Low Tide (Toolong Records)
Last time Frenchman Erwan Pepiot’s one man band-with-friend outfit graced these pages I spent a bit of time noticing his fondness for and inspiration from a certain strand of (mostly but not exclusively northern) British music you might call buoyant melancholia.
Those elements are still there: high run basslines as effective lead instrument; a blend of deadpan and quietly impassioned voices; dance rhythms you can move to even in an ex-army overcoat; a persistent suspicion that if you were to look out the window on any day and at any time it would be raining; a romantic (as in leaning towards floridly resigned) sensibility and even more romantic (as in sung to your diary/mirror with utmost intent) melodies.
What’s different this time is how Low Tide springs from those influences rather than swims in them. How it forges a stronger central character for Somehow which can give us an early days of New Order moment such as Over The Raindrops but make it feel more febrile and natural.
Take I Threw It All Away. The indie disco feel is there – close your eyes and you’re waiting to hear Blue Monday close out the night, as The Divine Comedy once put it - but the energy is outwardly rather than inwardly directed. Pepiot’s voice swoops and croons but it also pings off Aurelie Tremblay’s more laidback counter-voice, much like the guitars bounce from the military drums. The effect is energy doubled rather than enervation.
Or watch how Modern Life balances a tensile unease in the acoustic guitar and snippy drums with the confident imposition of up-front bass and constantly pushing keyboards, while The Wave spins and spins euphorically, the sense of acceleration palpable even as it actually locks in to its tempo.
Songs such as A Mirage Of Us and There’s A Riot Coming fall back into perfectly fine but a little too familiar shapes. But even when the penultimate track, Shut Your Eyes And See, feels like it may be repeating earlier – as in earlier in the album as well as earlier in the catalogue – moves with its Hook-ian bass practically vibrating its way across the room and Pepiot ultra doleful of delivery, there’s just the right amount of delicacy in the little riff at the beginning and Tremblay’s pop-tastic vocal parp-parps two and a half minutes in, to signal an individual vision rather than a retro one.
The result therefore is not just buoyant melancholia but open (albeit darkish) pleasure.