Wednesday, 3 October 2012

REVIEW: Jonathan Boulet - We Keep The Beat, Found The Sound, See The Need, Start The Heart

*Originally published for the Oxford Music Blog (1/10/12)

"Oh my god, you’re dead, oh my god, you’re not dead"/"It’s all real, you’re a fake.”
These are just a few of the paradoxical lyrics etched into multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Boulet’s sophomore effort, We Keep The Beat, Found The Sound, See The Need, Start The Heart, which paint pictures of a somewhat troubled 24-year-old. But the fickle nature of Boulet’s lyrics is unfalteringly swamped with vibrant tribal percussion and choral chants that actually work to juxtapose Boulet’s oft-melancholic stories. This to-ing and fro-ing between bright music and heavy wordplay immediately presents something a bit different and perhaps worth lending your ears to.
Opener ‘You’re A Animal’ (Boulet’s grammar) acts as a one-song montage for the entire album. Ferocious primal drums, dissonant brass and cock-sure power chords make a premature statement that this album is all about relentless ENERGY. 
Not one to hush for long, Boulet leads us straight from the plummeting, ‘You’re A Animal’, into the startling marimba-pop of ‘This Song Is Called Ragged.’ Excusing the incorrect musical ethnicity, but imagine an Indonesian gamelan on steroids and you’re there. Attention has clearly been paid to penning the vast, unyielding rhythm section; it seems Boulet has hardcore in his blood or a similar high-energy rock genre.
The first few songs on the record stage a tedious saga of pounding drums, but ‘Dread Is This Place’ and ‘Hallowed Hag’ offer much deeper, and different, textures. ‘Dread Is This Place’ goes all Animal Collective with soaring multi-layered harmonies and mashed-up psychedelic melodies, but ‘Hallowed Hag’ one-ups it with goose bump-inducing melodies, flamenco rhythms and spindly guitar chords that crawl over Boulet’s rasping vocals.
‘Mangle Trang’ and ‘FM AM CB TV’ are strong examples of Boulet overdoing it on the percussion front, with trigger-sharp drums spewing all over melodies that would have, at the very most, benefited from light rhythms. Chamber-pop melodies lie at the heart of ‘Piao Voca Slung’ and album-closer ‘Cent Voix’, which thankfully deviate from Boulet’s obsession with crashes, bangs and wallops. Unfortunately, the former doesn’t promise a complete recess from drilling percussion, but he clearly is a rhythms man and lets that remain at the centre of his songwriting.
We Keep The Beat, Found The Sound, See The Need, Start The Heart is sometimes wonderful and sometimes not. Wisps of ingenuity flutter about the songs’ surfaces, penetrating intermittently into deeper, emotional depths.  The clattering of drums, however, is always thumping at the back of your head, and regardless of the Boulet’s remarkable musical talent, you begin to get a bit of a headache.

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