Le Loup The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly

[Hardly Art; 2007]

Styles: lopsided folktronica, neo-hippy goo
Others: Califone, The Books, Animal Collective

With no fewer than five exclamation marks in the song titles alone and an unwieldy album title in an era of unwieldy album titles, Le Loup might seem to reel toward the listener like a boggle-eyed toddler from a bouncy castle. They probably have a lot of exuberance and don't seem capable of tempering it (whooo! right?). But there's more than just kids finger-painting their spirit animals going on here; something wicked this way comes. Amid the crusty-eyed banjos and precious keyboard arpeggios unfolds a tale of resurrection and redemption that might be based on Dante's Inferno (like they want you to believe) or, more likely, on someone's near-death experience.

The album-opening monologue implies someone must have taken some bad DXM in the past year, a conjecture borne out by the morbid, psychedelic lyric sheet. Every line seems breathless on paper, a
little desperate: "O, love is shaped liked cities burning, sifting through the ashes after, we will find your life in laughter." The world is so flipping weird (!). We are so mortal and our brains are so full (!). Not meditations on death or the afterlife, these are more like anxious exhortations to seize your precious pleasures, squeeze your prize until its eyes bleed.

The momentum in their finest moments comes from their sparse, gripping chord changes. Check the intimidating piano note dropped in "Planes like Vultures" while voices like rising smoke chant "oh this world was made for ending!" (their exclamation mark. Whooo!). The voices are the real stars of the show, not just because of evolutionary psychology, but because the group really know how to pull off convincing rounds and chorales with a timbre somewhere between The Notwist and Avey Tare. One reservation comes from the mostly unadorned filler tracks of which there are mercifully few. Essentially, you get either a repetitious banjo or a repetitious drone. It's a danger this group risks for reasons of atmosphere, but nonetheless quietly undoes their frosty tension.

Le Loup avoid reliance on rootsy hodgepodge in favor of a winnowed, introspective groove. It would be a considerable stretch to call them poppy, but they have a refreshing ear for immediately pleasurable vocal hooks set to disarmingly simple folktronica. Fortunately, they don't let the medium upstage the songs. How they synthesize recent fads for live folk instrumentation, digital fuckery, and untethered melodies situates them as part of this genre's second wave, with the perspective to cull their favorite elements from an experimental fringe. For a debut, The Throne is mighty auspicious. If you enjoy apocalyptic hand-wringing served up on a bed of woozy, creaky glitch-folk, then... To the stores! To the stars! To the BitTorrents!

Most Read