Fifteen years ago, MTV UK aired a special on the French house phenomenon. Although the actual genre antedated the term by over a decade, the special arguably provided the first introduction to the unique French blend of disco, electronic techno music, and four-on-the-floor house music that included artists such as Daft Punk and Stardust. The genre has undergone a host of permutations since then, with Air scoring soundtracks and Daft Punk looking to house’s past in funk. Not the least of these innovators is filmmaker and beatmaker Mr Oizo – real name Quentin Dupieux – who signed to Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder label to release his fifth full-length studio release, The Church.
It’s not an unwelcome nor is it an entirely left-field decision for either Dupieux or FlyLo. Dupieux’s releases as Mr Oizo – an English corruption of the French word “oiseau,” meaning “bird” – features a curious mix of French house with American hip-hop stylings. The downbeat-heavy turntablism of DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing…, the clubby bombasticism of Matthewdavid’s pre-In My World recordings, and the avant-garde eclecticism of FlyLo are all easily heard in Dupieux’s production. It’s not a bad synthesis – it certainly deserves remix treatment – and although The Church is a relatively middling affair, it is enjoyable.
For the sake of clubbing, The Church is a pretty tight release. Destop and Ham are both absolutely spot-on for a Friday night; they’re downbeat-heavy tracks with layered percussion samples, and the tracks do well by not being so penetratingly intense that movement is impossible, of which Brainfeeder artists are occasionally guilty. Opening track Bear Biscuit will be well-placed on any Friday night party set. The album as a whole flows pretty well through each track – tracks aren’t mixed to transition like a DJ set, but there is a clean consistency.
The biggest fault in Dupieux’s stars is his choice of vocal samples. Dry Run has a constantly evolving set of glitched-out eskibeat samples and evolving dubstep beats, but the song almost all of its appeal due to a repeated “scream for daddy” vocal samples, of which there are too many disconcerting connotations that cannot be ignored. Closing track The Church tells a surreal story over Gil Scott-Heron & Jamie xx We’re New Here beats, the latter of which would have been fine on their own. The drawling spoken word delivery is often at odds with the driving beat, especially in the first one-third of the track. The story of watching movies about cancer, playing on iPhones, and stealing cars to go to church (Moses is gonna be pissed) is not bizarrely funny nor is it charmingly awkward – it’s flat, and screams the worst of indie-irony.
Despite the album’s track-by-track consistency, The Church is a relatively one-noted release, especially in comparison with Brainfeeder’s other signatories. This is further made problematic by the album’s sub-half hour running time: it’s shorter than many electronic artists’ EPs, so capturing – and retaining – an audience’s attention is requisite. Machyne and Torero use the same four-on-the-floor house beats that work with the rest of the album.
In the context of the always-progressive French house movement, there’s little in the way of boundary-pushing on The Church that isn’t done in a more successful manner elsewhere. iSoap has an engaging jazz-inspired DnB loop that nods to FlyLo’s work and The Church does have its spoken word story – as ill-advised as it is – but that’s pretty much all there is to say about it. Dupieux is five albums into his music career, a number at which artists either push themselves or get stuck in producing the same albums. Dupieux is dangerously close to the latter. It’s a fun listen, there’s more to house music than a few beats.