Music Reviews

Artist: Atonalist feat. Gavin Friday
Title: Atonalism
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Audiotrauma
Atonalist is a collaboration between Renaud-Gabriel Pion and Arnaud Fournier, with Gavin Friday providing vocals on half the tracks. Between them their CV’s have an extremely extensive list of name-drops, everybody from Antony & The Johnsons to Björk to U2. One man whose name isn’t on that list is David Bowie- yet what they’ve managed to create here sounds very much like a missing late 1990’s David Bowie album, or at least a tribute to one. It’s dark electronica with steady rhythms, overlaid with jazz noodling and occasional diversions into hardier and glitcher electronic noise. This is fashionable pop music gone seriously dark.

Gavin Friday’s deep, breathy vocal has more than a few shades of Bowie at his most low-key, particularly in the extremely languid “la la la la la” refrain of opening track “Different To The Others”. The gravelliness also has hints of Dieter Meier at times. Shunning verse-chorus structures for the most part in favour of a more off-the-cuff storytelling approach gives it plenty of character.

“The Philosopher’s Argument” is a highlight, a mellow and atmospheric call-and-response-style instrumental between wind instruments with the most subtle use of electronic clicks as a gentle bed. “Final Prayer” pushes the edgy guitar crunching and white noise before starkly contrasting it with a sombre clarinet, to great effect- an antagonism that’s explored again back-to-front in “Behaviourist”. In other parts, such as “Massacre Of The Pretenders”, the juxtaposition is a little less successful, coming across as uncomfortably awkward.

It’s a deep, genre-defying collection of pieces with an absolutely lush production quality that manages to bring sharp electronic production into a more organic, Brian Eno-ish soundscape with great success. It perhaps runs out of tricks a little before the end of its fifty minute run but nevertheless it still shines brightly.

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