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Songs On the Rocks

Nôze

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Album Review

For all the contributions the French have made to electronic dance music in the past ten years, from Daft Punk's era-defining filter-house to the more recent bangers of Justice et al., it's striking how little of it has been overtly, recognizably French in attitude or musical aesthetic. Parisian duo Nôze go a fair distance toward amending that discrepancy, displaying a (stereo)typically Gallic ability to maintain an air of sophistication and vague superciliousness while indulging an utterly bizarre and often vulgar sense of humor, à la the paradigmatically Frenchy Serge Gainsbourg. Songs on the Rocks, their third full-length and highest-profile release to date, appears on the German imprint Get Physical, which is hardly inappropriate, given a rhythmic drive that's closer to that label's teutonic tech-house than French Touch neu-disco, and following Booka Shade's inclusion of "Slum Girl" in their DJ Kicks volume. Nevertheless, it's easily their Frenchiest outing to date, featuring prominent vocals, either in French or heavily-accented English, on every track save one (the luscious, jazzy flute and percussion workout "Ethiopo") and making explicit their connection to the long-running chanson tradition, the classic pop likes of Gainsbourg, and more recent inheritors like Arthur H. Essentially, they've made good on the promise of "songs" — as suggested by the album title and foreshadowed by the popular singles "Kitchen" and "Remember Love" — while mostly jettisoning the rangier experiments of their earlier releases, thereby making this also their most accessible album yet. It's still a far cry from conventional though, especially when Nicolas Sfintescu unleashes the full power of his distinctively, er, froggy voice, an absurd and sometimes frightening growl that can range from comical to unbearable, depending on your tolerance for unhinged Tom Waits-isms and vichyssoise-thick shtick. On the album's pair of demented quasi-epics — "Childhood Blues" and the "cinematic" "Slum Girl" — that voice is just obnoxiously overbearing, dripping with (respectively) caricatured anguish and spy movie sleaze, and likely a deal-breaker for many listeners, but it's a good deal easier to take in clipped, chipper bursts, and in conjunction with other voices, on twitchy, light-on-their-feet groovers like opener "L'Inconnu du Placard" and the aptly named "You Have to Dance," and the cabaret-style stomp "Little Bug." Meanwhile, Sfintescu is nowhere to be heard on the slinky charmer (and first single) "Danse Avec Moi," a smoldering duet between go-to microhouse chanteuse Dani Siciliano (an American, though you wouldn't know it) and French singer David Lafore. And then there's "Remember Love," one of the absolute highlights of 2007 when it was first issued as a single, and the undeniable standout here, built around a simple but maddeningly effective Chicago house piano figure and an effortlessly funky skip-step groove, with lyrics that touch on barroom infidelity, talking zebras, and the universality of love. That track's simplicity and classicism (musically, at least) might have led fans to expect even more of a departure from Nôze on this album, but while it does trend in a more broadly palatable direction, Songs on the Rocks is more of a progression than a wholesale change from their typical oddball antics. Still, listeners drawn in by "Remember Love" (which would be worth the price of admission on its own) may well find the rest of the album nearly as enjoyable, in its own quirky way. Particularly if they have a taste for Époisses de Bourgogne. ~ K. Ross Hoffman, Rovi

Customer Reviews

Songs on the Rocks

(taken from press info) Nôze are Nicolas Sfintescu and his friend and fellow troublemaker Ezechiel Pailhes. United by a shared love of pianos, straw hats and stripping down to the waist in public, Ezechiel and Nicolas have been perpetrating various acts of musical mirth and mischief since 2004. However, there is more to Nôze than thumping techno rhythms, dancefloor-smashing basslines and a man wailing and growling like a TCP-afflicted Tom Waits. No, really, there is! Ladies and gentlemen, we give you Songs On The Rocks, the third album by Nôze and without a doubt their most musical and varied offering yet.

Tres.... tres....

Tres bon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Maravilhoso...... Wonderful Keep it up! Carolina

Biography

Formed: 2004 in Paris, France

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '00s

A free-wheeling, fun-loving, genre-bending electronica outfit whose records are just as likely to recall improvisatory 1920s Parisian jazz blow-outs as 21st century electro-house or (so-called) "minimal" techno, Nôze comprises the duo of stepbrothers Nicolas Sfintescu and Ezechiel Pailhès. Pailhès is a classically trained pianist who studied at the Academy of Music in Paris, while Sfintescu, who also performs under the name DJ Freak, is a founding member of Circus Company, a techno label that's home...
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Songs On the Rocks, Nôze
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