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 Review archive:  # a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Bernard Fevre - Suspense [Anthology Cinema Studies - 2015]

Bernard Fevre, better known as Black Devil Disco Club, is oft credited for creating some of the first examples of house music in the late 70's, among the earliest music which focused completely around synthesizers and four on the floor beats made using drum machines.  I'd investigated Fevre's music in the past, having listened to the self-titled 1978 "Black Devil Disco Club" EP.

In my opinion's, Fevre's work is superficially pleasant and reasonably well composed, but ultimately pales in comparison to true benchmarks of proto-rave such as Kraftwerk's "Computer World", or Klaus Schulze's slower, less percussive and more ambient take on what would later become 'trance'.  Credit should also be given to the many ambitious works of Jean Michel Jarre, though he began with something as rudimentary as Fevre's work with "Deserted Palace" in 1972.

Here we have a 2015 reissue of a 1975 release. And what you have here is very raw, simplistic sequencing, unprocessed samples 'plink'-ing along in basic constructions of one or two riffs, with a maximum of 3 or 4 layers per song.  Each piece is a short 2-3 minute experiment, ending before any real kind of development can occur.  This could not be said of the albums in the above paragraph, advanced studio constructions with countless layers, skillful use of mixing and reverb, and a real sense of taking a journey from beginning to end.  In this way, those albums have become timeless, the 'primitive' gear used to record them now respected by many as possessing unique and desirable sonic texture.

The sound of this album is much closer to so many throwaway 80's soundtracks, an era where there was of yet no standard that would filter out these most primitive results of this new technology.  The 'soundtrack' sound of Fevre's music is further cemented by the relaxed tempo of the majority of the music on this album, as well as a lack of rhythmic emphasis.  For this reason and others, I fail to see much connection between this music and 'house music', or even disco music, which appeals to soul and R&B sensibilities in a way I don't hear this album doing.  There are certainly attempts to imitate the sound of funk with bad imitations of guitar and strings, but the results are as laughably rigid and cheesy as I've ever heard.  The arpeggiated melodies often have a 'Berlin' sound and contemplative mood.  This record wouldn't inspire anyone to dance, and I've heard more inspired compositions in countless video games and indeed, 80's soundtracks.

The 'eerie' atmosphere which friends of mine have described in the self-titled "Black Devil Disco Club" EP seems wholly absent when listening to the clear, naked sound of this album, sourced from the original tapes and thus lacking in 'mud'.  I would describe the tone of this music as academic, detached and sterile in tone, more like a technical experiment than an impassioned attempt to capture a massive vision (read: Klaus Schulze).

I tend towards the idea that any excitement around this work has to do with hype and cultural context.  It would be very difficult to impress somebody with these sounds in this day and age, and certainly this is not true of all 70's electronic music relics.  Tracks from Kraftwerk's "Computer World" remain nearly indistinguishable from tracks in the bedroom Downtempo (or 'armchair techno') genre of today, as exemplified by Warp Records' "Artificial Intelligence" series.  I would say not to waste your time with this album, but on the other hand, it's only 20 minutes long, and so doesn't really hurt to hear it, so as to form some kind of opinion about this musician. But I can't see myself playing it again.

Rating: 1 out of 5Rating: 1 out of 5Rating: 1 out of 5Rating: 1 out of 5Rating: 1 out of 5

Josh Landry
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