Feu! Chatterton
Palais d'Argile


4.0
excellent

Review

by Erwann S. CONTRIBUTOR (35 Reviews)
March 31st, 2021 | 23 replies


Release Date: 03/12/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Ceci n'est Parisien

Bonjour. Ça va bien ? Moi ça va tranquille, merci.

What's your view on Parisian people? Maybe you think they are sophisticated, well-dressed dandies who enjoy baguette and wine, with a famous tendency to adultery - ultimately representing the Frenchest of the Frenchest. While this opinion is not entirely false, it deserves a counterview, one that all other French-speaking people have got of Parisians: they are pedant, arrogant, living symbols of a spoiled brattiness only bourgeoisie could ever create, and deeming anything outside their beloved city a shithole not even worth mentioning - see, I told you they are the Frenchest of the Frenchest. If there's one band that effectively illustrates this duality, it's gotta be Feu! Chatterton. Their music and lyrics transpire both elegance and pretension, of a constant battle between fanciness and ridicule. They just are so French.

It's thus no surprise that the band's core sound was built around French Chanson tropes and instrumentation from the Gainsbourg textbook, with that slight 90s French rock knack brought by Noir Désir. That band was instrumental to the "French Rock" template and influenced tons of artists with their singing style and, most importantly, their poetic and surreal lyrics. Yet Feu! Chatterton have always desired to evolve their music by confronting these very froggy roots to their multiple Anglo-Saxon influences – Radiohead and LCD Soundsystem being the most prominent. These new incorporations were already nicely integrated into their 2018 album L'oiseleur, but it wasn't fully cohesive yet - you could feel they only were present to embellish the already-composed soundscape but did not constitute the basis of said compositions. Three years later, they finally found the perfect alloy between the oh-so-French and the oh-so-arty worlds.

Flashback to the two thousand and twentieth year of the Gregorian calendar. Palais d'Argile was initially conceived as an almost narrative performance that would have been played on stage during Spring 2020 - you know what happened then. The band therefore reworked the piece to make it a concept album produced by the (non-Daft Punk member) pope of electronic French music, Arnaud Rebotini - who received the César Award for Best Original Music for the BPM (Beats Per Minute) movie. And, oh dear, did Rebotini bring a newfound density to the band's sound. Recorded in legendary Brussels studio ICP (where equally legendary French singer/songwriter Alain Bashung had his habits) with the help of Boris Welsdorf, sound engineer of Einstürzende Neubauten, the production quality is astonishing, densifying each track's musical universe and fully integrating the synthetic within the organic. Every drum fill is carefully accompanied by a soft synth accentuating the rhythmic regime in place, thus granting a dancy feel to the album - if it makes you think of LCD Soundsystem, well, Rebotini also worked with the Murphy gang.

Opener "Un Monde Nouveau" operates in this vein, its cybernetic nature sublimating the rocky groove brought by guitars and drums alike. Likewise, "Cantique" masterfully blends in the indietronica nods into Feu!'s rockier background into a "shake-yo-ass" post-punk banger epitomizing James Murphy's shadow looming over the project. It almost goes into caricature with "Écran Total", where 80s-like basses work in unison with the organic drums - but! When the kitsch almost feels like it's taking too much space, the band rises together into a crescendo appealing to each of the musicians' intensity. Elsewhere, the synthetic takes over the organic, like on the nostalgic "Cristaux Liquides" or on "Ces Bijoux de Fer", and it's in these moments that the bass' depth is palpable, synths and bass - both performed by Antoine Wilson - offering profound waves to accentuate Raphaël de Pressigny's drumming patterns. Yet, Feu! never forget they started their petite entreprise as a rock band: 9-minute epic "Libre" sees the two "shredders" Sébastien Wolf and Clément Doumic testify to their love for Television and angular post-punk in general.

"Ok yes that sounds very nice" you might think - and you'd be right to hold such a thought -, "but where's the Frenchness in this"? Well, French chanson nods are mostly displayed through singer Arthur Teboul's delivery, singing in the classic French way - think Jacques Brel (who's a Belgian dude by the way), Serge Gainsbourg, or Bashung - but with grandiloquence only women icons like Barbara ever attained - "La Mer" being a prime example of such turgidity. This declamatory way of singing is but a testimony of the band's background. It's so dandy, so Parisian - no wonder, the five members met each other at Louis-Le-Grand, one of the most elite Parisian high schools, and all pursued studies in prestigious Parisian universities. The "upper middle class" pédance is just all too evident - Bourdieu would have loved to assimilate these chaps into his Distinction. There thus lies an underlying pompous - almost show-off - posture that might not displease y'all non-frogs, but it eventually brings back the good old French bourgeois hate only a country modernly built by bourgeoisie could possibly - and very unironically, I swear - hold so dearly. Notwithstanding these Franco-centric considerations, the singer draws not only his singing style from French greats but also his poetry: works from Baudelaire and Apollinaire have been meshed into the lyrics, while Prévert's "Compagnons" is turned into a full musical piece. It's even more impressive that Palais d'Argile's lyrical content has got absolutely nothing to do with old timers' considerations: acknowledgments to the past are only used for their formulas, not their content. Palais d'Argile tackles cold modernity with, successively, nostalgia, optimism, and irony, with enough wit and vitality to avoid bleakness. These are tales narrating humanity atrophied by technology, where the dandy feels lost within this brand new world, rubbing nostalgia all over their postmodern gangrene, yet never forgetting to let hope infiltrate their heart. Lyrically, as well as musically, there persists a tenacious eagerness to remember, praise, and eventually craft beauty and elegance.

With all that in mind, this is arguably the band's most subtle record yet, thus suffering from a bit less vigor than their previous albums, but this relative lack of "oomph" nevertheless feels more rewarding thanks to the higher focus on songwriting - the intensity going up to 11 on "Écran Total" is short, but all the more satisfying thanks to the way it naturally flows from the calmer introduction. Palais d'Argile also does endure a slight midway dull, but, a) this dip in quality is so minimal it could only be referred to as "the least great part of the record", and, b) the abundance of lush textures make every single moment worth its length - and that's a mighty feat for a seventy minutes long album. Truth is, it's extremely rare for a French-speaking record to feature such rich instrumentation - no wonder Antoine Fantoine gave this the good ol' yellow flannel treatment.

En résumé, c'est de la bonne came.



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user ratings (19)
3.8
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
dedex
Contributing Reviewer
March 31st 2021


7832 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

French AOTY for the moment, and it's not even close. Hard as feck to review, constructive criticism is more than welcome.



Allez, encanaillez-vous, et sortez de votre zone de confort !



Stream: https://open.spotify.com/album/5CeSn89NE60Az4dCtkqfWi?si=WRNSZ_NeRJOH_1QVd0CxHg

JesperL
Contributing Reviewer
March 31st 2021


2951 Comments


ooo croissant, great read dedex! here's a few thingies:
edit: fixy

Digging: Porter Robinson - Nurture

dedex
Contributing Reviewer
March 31st 2021


7832 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

I've already said that to you, but you're the best Jesper! 👑 fix'd

JesperL
Contributing Reviewer
March 31st 2021


2951 Comments


no you < 3
i srsly enjoy reading your reviews of french artists a lot, esp since it's a music scene i know approximately nothing about. v educational :]

dedex
Contributing Reviewer
April 1st 2021


7832 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Thank you, that means a lot!

DivergentThinking
Contributing Reviewer
April 1st 2021


9450 Comments


lol, I was about to comment what Jesper said. Yeah, I love the cultural education of reviews like these... I've been thinking about branching out a bit more as well so I can reach scenes and genres that don't get enough love here.

Maybe I'll be the jazz contrib ;]

Great review as well, invisi-pos!

dedex
Contributing Reviewer
April 1st 2021


7832 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Cheers Divergent, it's indeed nice to cover unknown shit here - although it's clearly not the kind of rev that brings out people

DivergentThinking
Contributing Reviewer
April 1st 2021


9450 Comments


Unfortunately that's the demotivating aspect of it. I remember I did a review of Sweet Georgia Peach by Russell Malone back in 2018, and it was a jazz album I was super passionate about... and barely anyone read it, lol

dedex
Contributing Reviewer
April 1st 2021


7832 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Yeah imma slow down the French revs for that reason. Although it's a super fun exercise it's not worth making it more than an occasional thang

zelenichajnik
April 1st 2021


618 Comments


Bloody hell. Fantastic write-up dedex, I adore your Franco-Belgian reviews as well :] I had to read that penultimate paragraph about three times to make sure I understood it, but that's my dopey slow head.

'Palais d'Argile tackles cold modernity with, successively, nostalgia, optimism, and irony, with enough wit and vitality to avoid bleakness. These are tales narrating humanity atrophied by technology, where the dandy feels lost within this brand new world, rubbing nostalgia all over their postmodern gangrene, yet never forgetting to let hope infiltrate their heart. Lyrically, as well as musically, there persists a tenacious eagerness to remember, praise, and eventually craft beauty and elegance.'

faaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrkkkkkk that's magnificent

Bedex
April 1st 2021


2681 Comments


dedeking strikes again m/

dedex
Contributing Reviewer
April 1st 2021


7832 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Cheers bros you rule 🙌

Trifolium
April 2nd 2021


24225 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This looks cool dedex I'm going to check it. Lovely review too, as said by so many already 💖



"that's the demotivating aspect of it."

Really recognisable but we are doing great work with these lesser known album reviews! It's a fine line I guess.

anatelier
April 4th 2021


4105 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

1/3 of the way in and this is an absolute treat

dedex
Contributing Reviewer
April 5th 2021


7832 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

my boi anat with the righteous take

anatelier
April 5th 2021


4105 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

a long album that is able to hold my attention for the duration is doing something right

dedex
Contributing Reviewer
April 5th 2021


7832 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

yes! thought exactly the same thing

Trifolium
April 8th 2021


24225 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

dedex this is mega lovely!!!! Can't wait for summer and jamming this!

dedex
Contributing Reviewer
April 8th 2021


7832 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

SO glad you like this Trif! It def satisfies the summery needs

dedex
Contributing Reviewer
April 8th 2021


7832 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Love how it explodes during "Écran Total"



ON LES METTRA JAMAIS TES PUTAINS DE LUNETTES SPÉCIALES



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