Fortunately, my curmudgeonly disdain for synthesized sounds and digital song-crafting has eased over the years, thanks in no small part to meantime encounters with electronics-aided acoustic soundsmiths like Tortoise, The Books, Pele, and Collections of Colonies of Bees, as well as disarmingly poppy knob-tweakers like Panda Bear and Baths. Not to mention a growing interest in acousmatics and musique concrète (via the work of Gastr del Sol, Joan of Arc, múm, and Male), plus a late-January marathon run through Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game, which features a wondrous audio-visual collaboration between Australian pixel animator Paul Robertson and New York electro-punks Anamanaguchi. Fantastically entertaining, that.
But I digress. Scattered instances of electronic music appreciation notwithstanding, it’s a rare thing indeed for me to be hooked by songs that are largely digitized (or simply made to sound that way), let alone by artists whose arrangements can, for performance purposes, be pared down to one man and a MacBook.
Yet it does happen—however infrequently—and I’m doubtless better off for it.
Case in point: bassist turned electronic producer François-Charles Domergue, alias Geste, whose Eating Concrete EP is set to drop March 25th via Berlin’s Equinox Records.
As a veteran of Parisian post-rock and punk outfits MØN and Ars Nova, Domergue is well-accustomed to playing in concert with fellow musicians. And, while he is more than able to make due with the usual one-man laptop/mixer/MIDI controller EDM setup, Domergue has been known to take a far more visceral approach to his performances, occasionally expanding Geste to a full-on bass/guitar/drums power-trio for live shows.
Admittedly, this has far less to do with the quality of the original compositions than the presentation thereof, but Domergue’s tendency towards live instrumentation is a good indication of Geste’s aesthetic leanings, as well as an excellent palliative for electro-averse sticklers (like myself) who balk at the idea of watching some bobble-headed git fiddle about in Ableton Live.
As for the album qua album, Geste’s latest EP is an unexpected treasure trove of electronic nostalgia, only it’s not pining for prog rock, synth-pop, or acid house. Rather, Eating Concrete comes across like some long-lost masterwork of the 8- and 16-bit eras, its largely non-vocal focus on glitchy tones, shimmering synth effects, gritty ‘spherics, and processed percussion calling to mind the best and brightest blips and bleeps that console videogames of the Eighties and Nineties had to offer. Seriously: It’s like the soundtrack to the greatest Mega Man game that was never made.
Which is quite strange, considering that, despite the 8-bit affectations of earlier tracks like “Jaw Breaker”, Geste has never styled itself as a chiptune outfit. For one thing, Domergue uses modern tech to create and perform his music, and it does not appear as though he dwells amongst (or readily associates with) the retro-gamer and -computer subcultures which have kept chip music and its long-outmoded technologies alive and kicking since the days of the Commodore 64. Tellingly, aside from remixes of Kraddy’s “Android Porn” and José González’s “Far Away” (the original was featured in Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption), there is a glaring absence of the overt videogame, sci-fi, or tech references—nominal, visual, titular or otherwise—which frequently attend the Amiga-, Atari-, and Famicom-generated soundscapes of your typical chiptune composers. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Not a one.
Nope, Geste likes to keep things fairly serious, and it shows. On the digital version of the Eating Concrete EP, opening track “Ladderz” wastes no time in establishing Geste’s affinity for propulsive beats, solid bass riffs, and 8-bit blips and bleeps. Following this short-and-sweet introduction, title track “Eating Concrete”—which is the subject of Equinox’s first ever remix contest, running now through May 6th—ups the ante with even heavier rhythms, digital effects, and processed, conspiratorial vocal clips.
Not to be outdone, “Slag It Up!” responds with punchy squibs and bright synth tones layered over a throbbing backbeat that’s guaranteed to set your subs a-humming. Geste then eases off for the laid-back strings, chimes, tones, and faux-choral effects of “Lava Loca Lava”, which serves as Eating Concrete’s answer to the sombre ruminations of the Jaw Breaker EP’s “Octobre”—and, vocal duet by Domergue and guest Morgan Laignel aside, could easily have graced the futuro-fantastic final dungeon of some sci-fi-flavoured JRPG from the glory days of the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis.
Rounding out the digital version of the Eating Concrete EP, “Run Before the Flood” gets the listener’s blood pumping one last time with a potent mix of digitized pizzicato arpeggios, rapid-fire synth tittering, and aggressive, head-bobbing percussion. It’s an energetic send-off for the album, one which is enticing enough to lure the listener back in for another go-around. And, considering that the entirety of the Eating Concrete EP is little more than twenty minutes in length, back-to-back listens are a pretty easy proposition.
Regardless of my general distaste for electronic music, there’s something about Geste’s Eating Concrete EP that I cannot help but enjoy. Whether it’s François-Charles Domergue’s compositions themselves or simply the (seemingly) unintentional nostalgia which their digital affectations inspire, Eating Concrete is nothing if not an unexpected treat—and, perhaps, a reason to pay more attention to all those laptop-toting knob-tweakers who I’ve spent so much time ignoring.
Geste’s Eating Concrete EP is available for purchase via Equinox Records’ online store in both 12” vinyl and digital formats.
Audio Reviews (March 22nd, 2011)
Tags: audio, reviews, geste, françois-charles domergue, eating concrete ep, equinox records