Christian Vialard - Neukalm [Grautag Records - 2014]Experimental musician Christian Vialard teamed up with musician/composer Fred Bigot for his latest project, Neukalm. This collaboration is brought to us in a 2xLP edition from Grautag. While abstract and experimental, Neukalm is grounded with rhythm, soft synth lines, and the comforting coldness of electronic instruments.
Neukalm starts off with the longest track on the set, "AZ." Soft, airy, delayed synths slowly open up to reveal their crunchy interior before playing host to bass heavy, almost tribal drums. After the drums get your head thoroughly nodding, the backing synths play loving tribute to the sounds of your youth and grow, shrink, change, and move without getting stale or too far out. The b-side to this, "LIDEL1" takes a lower, more sinister approach. Lower twangy sparseness with detached, delayed, lightly reverbed vocals in front are soon met with a quickly paced bass hit beat. The creepy, spoken vocals stick around and add some serious atmosphere to this track. "DARK" plays a lot like the name. Feeling like a mix of John Carpenter and minimal electro, you can almost smell the 80's light sci-fi oozing out of it. The title track plays in a similar soundrack style, but a bit higher up. Lighter synths play over lows and a interesting beat propels us along. It's a definite head nodder. "LIDEL2" presents us again with the creepy vocal over a fun beat. This time around, it's less sinister and more alien. Not sure whether I was getting a Breeders or Gary Young vibe, but either way, I probably shouldn't have been. "PHASE" takes a calmer, more droned out synth approach. Add some French vocals and you have a Stereolab song. Not bad, but considering how fun the others are, it's a bit of a let down. The final side of the set brings us back into tribal depths. Along with the drums are some affected strings. There's the usual electronic fuzz, too, and that fills the spectrum nicely. This would've worked best after AZ and LIDEL, but I can dig it in any spot on the album. "GTODD" finishes the double LP up with some grimy, spacey rhythm. The beat is slower and a bit more drugged out, but it works well with the slowly oscillating background radiation and the squiggles of excited particles shooting toward you. The fourth side is the strongest and a great end to the album.
Although the songs on Neukalm follow a pretty close pattern throughout, they flow together very well and produce a very satisfying album. I definitely preferred the darker songs, but the others were really good, too. Nothing was massively standout here, but it's a very solid album and well worth a few spins.Paul Casey