In an interview with A Closer Listen‘s Nayt Keane, Le Cabanon Records expressed that its intention is “to attract the curiosity of the auditors.” The latest album from the French label does exactly that; Crypto Tropic is the label’s most mysterious offering to date.
That interview can be found in ACL 2014: The Year’s Best Album Covers. With Crypto Tropic, Le Cabanon continues to offer a unified visual aesthetic, and the EP should be a strong contender for inclusion on this year’s list as well. Like its predecessors, the outside cover is but a single hue, and includes a recessed image of a shed; the image can probably be popped out, but I prefer my covers pristine. (Don’t see the shed? Stare at the center of the blue.) The inside cover is the one displayed below, with the trademark pinhole art. This time the pinholes are the eyes of tiny creatures, a cross between ghosts and huldufólk. The vinyl edition also offers “a quest proposal to find special items in different secret places”. Hidden art, hidden items, hidden folk: this release is a hat trick of mystery.
This cryptic combination bleeds into the music as well. The name of the duo is perfectly chosen, while each of the performers typically operates under a different pseudonym: Nebulo as Thomas Pujols and Druc Drac as François Dumeaux. Together they are Crypto Tropic. Their music is a blend of industrial and experimental electronic, as befits their individual projects. Nebulo’s music is drawn to darkness, while Druc Drac’s is drawn to the light; each influence is apparent on this set, often within individual tracks. Call it filtered light or filigree and shadow (This Mortal Coil), but either way, the music comes across as a shifting soundscape of rhythms both hidden and overt. One can even imagine the creatures of the cover recording these micro textures and swaying beats: if not dancing, then darting.
The album flows beautifully as a whole, and lends itself well to repeated plays. Play is the optimal word, as the music is mischievous and deep. Concentrate too hard on the foreground, and one will miss the movement in the bushes. The straight beats of “Ambiuc” dissolve at the end; the opening of “Byzance” sounds like it takes place in a test tube. Midway into the piece, a heartbeat breaks out, while Nebulo’s presence is felt strongly; the sub-bass is dark and growly, like a hibernating creature that should not have been disturbed. The slow synths of “Ternal” travel speaker to speaker like a prowling panther, while the faster beeps try to stay away. A blacksmith toils away in “Cryptes”, but what is he working on? Is it a talisman, a weapon, a trap? And whose side will the huldufólk take? The answers remain blissfully unclear. By “Tropiques”, the EP’s longest track, the entire forest is ablaze with activity; but by “Tropes”, all are at rest, digested or digesting. With Crypto Tropic, Le Cabanon Records has attracted our curiosity; our fate is now in our own hands. (Richard Allen)