[Album Review] Essaie Pas- Demain est un autre nuit
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Release Date: February 19th, 2016
Label: DFA Records

As the story goes, the duo of Marie Davidson and Pierre Guerineau lost both their apartment and their studio space upon returning to Montreal after touring across Europe. They were able to gain access to an industrial building and use its empty hallways during the off hours. By Guerineau’s own admission, the space they used had an impact on the sound they recorded. The listener can sense the vastness that needs to be filled, which the music can only do through the use of reverberation and echo to make it sound bigger (the hollow beat and synth line in “La chute” provide a perfect examples of this). Such is the artificial and highly mechanized basis for the eerie (and somewhat morose) soundscape of ‘Demain est une autre nuit’.

As an exercise in electronic minimalism the album is superb, in many ways surpassing the earlier masters of kosmische. It could be argued that bands like Kraftwerk attempted to ‘humanize’ the sound of their synthesized music (when they started out, at least), whereas Essaie Pas do quite the opposite, unapologetically stranding us in the cold, metallic world of motorik beats and programmed rhythms.

Except for a couple of occasions where Davidson sings with emotional warmth, the pair’s voices give no respite from this dehumanized realm either. Both artists have the knack of sounding stark and distant with their speaking voices, but Guerineau in particular has a German tonality in his speech (even though everything is in French), which is naturally suited to this post-industrial, krautrock world.

If all of this sounds dismal, trust me it isn’t. Some of the tracks, in fact, would not be out of place in a techno club, although I doubt Essaie Pas’s aim is to create dance music. The thing is that, despite the artificial, dehumanized source of the music, your emotional reaction to it is very real. Yes, there may be anxiety and a sense of paranoid fear, but there is also great sensuality (particularly in Davidson’s songs) and excitement. The arpeggiated synth chords in “Depassee par le fantasme”, for instance, are exhilarating, in a very Blade Runner way.

Music like this still has a sci-fi quality, as if Essaie Pas are talking to us from the 31st century. But they want you to be aware that the digital age is here, particularly in the way that we communicate. That makes them not so much futuristic as all too uncomfortably contemporary.