By Jordan Mooney.
2017, if you judge from our email inbox, is a pretty dry year so far. (Perhaps we’re impatient. It’s only the 14th of January.) So you can imagine our immense relief to see a message from a suspicious, tall, bowler-hatted stranger from Bulgaria, letting us know he had something from 2016 we may have missed…
This is an instantly unpredictable piece of music. With the level of pedigree stacked behind it, one immediately felt very tentative popping it into the CD drive. Anything involving Nasso and Ivo of the legendary Babyface Clan is bound to be out of left field, and with the coming of Les Animaux Sauvages (We don’t actually need to translate that, do we?) you get the impression something is very different. This is the first in a trifecta of Les Animaux Sauvages’ initial assault; Oberlicht.
Everything in the hand seems remarkably minimal, artistic, modern and refined – decidedly unsavage. There’s an unfamiliar face in the form of Bulgarian actress and classical pianist, Sibylla Seraphim, who provides a positively spellbinding, seductive and sensual vocal over the desolate soundscape the group seem to dabble in so ably.
When I hold the CD artwork I’m almost worried I’ll learn something, but, I’m pleased to say, the rules of catchy hooks, disorientating arrangements and unadulterated charisma still stand, perfectly flighted and hitting their target perfectly with every fling of its digital bow.
There’s a real hedonistic sort of vibe to the music; but it’s not in the sense of completely repulsive overindulgence. It feels like that 1960s hedonism that people rant on about as if it was the second coming of Christ; that level of debauchery that was somehow judged as being socially acceptable, intelligent and cultured. Sex, drugs, alcohol and rock and roll are there, but it’s remarkably relaxed and switched on towards creating, rather than self destruction.
The music prescribes itself a certain amount of organic matter – each track develops as its runtime ticks along, and tries to shake off the more predictable stigmas that I, personally, tend to see in Electronica. I almost get the impression they’ve picked up the reference guide and ripped out three quarters of the pages. Every song builds; layer upon layer. It never stays the same for long, and, by the end of it, has revealed itself as a gigantic collage.
The band’s – seemingly self-introductive – track, Les Animaux Sauvages, is a fine example. The jaunt starts with nothing more than Nasso himself in his usual radio presenting role; bawdy as ever – and dismissing the potential of anybody twerking – he almost draws attention away from a seriously funky beat working with machine efficiency in the background, strumming bass along like a purring motor. More and more people, sounds, vibes and ideas seem to steadily pop into this fictional radio station, and the live session – while remaining a sublime, well oiled machine, spirals into its own. It reminds me a bit of a post-modern reinterpretation of a ringmaster presenting his cosmic musical circus. All very odd – and almost aggressively, self laudingly original, but utterly fascinating to hear. It’s the most ‘regular’, the most identifiable single on the record. A rare touch of a more accessible humanity to the music that, the rest of the time, seems rather self-contained.
Certain sparks of the music feel far more welcoming and ‘friendly’ than others. The rest seem predominantly strange and exotic, and the fun loving, debauched elements all too easily seem to slip into a come down (or maybe a larger trip?) of strange shapes and colours. An even tone it ain’t; but it has a character all of its own, and I don’t think it’s aiming for a straight line.
As a vocalist, the multi-lingual Sibylla forms a sensual and sultry role; long, extended whispers that travel right through you. All host of verbal poetry runs forth along the mysterious landscapes of computer chips and circuit boards – and, through an echo or a hush, her voice manages to really worm down into the ribcage. It’s almost impossible, by sound, to put a face to the voice. She manages to become an almost omnipotent force, a separate entity. As the groovier, catchier and funkier tracks fade into more echoing, lonely environs, she changes with them. It’s her identifiable narration that makes her seem all-viewing, all-commanding and haunting.
The best way I can describe the album is one that’s born to be expressed in soundwave art. It’s mysterious, it’s creative, it’s a bit cheeky and it doesn’t particularly care if you understand it or not. It has a level of elegance that drapes over a fierce, dog-eat-dog personality. It’s got an aggression, but only if you poke around for it. It’ll strike like a viper if you aren’t fully prepared. If you approach it correctly, it’s basking – basking in the soft electric glow of the world around it. A bit like the aftermath of a robotic orgy.
One of my favourite tracks by far is ironically a bit of a flex in simplicity, and the shortest track on the record. Lalalala, rather predictably, is scant on dialogue; but carves a seriously tense set of imagery, dark and haunting. Anybody who listens will, I’m sure, pick up something different. It pulses, it rattles, and the time ticks along far faster than it may appear. Echoing vocals, a series of hums, fizzes, crackles and thumps travelling from the speakers with every passing.
Ultimately, Oberlicht feels inspired. I can’t quite tell you what it’s inspired by, if the quiet, deft little sparks of atmosphere are intentional, or what a record like this is best used for – but I can tell you it’s adaptable. For days, I’ve been listening to it in different settings – my home, walking down streets, on a bus, in my office – the effect is different each time, and the landscape changes and moulds to your ear. It’d work as easily in radio podcasts, mixes or clubs.
It’s a seriously odd little record. It feels like it’s watching you, waiting for you to make your move. If it wasn’t for its breaking of the fourth wall in Les Animaux…, it’d be easy to believe not a single man or woman has touched the album. It all feels truly lost in itself; perhaps even loveably self obsessed.
Personally? I can’t wait to see what the Sauvages have lined up next. I always love an album that can enchant and enthral, yet confuse and tense in the same breath. I can’t judge fully on the subject matters or themes; certain elements are obvious, while some seem utterly out of left field. I have a feeling that the constant barrage of changing tones and languages are there for a reason – to provide more disorientation, loss to the senses and a touch of exoticism for people like I, the uni-lingual uncultured masses.
There is absolutely nothing stopping you from exploring Oberlicht further, armed with a translator. I enjoy a sense of well-dressed mystery, and, for me, the deeper details may be left alone for my own grey matter to imagine.
To ignore this piece is criminal; give it a look. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
This one goes out to all the people who like deviance, debauchery and adventure. And basically.. having a fucking peaky…
Les Animaux Sauvages are:
Sibylla Seraphim – vocal, synthesizer
Ivo Stoyadinov Charlie – guitar, synthesizer, programming
Nasso Ruskov – lead vocals on track 3, live maniacism