The Montreal duo Essaie pas’ newest release, Demain est un autre nuit, is very reminiscent of the old saying about March. It starts with the loud roar of a lion and finishes with the gentle introspection of a lamb. Essaie pas is comprised of husband-wife pair Marie Davidson and Pierre Guerineau, who share the duty of playing keyboard and the occasional vocal contribution. Marie comes from a long list of other musical groups, while Pierre plays the role of music engineer for bands such as Dirty Beaches and Femminielli. The duo, under this name, is signed to the notorious New York label DFA (think LCD Soundsystem). Demain est un autre nuit is pretentious dance music for the art film crowd, at times both retro (think Francophone Kraftwerk) and avant-garde.
Essaie pas push the envelope just enough to provide an effortless, and commendable, blend between the retired retro sounds of the 70s and 80s European dance clubs and the new IDM and EBM scene. Hard, industrial beats feature in almost every track, overlaid with hazy synth layers and other piercing keyboard accents. Many tracks feature at least some French vocals, mostly used for punctuation and layering. Davidson and Guerineau trade off depending on the sound they want to cultivate; Davidson’s light, floating French adds a gentle, sometimes haunting touch to otherwise aggressive beats, whereas Guerineau’s deadpan transports you to 1970s Germany. The last few tracks of the album lend a softer ply to the otherwise inflexible, unyielding pace that pervades most of Demain est une autre nuit, lending a sensual edge to the opus.
Among Demain est une autre nuit, certain tracks definitely stand out. The titular track kicks off the fête with fuzz and strings, layered with haunting and incoherent lyrics supplied by Davidson. “Retox” blasts in with sirens, a hard bass beat, and Guerineau’s robotic monotone; you can almost visualize a turtlenecked crowd doing the robot under strobe lights as the track plays in the background. “Carcajou 3″ follows right after, with layered synth, hand claps, and plucked keyboards for emphasis. Davidson’s vocals are in the stratosphere, passing in and out of the rhythm. After an interlude of bare synth, the layering begins anew with added background vocals to support Davidson’s repeated “Carcajou.” “Facing the Music” is an almost entirely instrumental track, with minimalist dance beats fading in and out. The layering in this track is masterful, starting out with a simple bass and building up in delayed intervals before a monk-like chant is added in the last minute. The result is spooky, intense, and definitely unique. “La Chute,” an homage to Camus’ “The Fall,” is a simmering final track that slows the album down to a stop. Organ-like synth accompanies a slow bass track and Guerineau’s spoken-word lyrics. Synths reminiscent of choir vocalists fade in and out, adding an almost reverent tone to the track. It is a peculiar way to end a dance album, but not an unwelcome one.
Overall, Demain est une autre nuit alternates between an exhilarating and curious take on today’s dance scene. It is certainly a welcome change to the cliché dance tracks heard on the radio and in clubs, though albeit attractive to a niche crowd. Essaie pas masterfully connects the dots between the Eurodance tracks of yesteryear and the expanded keyboard options of today, creating a sound that is both nostalgic and fresh.
Album released: February 19, 2016
–review by Juliana Van Amsterdam