It’s nigh on impossible for any reviewer to tackle a Canadian band without mentioning Arcade Fire somewhere. Given the fact that Malajube share the same penchant for luscious sonic anarchy, it makes sense to dispense with lazy journalistic comparisons before anything else. So we’ll say this only once: Arcade Fire.
Based in Montreal, Malajube’s third album since 2004 hits these shores after positive reviews and plenty of airplay in their native Quebec. The band’s wider success in Canada is all the more impressive when you consider all their lyrics are in French. Those who are likely to be put off by this can easily take comfort in the fact that the lyrics only serve to heighten the spaced out, other-worldly qualities of the album. For the first few plays at least, you’ll be concentrating more on the sweeping multi-layered music. Despite it’s unconventional sonic and linguistic stance Labyrinthes has the word “enjoyable” written all over it.
The opening track Ursuline, is an epic calling card announcing something special. Initially sounding like they’ve poached Muse‘s keyboards, other layers immediately arrive until the track is swept along by getting as many instruments and possible to make as much noise as possible. Such an endeavour may seem incomprehensible on paper, but when performed there’s seven minutes of brilliance to be found in the psychedelic union.
Afterwards Malajube settle down a little: The tracks adopt a more conventional four minute length, but the desire to cram as much in as possible is in little danger of subsiding. Tracks such as Luna and Dragon De Glace provide the most accessible highlights with breathless ’60s inspired pop echoing the likes of Os Mutantes. Elsewhere, Casablanca and 333 crank things up a notch by turning the amps up loud and letting rip with more experimental, but no less intriguing landscapes.
There’s something here for everyone: from space-age prog rock to 4AD heyday. The influences for the album are myriad, but you never get the impression that it’s in danger of strangling the band’s own distinctive style.
Labyrinthes is a jubilant album of experimental indie pop that hold ups to the scrutiny of constant plays. You may not have an idea of what’s being sung, but it’s a great album which easily transcends the language barrier… and we didn’t have to mention Arcade Fire in this review after all.