Toog: Lou etendue
Karaoke Kalk

While Lou etendue, the third album from Toog (French musician and poet Gilles Weinzaepflen), presents eccentric electropop similar to that heard on 1999's 6633 and 2001's Easy Toog for Beginners, there is a considerably darker side to the album. He began it on Sept. 11, 2001 after his scheduled flight from Paris to New York was cancelled due to the World Trade Center terrorist attacks. Having met film director Asia Argento (Scarlet Diva) a few days before the flight and inspired by French poet Guillaume Apollinaire's Poems to Lou (written after meeting Louise de Coligny-Chatillon in 1914), Weinzaepflen decided to create a concept album about love during times of terrorism. The project was initially released in Japan in November, 2001 as a four-track mini-album titled Anna Lou but two years later Weinzaepflen decided to expand it into a full-length project. Interestingly, the result, Lou etendue, is still a mini-album of sorts as its ten richly arranged songs total a mere thirty-three minutes.

It's full of marked contrasts. There are instrumental and vocal pieces, songs that are sung versus spoken (“Les 9 portes” features a recited Apollinaire poem backed by electric piano), French and English lyrics, and music that alternates between sunnier and darker moods. While some songs maintain a verse-chorus structure, many are more collage-like in approach; consequently, the album is better broached as a streaming whole than as individual pieces. “Opening” conveys the instrumental tone immediately with its vertiginous swirls of electronics and simple clicking beats but what's more memorable is the dramatic piano theme. Brighter moods are nurtured by the bright electropop synths and harpsichord in “Les belles endormies,” the electric piano-glockenspiel pairing in “Etendue,” and the music box melodies in “Boîte à musique”; Toog and producer Digiki evoke Jan Jelinek's sound with the tearing beat textures in “A son cou” while a hardcore sound dominates the industrial guitar pop of “Terroriste.” The strongest piece, however, is the melancholy “Ugly Ducklings” which backs Argento's spoken reminiscences with dense accordion playing and dark synth themes. In the transition from speaking to singing (“Again and again until it disappears…”), the song becomes wistful, even poignant.

What makes Lou etendue especially interesting is that it appears to be little more than a slight mini-album of light-hearted electronic vignettes yet it's deepened by a strong undercurrent of seriousness and melancholy. Apparently, Weinzaepflen himself described it as “an electronic swamp, filled with water lilies and poisoned creatures,” an apt characterization as it acknowledges the murkier depths lurking below its more inviting surfaces.

October 2004