Part of the pleasure of outfits like Stereolab or The Beta Band is their use of repetition in the studio, to penetrate you’re your aural senses with not so much of a hook, necessarily, as a feeling, a mood, or a state of mind. The studio is, in essence, their chemistry experiment: an utter overlaying of tracks and sounds and noises to simulate the feel of a complete whole. The lyrics are secondary: you listen each time to find something new, a different sound that has crept into the mix without your knowledge. It may be in inadvertent cough or some other accident, but it only enhances the overall value. But it’s certainly not about the words (more so for The Beta Band, granted). Sure, it can occasionally backfire, because you can overdo everything. But that’s part of the fun.
Apparently, the folks in Velma thought it sounded pretty fun, too, because Cyclique follows essentially the same pattern, if you can call it that. Cyclique is, at times, an absurdly jam packed effort which tries to feed you every emotion possible through sound. But it’s in abundance and exaggeration where real transcendence can occur. Again, though, that’s where the fun is. Bring it on.
For the most part, it’s a hypnotic, trance-like affair from start to finish. Though admittedly a minor factor on the complete whole, singer Cristophe Jaquat’s voice walks the intriguing line between PJ Harvey and Billy Corgan, and when you hear the fragile emotion on “Vitamine,” you’re immediately hooked. Perhaps intentionally, it contains the most lyrics of any of the songs on Cyclique, perhaps to mislead you. Who knows. And there’s the inane “Ping Pong,” starting with two minutes of loud distortion over an audience cheer, and culminating in three more of an a capella chorus of the words “ping” and “pong,” likely imitation the perceived sound of a match through song. Genius or dementia, I’m not sure. But supremely interesting nonetheless. Or take “Masquerade,” which needs three minutes of a wave crashing and a shrill metallic chime before any semblance of rhythm or purpose can be observed. Luckily, a hollow beat and a sleek keyboard riff save it for the remaining five minutes. It’s cathartic and mesmerizing, as is much of the record. But “Orange” is the real enigmatic delight, a six-minute opus with one line (perhaps: “We just have to figs [freaks], here [yeah]).” It begins with a beat not unlike a cricket tap dancing, and builds instrumentally behind, over, and around the lyric until more tapping enters, new beats, the lion’s roar of a guitar, and a furious drum beat take over. Lead this into a conclusion of the lyric, still cycling, looped over uncontrollable laughter. It’s giddy and disturbing at the same time.
Cyclique celebrates the glory of ambient noise and repetition for the sake of melody and fluid aural continuity. It is a soundtrack to an acid trip you haven’t yet taken, one which celebrates the pleasure of sound as an avenue for artistic expression without regards, or the need, for meaning. And it’s pretty good, too.