Chapelier Fou ~ Méridiens

Is it possible that Chapelier Fou (Louis Warynski) is getting even more ebullient and clubworthy?  From the sound of Méridiens, this seems to be the case.  While prior albums tag-teamed on timbres, the new set stays upbeat all the way, with nary a pause for reflection.  That’s okay with us, because we love confections ~ albeit not the kind that placid kid is putting in his mouth (a pickled olive?).

Grégory Wagenheim’s video for lead single “Le Triangle des Bermudes” is another joy, although watching it full screen will likely make viewers nervous.  The unseen protagonist just wants his video to play, but falls into a rabbit hole of screens: a modern, meta version of the Bermuda Triangle.  A contagious rhythm unfolds in the background, making the search seem like a lark.

Surprisingly, the album begins with strings. “The Austere Night of Ubqar” introduces the album as a series of tales: twelve tracks instead of 1001, for modern listeners with shorter attention spans.  The connection continues with the Eastern vibes of “Constantinople,” quickly joined by contagious beats and fat, wet synths.  As on previous albums, the mastering is especially crisp.  The album is a restless traveler, bouncing from Cocagne to Sonora, desert to sea, even to outer space.  The ethnic chants of “Insane Realm” seem to stem from one region, the violin from another, as Chapelier Fou presents a mélange of influences, all in the service of the groove.  When one dances, one seldom sees race, or political party, or any division at all.

The sci-fi sheen of “Cattenom Drones” appears three tracks before “Asteroid Refuge,” launching the extraterrestrial angle early.  Not a drone, but a synth piece, the track likely refers to the local power plant, which is surrounded by a cooling lake ~ perhaps not the best place to take a dip if one wants to remain a reasonable color.  The track closes with distorted Atari noises, not unlike those found on Dan Friel’s Fanfare; while the minute-long “L”État Nain” (a French phrase referring to a despot, a “nation to one’s self”) would not be out of place on a Lullatone album.  All of these artists have appeared on our Happiest Music charts, and for good reason; they provide the lightheartedness essential to joy.  Even the darkest track (“La Vie de Cocagne”) can’t resist breaking into a smile at the end.

The internal acceleration of penultimate piece “Le Désert de Sonora” seems like a parable of the last century: faster, faster, eventually unable to sustain its own speed.  The rest of the final track hearkens back to the beginning, suggesting that life may be more cyclical than linear.  In only 40 minutes, we’ve traveled the world, headed to outer space and returned, none the worse for wear.  (Richard Allen)

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