Èlg, ‘La Chimie’

Posted by on June 3, 2013


SDZ Records, 5/15/2013

Hearing Èlg’s music evolve over the past five or so years has been captivating; however, it has rarely been that easy to keeps tabs on. For starters, this Brussels-based, French artist also known as Laurent Gerard, works with great deliberation at a slower pace by today’s standards, both mainstream and underground. In an interview from earlier this year, Gerard mentioned a personal need to take breaks from music and to periodically re-immerse himself in silence, “the big silence that is so frightening but which also gives rise to so many wonderfully unexpected things. It’s a need to back off a bit so that I can experience the world better.” Given this approach, Èlg’s music often appears as if from nowhere. Another factor at play that might limit Gerard’s solo output but expand his breadth, is his involvement in other active projects, namely the abrasive electronic duo Opera Mort with Jo Tanz and the free-wheelin’ avant collage trio Reines D’Angleterre, also with Jo T. and the legendary French sound artist and autodidact, Ghédalia Tazartès. Add to the mix that much of the Èlg discography has come out in limited runs on micro-labels from far-and-wide and even the most devoted stateside listeners will be left Bingin’ their Googler trying to find his latest titles.

Based on Èlg’s two most widely available releases alone, though, one can make out the singular vision of this artist and the marked progression his music has taken. Tout Ploie, originally released on Belgium’s Kraak Records in 2008 and re-issued the following year in the States by S-S Records, found Èlg re-configuring the French ballad stylings of Serge Gainsbourg with elements of psych-folk, warped electronics, and a little “schizo sugar” to boot. A prime example of an album being far greater than the sum of its parts, Tout Ploie still stands as one of the best debut LP releases in recent memory. Last year’s Mil Pluton on Alter was no slouch, either. This outing saw Èlg plunge full-on into purely electronic and beat-oriented sounds, while stretching his use of voice to damn near hallucinatory effect. Though moody and darkly atmospheric, Mil Pluton still highlighted Èlg’s knack for crafting memorable songs. With its impressive, intricately detailed packaging, the first pressing of Mil Pluton disappeared in a hurry. Fortunately, Alter has just offered up a slightly modified, though equally fetching, second pressing of this fine release for new sets of ears.

SDZ Records has stepped up and provided a similar service with La Chimie, compiling a selection of tracks from previous limited run releases and one unreleased track to form an entirely new album. Much of this material would have been recorded during the same period that Mil Pluton was taking shape, so La Chimie serves as a natural follow-up or, perhaps, a natural supplement to that album. It was initially surprising to see that anyone would break up In Coro, Èlg’s 2012 tape on NO=FI from which several of La Chimie’s tracks are derived from, as this was, in my opinion, a solid, reissue-worthy release in its own right. That being said, La Chimie astutely brings together some of the best elements of that release and re-sequences it with the other material to create a listening experience that is more captivating and un-settling than that release proper. The catchy minimal, industrial throb in songs like “Der Prediger”, “Notringo Indigo”, and “Hoteru” rivals anything on Mil Pluton’s stellar A-side, while “De Salem”, on the other hand, unfolds like a demonic, soul-devouring take on James Blake’s oeuvre. Elsewhere, the jump-cut edits and Tazartès’ cues make for genuinely head-scratching moments, be it big boy sobs (“Vue Neon Dute”) or street side ad blurbage (“Good Service”). Like all Èlg releases, though, it is like walking into a hall of mirrors: it’s wildly entertaining, somewhat unsettling, and always transfixing. Get your ticket and enter while you can.