1 (lo-fi pop) and Plus de Souvenir are each just over a minute long, cleansing the listener's aural palate before serving meatier fare. Plus de souvenir is a dusty jazz loop with a trip-hop beat. CTW is defenceless against that sort of thing.
Baby Boom is helpfully self-descriptive, as you'll discover on hearing a baby gurgle delightedly through a breakbeat romp. For Organe au Gramme, Degiheugi produces a laid-back electronica piece reminiscent of Moby's Play. A thumbs up, in case you're wondering.
The album ends with Le Pince Oreilles, which is over ten minutes long. Hey, it's a netlabel release; no kow-towing to corporate record companies here. If Degiheugi wants to slap a Pink Floyd-ish cinematic/prog rock/trance/trip-hop epic on the end of the album, good for him. If you've bought into Degiheugi's ethos by now, you'll be a little annoyed that it's so short; it might even be the best thing on the album.
Aquilon is available from the mellifluously named Electrobel and Degiheugi's own site, where you can also pick up the previously mentioned Only After The Show. If you're hungry for music, visit both sites, have a rummage, download Degiheugi's stuff and then leave a donation at your preferred site. Or both of them. Or neither, if you must.
I'm so reasonable. Sickening, isn't it?
Aquilon L.P.-01 on Electrobel netlabel (Zipped album only. Sorry.)