Listening - Friday, Jan 17th 2020


On the hunt for some old Désormais records (having discovered yesterday Mitchell Akiyama & Tony Boggs had reformed the project to release a new album a couple years ago) I came across this record of the same name by Julie Doiron. I admit I tend to avoid Jagjaguwar even though they’ve released music by a number of artists that I like. At some point I formed the opinion that the label is mostly chasing indie film soundtrack royalties and signing anyone who sounds like such and such, and I haven’t thought much about it since.

Anyway thanks to the benefit of confusion this time around I didn’t realize the Jagjaguwar connection until it was too late and so I also didn’t needlessly poison an impression of Julie Doiron’s music because of it. Instead of a long-lost early full length by Désormais, here is Désormais a nice French language outing from Julie Doiron. To be blunt it doesn’t change my mind about Jagjaguwar, but finding this short record was a nice surprise.

Speaking of the new Désormais album – Tony Boggs apparently started a new label a while back called Kikimora and Drown Variations was one of the early releases. He’s also got a new solo project post-Joshua Treble called unfollow with a few releases on the label, so there’s a lot for me to catch up with.

I was primarily into the solo work from each of the folks in Désormais back in the day, which tended toward fractal reworkings of pop-ish sources, following more or less in the path of Fennesz’s Plays EP, and always just as adventurous, balanced and detail-oriented. The Désormais project from my standpoint at the time was a cool side-project that went further down the post-rock road than any of their solo work. There were guest drummers, even guitar riffs sometimes.

Drown Variations seems to be a reinvention of the project to swap out the post-rock leanings for techno and EDM. Unfortunately for me dropping the post-rock angle also discards a lot of what made this project exciting in the first place. Reimagining the rock band as a laptop ensemble is exciting and interesting territory but for whatever reason taking a similar approach to deconstructing techno isn’t as compelling for me. Thankfully only a few tracks really go fully down this path. The core of the album revolves more around careful sound design, atmosphere, and the sort of low fidelity meets high fidelity approach to timbre studies that seemed pervasive in the early 00s.

Given this is closer to an EP-length outing at about 33 minutes, I’m hoping there is a follow-up in the pipeline that reaches back to some of that post-rock band laptop reimagining that I miss dearly in Drown Variations.