`Face A L'Est´: Guillaume & The Coutu Dumonts Montreal's mystery tour.

Words by: Cila Warncke
Posted: 2/1/08 12:56

Name notwithstanding, Montreal's Guillaume & The Coutu Dumonts is actually the brainchild and creative output of a chap by the name of Guillaume Coutu Dumont. The slightly fanciful, tongue-in-cheek self-aggrandisation is clearly a deep rooted character trait - his MySpace boasts a sacred-heart Jesus with an Elvis head and the legend "!!!me no dj!!!"

What he is is a wildly gifted and plainly rather eccentric percussionist, composer and musical all-'rounder with a background in Latin and jazz music. He toured and recorded with a contemporary jazz outfit for several years, and says his ambition is to create the "ultimate ham bone funk recipe" with Face A L'est. Presumably definitions of "ham bone funk" are personal and subjective, but it's not how I would choose to describe this colourful album. Tribal tinged neo-jazz electronica, perhaps; or, world music with attitude.

Opener Salaat Linguere is an invocation in Arabic (salaat is the Islamic ritual of daily prayer, Linguere a town in Senegal, a country Guillaume toured extensively with a previous band) which melts into Can't Cheat With Concrete, a richly textured tribal/Eastern influenced techno joint. It melds the soft melancholy of much Middle Eastern music with the taut structures of contemporary dance, and works beautifully. And the weirder Guillaume gets, the better, as seen on standout cut Les Gans, which opens with conventional-enough beats before blossoming into achingly pretty brass-driven, jazz-flecked electronica. Subtle horn flourishes and chiming accents make it the sort of thing that you might find soundtracking a late night BBC2 nature programme, but it's a touch above the usual contemporary jazz malarkey. And it gets more seductive with every listen.

Offsetting the quirky loveliness of these tracks are more traditional electronic cuts. They Only Come Out At Night is a strong statement: a full-bodied 4/4 cut laced with slightly distorted synths and half-sung, half-chanted vocals - all in keeping with the Middle Eastern feel of the record. Both Yenon and Ze Blob boast robust melodies, dripping with funky bass chords for a dancing-barefoot-flowers-in-hair sort of hippie vibe. While Harmattan, with its low key, sexy minimal vibe proves he can do micro-house with the best of them.

However, hacking up Face A L'est track by track doesn't do it any real service. It is that increasingly endangered creature - a proper album. Put it on while you're getting quietly drunk with friends, or sitting next to a beach somewhere watching a long sunset, and you'll appreciate the mischievous musicality as it was intended.


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