Article by KevW
'Château-Fantôme' is the third album by Parisian electronic artist Animaux Surround, and once again he's taken the one-man-band approach, writing and recording this album "along for everybody". From the word go it's something of a contradiction musically, with opener 'Not So Quite' having faint echoes of late '70s Bowie as well as early Gary Numan. Yet the shade that's found towards the start of the song is contrasted by a more uplifting sound and lyrics about it being "a nice day". It makes or a pleasant beginning and is arguably one of the more accessible tracks here, although this contradiction gets enhanced by second track 'Injures' which is slightly more lo-fi and has more distant, almost muffled vocals. That said, this song again shows contrast with some elegant piano.
One of the most interesting parts of 'Château-Fantôme' is that is doesn't stay in the same place too long, but neither does it flit aimlessly between genres and result in an inconsistent listen. 'A Minor', for example, keeps those pared-down vocals, but brings in guitar, removing it slightly from the overriding electronic approach. There's a more exotic feel to the bests on 'Dead Lamb' where the vocals are almost monotone and the ambiance of the record changes down again. All this and we're not even half way though; something that signifies an artist who doesn't want to find a formula and adhere to it, and with so many others taking this approach, Animaux Surround should be applauded for that alone.
But the songs keep coming, and the standard doesn't slip. The quiet, soothing piano instrumental 'Sunday After All' acts as a nice surprise and cleanses the palate while it's at it. If we talk about contrasts again, then switching from that to the most upbeat track here, 'Spit (stupid song)', just about says it all, with fuzzed-out guitar colliding with retro electronics and an angrier tone. Yet then it's back to a slow acoustic intro on 'Almost Empty' which has just a hint of The Beatles to it, and very little of the electronica we've come to expect on past recordings. With delicate strings and an unusual, proggish ending, it's actually something of a highlight. It's 'Ghost House' that provides the overall finale, and it does so by tackling prog again, but not the wispy beards and fairytale leanings that the early British scene had, instead choosing to look towards some of the European experimentalists for inspiration and turning out to be another of the more interesting songs on 'Château-Fantôme'. You can't say this is a man lacking ideas, and he's not afraid to show it.
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