New Orleans’ Chef Menteur specialize in sprawling instrumental freakouts and ambience while tapping into the Kraut heroes of yesteryear and Brian Eno’s grab-bag of sonic tricks. The band assembled bits and pieces of found sounds over the last few years, beefing them up in the studio and have delicately sequenced them into what has become their debut LP. Backporch Revolution, a well-respected local record label dealing with all things musically progressive and analog, wisely released Tristero’s Empire in Feb 2005.
There are standout tracks on the album but it would be an injustice to single them out. ‘Caverns of The White Widow’ is 7 minutes of creepy feedback, low-end percussion and sounds pretty much like what I imagine the bottom of the ocean to emanate, given I could descend that far and not be pulverized into tiny scraps of angler fish bait. The heavily Eno-esque “Pointu’ rumbles along on a deep bassline slowly building up tension and could have easily found its way onto the Lost In Translation soundtrack. Its sequel ‘Pointu II’ is basically an identical extension of the theme, if not a slight bit more strangled and adventurous.
You can’t help but be intrigued by the wide variety of samples and instruments used to create We Await Silent Tristero’s Empire. Various synths squeak and squabble. Sitars clang all throughout ‘Paysans de la Mer’. Banjo, handclaps, hootin’, sparse acoustic guitar and field recordings of a nearby neighborhood drive the latter half of ‘W.A.S.T.E.’ (now the classic Pynchon references register) before it’s sealed up with a glitchy outro. The album is bookended by the aptly-titled ‘Europa’ and ‘Io’, two of Jupiter’s most significant moons or for you Bullfinch’s buffs, notable characters in Greek mythology. ‘Europa’ is a patient, yet glorious post-rock epic, not only serving as a proper introduction but grabbing the listener’s attention immediately and preparing them for the rest of the album. The closer ‘Io’ sprawls itself out over 17 minutes, utilizing a spacious, dirgey drone, not unlike the movie score for 2001: A Space Odyssey when Captain Bowman ascends to his final(?) destination. Some may consider this a bore but I most definitely feel life on this satellite. Stunning.
Sometimes albums cut of this mold have a tendency to get lost on a listener. Artists get the urge to pile on the gloss or, inversely, oversimplify the themes and emotions they are trying to convey by employing staunch minimalism as a means to perhaps give their music a ‘complex’ feel. We Await successfully bridges the gap between these disparate ideals by leaving just the right amount of secrecy to their mission while at the same time expounding upon its obvious musical influences in a classy, not-totally-derivative manner. I can recount several moments during the album where I was literally surprised at how gracefully the band formed structure within a song without resorting to cacophonous noise or clashing time signatures. Fresh, hauntingly beautiful and truly therapeutic. Hit ‘repeat’.
RIYL: Brian Eno, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Boredoms, Stereolab, Pink Floyd, Can
P.S. Grab the song ‘W.A.S.T.E.’ from the BTID July 2005 mix here or from the band’s website.