Benjamin Lew/Steven Brown - Made To Measure : Vol. 15 -Douzième Journée: Le V [Crammed Discs - 2021]
So… I had just typed out an introductory sentence, and decided in my laziness to google this album and cut and paste the title - rather than fiddling about with the accents - when I had a bit of a shock: this is a reissue of a 1982 album. (In my defence the main text on the artwork doesn’t mention this, and it’s only stated in the copyright details on the back cover.) I had assumed the album was contemporary, and the fact that it isn’t is staggering, on the one hand, but on the other hand perhaps makes more sense of the sounds within.
When I first scanned the line-up for Douzième Journée: Le Verbe, La Parure, L'Amour, I imagined some kind of improv recording, but actually the album, whilst still containing improvised elements - stakes out very different territories. Douzième Journée contains nine tracks, all drawing on a quite a restricted palette of synths, ‘rhythm machines,’ tapes, saxes, piano, organ, percussion, and bass clarinet, and pre-shock I’d been pitching the overall sound as a curious synthesis of library music, improv, and ‘classic’ Aphex Twin, with a hint of The Residents. The comparison still stands, but obviously its creation in 1982 changes things…
Steven Brown is a founding and ever-present member of Tuxedomoon, so I was on the right track (by association) when I’d written in my notes that ‘Dans Les Jardins’ sounds like a more sombre Residents if they’d continued their early trajectory and not disappeared into MIDI-land. Much of the album does sound like odd, alien library music, with subdued, dark atmospheres, recalling the more eerie and mysterious moments of The Residents. However, Douzième Journée really does presage the earlier works of Aphex Twin; the first track, ‘Bamako Ou Ailleurs,’ would not sound out of place on Selected Ambient Works 85-92 - though admittedly the long sax notes would - and I genuinely thought, pre-shock, that ‘Elle S'Avança’ was borrowing liberally from ‘Icct Hedral (Edit).’ With the knowledge that Douzième Journée was recorded in 1982, I can now see it as an album of post-industrial explorations, quirky in itself but expressed in sublime terms rather than ridiculous, with a sense of melancholy and dread permeating the entire release. The tracks work off simple patterns, themes, and repetition - ‘Il, Les Quitta À L'Aube’ is a glowing journey of Krautrock-esque motorik - aided by cavernous reverb at points, and whilst this is (it turns out) a 2021 remaster, the album sounds fantastic.
Sometimes with reissues like this, there’s a sense that the album’s archival/historical value weighs heavy on the overall worth of the release but, because of the shock I’ve now mentioned several times, I can say very honestly that Douzième Journée: Le Verbe, La Parure, L'Amour is simply a great album, full stop. As I’ve said, it’s very quirky, and reminiscent in that sense of bedroom recordings from the early cassette scene, but this quirkiness is tempered with restraint, simplicity, and good compositional sense, as well as an overriding desire to create atmosphere. Very Recommended!.Martin P