CD Review

V/A – “Je Suis Un Etranger”

By Marcus Pan

Je Suis un EtrangerNow here's a truly interesting idea and concept. Ronda Records, a label out of France, has sent off digital language samples to a number of bands worldwide and invited them to build on these ideas to create a song – utilizing numerous languages of the world. The banner was taken up by quite a number of drum 'n bass, techno, industrial and surrealist artists and the added bonus of such a concept makes Je Suis Un Etranger much more interesting than its separate parts.

Mils is given Polonais, and creates Nouka which takes a futuristic drum 'n bass style to create a cut-up Burroughsian dreamscape. With bright bell like melodies and synth-slams adding to a growing and rivetingly interesting beat laden mix-up of sound, Mils does an excellent job at starting off the concept of Je Suis Un Etranger. dDamage’s take on Allemand samples in Verstehe Ich Nicht is swiftly moving with very high-octave keys that overshadows the language samples given. The other-worldly effect is brilliant while Verstehe Ich Nicht can hover just shy of becoming annoying and retains a bright edge that slices rhythms like a hot knife through brain matter.

Suedois(1) goes to Transbeauce for their creation of Sven. Their attempt comes off a bit flat when thrown up against the previous two opening tracks, and delves a bit deeper into consciousness to achieve a subtler sound and effect. It doesn’t move as swiftly as the previous two and serves more as a chill out in the midst of the madness. lucky.R’s take on Portugais, Fonte Nova, becomes an ambient nightmare slowing Je Suis Un Etranger down to a crawl. I know plenty of people who will dig this track hardcore, but I’m not much. When lucky.R slides in a heavy handed drum ‘n bass it begins to move more ploddingly along and lets off samples of sound that seem too noisy to be musical.

Aka_bondage take Hongrois for their track Kivalo Dolgozo Vagyok and begin a strange romp into a bright and fluffy dreamscape with pulses of chords interspersed with playing children, occasional robots and buzzing silence. It doesn’t try hard enough. Sun Plexus + Loner duo up to drum out some Albanais language in Grua Telefonoj Tre Derri. It’s experimental, minimal and pretty nice rhythmically. I certainly didn’t expect that sudden phone ringing, which splices through the track unexpectedly and is what eventually brings us the language we’re expecting given the idea of Je Suis Un Etranger. Very interesting track even if it does plod on longer than it’s due.

The language of Anglais goes to Silencio, who use it to create the ambient minimalism that is Tumbleweed. The added piano that arrives later spices up the track but doesn’t steal from its background style. The track itself is very comforting and builds a nice, relaxing environment. Dscl’s Mais Faites la Taire reminds me of cut-up vocal work by Perpetual Ocean(2) or Thou Shalt Not(3) using Francais as its language of choice. Unimpressive, no music has been applied here and they just cut up the vocal tracks and kind of glued them back together to create an annoyingly go-nowhere “song.”

Japanese goes to Xerak, and their Arigato Tokyo Jogging is a surreal conglomeration of strange strummings, vocal patches and funkily weird beat rhythms. I have to say that, so far, nothing else on Je Suis Un Etranger even comes close to Mils and dDamage’s opening tracks, though Arigato Tokyo Jogging makes a strong attempt, though their language sample usage can get downright silly in its choice and placement. The ending alone makes you want to choke the shit out of Xerak.

We move into a surreal rhythm with c.h.district’s Speller using Russe as its language base. It gets futuristically synthetic and adds a very outworldly atmosphere to the disc. An exotic track and not by any means bad. c.h.district really fucks around with the vocal samples here. Very weird. Depatie’s Men Fall using Breton language samples applies an interesting soundscape thrown against a drum roll military style beat. Interesting…but not for this long. The growth of the synthesizers comes in a “too little too late” style so I’m bored.

Chinois is used in Displacer’s One More Tune. A nicely moving fat-back drum beat meets me at the door and later moves into a swiftly moving trance style track with outlying synth washes keeping the rhythm front and center. Then Frying Carpet Arab Remix, by Do Shaska! and using Arabe language samples opens with me going, “Oh no another cut the language to shreds and call it music,” but at least picks up into a musical pace with a low lying rhythm and over the top Arabian influenced wind (clarinet or oboe?). Doesn’t hold my interest for too long, however.

With a band name like Bleetch, I have to wonder if it’s ok to play the next track without doing something that sounds like the band’s name. Taking Norvegien for Teach Me How, Bleetch create a nice ambient background. seb.R take their Vietnamien and put out Neimateiv, creating an interesting track with nice click-based rhythms and smooth strumming stylings. Hypo & Musicometre close the disc with their take on Neerlandais languages in Een Brief Voor Kersmis. Comes off like a badly mixed background track of radio static. Blah.

An interesting disc, Je Suis Un Etranger, containing a mixed bag of results. A third here are great, another third palatable and the latter third can be done without, but the concept of the album as a whole is refreshingly brilliant. This would be a nice addition to any avant garde’s collection and can really push the bar of originality of even the staunchest weirdo’s collection.

Contact Information:
Ronda
Post: 1 Rue Alexadre Parodi, 75010 Paris, France
E-Mail: info@ronda-label.com
Web: www.ronda-label.com
(1) I admit I really don’t know what all these languages are. Polonais, sure…Portugais yes…Suedois? No clue.
(2) Perpetual Ocean’s Houdini was reviewed in Legends #113.
(3) Thou Shalt Not’s cut-up vocal style can be found on their self-titled release which was reviewed in Legends #102.