Two years since their last release Demain est une autre nuit, Essaie Pas’ fifth album New Path ratchets up the tempo and mostly discards ’80s nostalgia in favour of dark propulsion inspired by Philip K Dick’s book A Scanner Darkly.
It’s a short album – made up of just six tracks – and it’s as indebted to club culture, with its 4×4 beats and interlocking rhythmic layers, as it is to dystopian science-fiction. Lead single Futur parlé (Future Talk) places French lyrics over a housey bassline and lingering synths, and the combined effect is groovy and eerie at the same time. Eerie is also an appropriate word to describe the final titular track, a beatless excursion with a low industrial hum accompanying dialogue excerpts from A Scanner Darkly (“They gave me a haircut because… that is the second one I have had”).
Complet brouillé (Completely Scrambled) features more spoken excerpts set to a more eccentric backdrop that resembles a sound collage, while Les agents des stups (The Narcotics Agents) powers forward with incessant hi-hats and a hyperactive arpeggiator.
The centrepiece of the album, however, is the bass-heavy Substance M, in which a syncopated synth riff rises out of an ominous reverberating soundscape, only to be devoured by polyrhythms and acid squelches.
The concept of New Path works well, as its icy techno atmosphere is a perfect fit with the dystopia of Philip K Dick’s novel, and ultimately it proves itself to be Essaie Pas’ most purposeful and satisfying release yet.