by Dan Grunebaum
The French techno veteran goes downtempo on his new album
Fat, acid beats and a wicked sense of humor characterized
Laurent Garnier's last artist album, 2000's
Unreasonable Behavior, and have been a hallmark of his productions
since he debuted with his first LP, Shot in the Dark, in 1995.
But in an interview held during his most recent Japan tour,
Garnier said that his new album, The Cloud Making Machine,
just released on his F Communications label and distributed
in Japan by Hostess, is different. "I've made
quite a lot of tracks that are much less dance-floor orientated:
more cinematic...moody...dark, with live instruments."
Still working on the album at the time, he explained that
he'd recently composed a film score for a movie about
homelessness in France, and that he reworked some of those
themes for the new album.
Perhaps amazingly for a DJ who's been on the dance
music merry-go-round for going on two decades, Garnier retains
his sense of humor. "Controlling the House Pt. 2,"
for example, is a tart disco number in which he seems to poke
fun at himself as the all-powerful DJ.
But for the most part, Garnier keeps his beatmaking in the
background and evokes more contemplative moods, helped by
a number of musicians who he called on to collaborate on the
album. Norwegian pianist Bugge Wesseltoft is prominent among
them: after joining Garnier onstage at the Sonar and Montreux
Jazz festivals, Wesseltoft went into the studio with the DJ
for what turned out to be the title track of the album.
"The Cloud Making Machine Pt. 1" is a freeform
excursion that sees Wesseltoft laying down improvisational
jazz keyboard lines over Garnier's cool rhythm tracks.
Also participating on the album is Tunisian singer and oud
player Dhafer Youssef, who turns in a haunting performance
on the Arabian-flavored "Huis Clos."
While the album does signal a change of pace for the DJ, one
thing one that differentiates it from most electronica albums
is that, despite its downtempo flavor, it still bears a distinct
Garnier imprint. Simply put: no one sounds close.
If someone somewhere is keeping records on which DJ claims
the longest residency, then Garnier would have to be near
the top of the list. At the grand old age of 38, he's
already had sixteen years behind the decks at club Rex in
For better or worse, Garnier in some ways represents the situation
dance music finds itself in: still relatively young, but already
having seen it all. Since catching the dance bug in the late
'80s acid house boom as an employee of the French embassy
in London, and after getting his DJing feet wet at Manchester's
legendary Hacienda, Garnier has been an essential figure in
European club culture, almost single-handedly putting French
house on the map.
He's also been a key tastemaker, introducing listeners
worldwide to successive waves of dance music, from acid house
to techno to breakbeats. As a DJ, he insists that he has "no
style," but as a producer, Garnier's sound is
Looking back on his Rex residency, Garnier says that in his
native Paris, the scene seems to be locked in a status quo.
"I can't really call it healthy," he
says. "It's not growing larger or smaller. It's
the same as it's always been. There are three or four
clubs playing interesting music, and the rest is commercial."
On the other hand, he thinks Japan possesses one of the healthiest
club scenes in the world. "Every single time has been
memorable," he enthuses about his many visits, the
latest of which will bring him to Ageha for its second anniversary
and Yellow for an installment of Spice! "It's
by far the most open-minded crowd in the world. Japanese are
passionate about music, know a lot about it, expect anything
and everything from a DJ, and accept anything. Yellow is my
home-a bit like the Rex, it's been there for
such a long time. For me, Yellow is one of those clubs that
means a lot."
Ageha, Dec 18 and Yellow, Dec 20.
See club listings for details.
credit: F Comm
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