Julien Neto: Le fumeur de ciel
Type Records

In keeping with its title, there's a distinctly European quality to the music on Parisian Julien Neto's debut album, more precisely an evocation of elegant, centuries-past French culture that wafts slowly through the music's aromatic chambers. The electroacoustic soundscapes that comprise Le Fumeur De Ciel are haunting and meditative vignettes that coalesce into a 43-minute whole, much like verses collectively forming a longer poem. That there's a 'literary' suggestiveness to the album shouldn't surprise, as Neto based parts of the recording on the writings of Keats.

The album's mysterious aura is established immediately by brooding electronic themes and piano phrasing in an “I (One)” overture; a haunting flute merges with portentous strings and scattered harp plucks in the subsequent “Sketch,” the song perhaps most representative of Neto's style. Ghostly, slow-motion atmospheres unfurl throughout, sometimes accompanied by subtle percussive rhythms (“Voy”) and at others by reverberant, surging loops and voice murmurs (“V (Rivers)”).

The integration of contemporary sounds is more satisfying when they bolster the quality of chamber romanticism; in “IV (Keats),” for example, electronic ripples become textures that enhance the ambiance of the song's sombre string melodies. On the other hand, opening “Questionable Things” with a brief Twin Peaks sample (featuring FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper's voice) might seem charming but it's also too literal a gesture for Neto's otherwise subtle approach and, furthermore, sounds incongruous next to the plumes of smoky strings and tones that follow it. Interestingly, a slightly different Lynch connection emerges in the strong Badalamenti flavour one hears in the music's brooding portent and the understated hint of menace that lurks beyond its smoke-filled atmospheres. Elegiac and ethereal, Le Fumeur De Ciel is another satisfying chapter in the ongoing Type Records story.

July 2005