Agents XI - Altarima [Génie ou Rien - 2005]France is the biggest market for hiphop and R’n’B in continental Europe. Yet most of their local bands inspire laughter rather than awe.
The first wave was rather grim, hardcore style hiphop, depicting the raw reality of urban gettho’s life. Then it all started to become a gimmick. And then they all started emulating their American’s counterparts. Now, most of French urban music recycles last year’s hits from the American charts. They do it very professionally, but it’s still a product past its sell by date, with abysmal lyrics and looks.
Over the last couple of years, some more “intelligent” and “inventive” acts made their way, most notably TTC with a couple of albums on Ninja Tune. Now, they weren’t laughed at: they were trying to make people laugh. They succeeded since they sell loads, but it is already gimmicky and getting even closer to its sell by date.
Agents XI might put the record straight and provide at long last some fine homebred French hiphop. I hardly have the time of day for the lyrics of most hiphop acts and once again it’s the case here. Fortunately, the music is great. At times. Here and there, it is compared to Glenn Branca and Philip Glass. It is obviously completely wrong –I sometimes do wonder about the sanity of labels people. It’s closer to minimal electronic music than to hiphop. It’s very ambientish, with a very subtle work on the soundscapes. The half-whispered vocals add to the mystery dimension. In a way, Agents XI could be linked to the quite of music Lex is releasing: hiphop influenced by Warp-ish sounds. A marriage potentially made in heaven that turns to nightmare when a Kenny G wannabe turns up on sax on the last track. Come on, you can do better than that –and I’m looking forward to it! François Monti