Ghislain Poirier: Breakupdown

[13 February 2006]

By Shelton Hull

Ghislain Poirier easily continues the run of tight releases from the Chicago-based Chocolate Industries label, including artists like Money Mark, Lady Sovereign, Vast Aire and Piano Overlord. “Breakupdown” is the label’s 58th title, and Poirier’s fifth album in five years; it combines the freshness of youth with the focus of a well-seasoned professional.

“Harnado” begins it all, with Poirier (a native of Montreal) expounding in French, leading into the instrumental “Don’t Smile, It’s Post-Modern”.  The former college radio DJ turns in an album mostly devoid of lyrics or vocals. Interestingly, the album filed itself as “rock” on the reviewer’s computer, but it’s not really anything near that genre. It’s more like thoughtful club music, with flecks of backpacker rap.

Beans of the seminal Anti-Pop Consortium steps in to drop science on “Cold as Hell”, which could be the first legit banger of 2006. “Synthetic Rhythms” and “Refuse to Lose” are both instrumentals. The former is more jagged, angular even, maybe easier to dance to, while the latter hits a cushion of synthesized strings leading into the skit “Te Wack” and Poirier’s first formal flows on “Riviere de Diamants”, featuring Omnikron.

“Mic Diplomat” features DJ Collage, sounding like Shabba Ranks, mixed down over an old Lil’ Jon beat. That’s just fine. “Diviser Pour Mieux Régner” is a masterpiece of minimalism in capsule form—it’s all hand claps, bass notes and a light flute riff. It comes off like a Folk Implosion remix of Eric Dolphy. “Nowhere to Run” features Lotek Hi-Fi in another lyrical excursion. The hook has flavors of the classic “Guerilla Warfare”, by Dr. Israel and Brooklyn Jungle Sound System, while the flow sounds sort of like Method Man and DMX working in patois.

Poirier’s flow on the closing “Elephant (Partie Un)” rides the beat nicely, though the content of his lyrics are unknown to the non-speaker of French. It doesn’t much matter, though, as his passion for the craft cuts right through the language barrier.

Ghislain Poirier has mostly succeeded in crafting a tight and satisfying sonic experience. It’s hard to get an exact feel for, though, because the music seems to shift from one style / concept to another, and the transitions can be a bit clunky. It sounds more like a sampler or compilation of his recent works than a single comprehensive recording—and that may be part of the album’s polyglot appeal. With more lyrics atop the sumptuous beats, this album would be a lock for classic status. But as it is—well, it’s still very good and by all means worth a look. This will ride out without fail in almost any setting.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/ghislain_poirier_breakupdown/