Oiseaux-Tempête‘s self-titled debut may be a political album advertised as a stoner album, but to the home listener, it’s simply a set that rocks. It’s probably best not to muddle pot and politics, as the former is not the best motivational tool. And those who fail to read the liner notes may miss the point entirely.
Oiseaux-Tempête has a lot of things on its collective mind, in particular the “economic and political turmoil in Greece”. As a United States citizen, I’ve heard a lot more about the economic and political turmoil here ($24 billion wasted in Congressional posturing) and in Egypt (which is home to another of our staffers), but such fractured awareness only underlines the band’s bigger question: what happened to reason? A further question the listener might have pertains to perception: is this album a requiem, a documentation, or simple sound and fury? The work of French photographer, videographer and field recorder Stéphane C. is part of the process as well. Together, the quartet is attempting to inspire a response, blending sight and sound to form a miasmic impression, in the manner of Godspeed You! Black Emperor.
The GY!BE connection was also underlined in last year’s review of Le Réveil des Tropiques, which should be no surprise as Frédéric D. Oberland and Stéphane Pigneul are also part of Le Réveil des Tropiques and FareWell Poetry and are joined here by Beach House / Au Revoir Simone drummer Ben McConnell. On Oiseaux-Tempête, they allow their tracks to approach the 20-minute mark while injecting a series of narrations into the core of guitar, bass and drums. This is post-rock, but it’s not popular post-rock, which has proven to be a repetition of formulas. Instead, it’s a reminder of the time in which a post-rock song took as long as it needed to build and as long as it needed to wrap. Not only is there no interest in producing a viable single, there’s no desire to adhere to a specific format. This might be considered bravery, but in this case it’s more likely that it’s a reflection of musicians who have no problem being themselves. Oiseaux-Tempête offers textures, riffs and internal developments that attract the creative-minded listener.
The 74-minute album possesses great internal flow, and works beautifully as a whole. The spell it casts grows over the course of the album, until by the end the listener is fully engulfed. It’s also an album of moments, although these moments are fluid. For example, the swirling guitars and pointed bass of “Opening Theme (Ablaze in the Distance)” take several minutes to accumulate, but there’s no specific tipping point. The same is true of “Buy Gold (Beat Song)”, whose dialogue grows ever more urgent as the song progresses. And it’s impossible to ignore the album’s longest and strongest track, “Ouroboros”, which is dominated by its moody bass until the rest of the players break through. But to skip tracks is to do the album a disservice; it’s meant to mesh like the diverse languages of its sampled speakers.
The daring cover art intimates that no help is to be expected from heaven. At best, a deity is asking humanity for aid. At worst, we’re on our own. A religious person might call this blasphemy. The bigger blasphemy is to allow the world to continue unravelling without any attempt to intervene. (Richard Allen)
Release date: 13 November