Music

Voivod: Infini

If this is indeed Voivod's final album, you couldn't ask for a finer way to cap off a sterling career.


Voivod

Infini

Label: Relapse
US Release Date: 2009-06-23
UK Release Date: 2009-06-15
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Denis "Piggy" D'Amour's highly unique guitar sound was such an integral part of the music of Voivod that when he succumbed to cancer in late 2005 we had every right to believe that there was no way the band could possibly carry on. Interestingly enough, although D'Amour's time on this earth was running out, he was far from finished musically, writing songs and recording guitar tracks the whole while, and after he passed away, his surviving bandmates -- drummer Michel "Away" Langevin, vocalist Denis "Snake" Belanger, and bassist Jason Newsted -- crafted an album together, working around those completed guitar takes. The resulting full-length, 2006's Katorz, was not only a classy way for the band to pay tribute to such a valuable member, but it turned out to be the most spirited Voivod effort since their ambitious progressive metal trilogy of 1988's Dimension Hatross, 1989's Nothingface, and 1991's Angel Rat.

Although fans were well aware that there was another album's worth of guitar tracks for the band to piece together as a follow-up, it took a great deal of time for Langevin, Belanger, and Newsted to end the grieving process and go full steam ahead once more, with Langevin openly admitting it wasn't until Voivod's triumphant Montreal performance in June of 2008 (with Martyr guitarist Dan Mongrain ably taking D'Amour's place) that the creative spark was lit again. And you can hear the difference on the new record, Infini. The fact that Katorz succeeded in spite of the highly unusual circumstances surrounding the recording was in itself a big story, but with the band settling down and spending more time refining and enhancing the remaining songs the second time around, it makes Infini feel more fleshed-out, more fully-realized, and far less rushed than the previous album.

As far as the actual songs go, stylistically there's not much of a difference from Katorz -- the arrangements very streamlined, focusing more on groove than complexity. Still, as straightforward as tracks like "God Phones" and "From the Cave" may be, a Voivodian groove is unlike anything you will ever hear in metal music. Langevin's fluid beats don't so much anchor the sound as making it glide gracefully, while D'Amour's trademark dissonant tones always mask a subtle melodicism that rivals Killing Joke's great guitarist Geordie Walker. Newsted truly steps up on the new record, his bass tone much fuller and playing off of D'Amour's riffs more effectively, a terrific example being "Earthache", in which he both complements and punctuates the guitars. In fact, you'd have to go back, past all his work with Metallica, to his days with thrash band Flotsam and Jetsam to hear him play such a prominent role on record.

Belanger also contributes his best work in a very long time. Always one of the more unique voices in metal, Belanger has come off as a bit thin-sounding in the past, but there's a vigor and richness to his vocalizing on Infini that we haven't heard since 1986's Killing Technology. Some metal vocalists do end up sounding better with age, and that appears to be the case with Belanger as well, as his impassioned growls dominate such cuts as the propulsive "Global Warning" and the murky standout "Destroy After Reading". His lyrical topics are standard Snake fare, touching on science fiction and conspiracy theories, but he does pull off one shocker in the form of "Treasure Chase", where he delves into much more personal territory, singing at one point, "The treasure I've found in your eyes / All the diamonds out of this world / All the precious stones dug from earth". That's right, Snake has written an actual love song.

For all the excellent efforts of the surviving members of Voivod, Infini is still D'Amour's record. While the guitar tracks on Katorz were meticulously re-amplified, Infini's guitar tracks were left untouched, and as a result the overall sound is a lot rawer than we're used to from Voivod. It suits the album very well, whether it's on a more expansive song like "In Orbit", the slithering "A Room With a V.U.", or the explosive album closer "Volcano", the latter of which sees D'Amour channeling Killing Joke, Discharge, and Motörhead all at once, with his bandmates all following suit.

Voivod's future as a live act is still intact for now, as the band will be playing shows with Mongrain this summer and into 2010, but Langevin remains mum on the potential any new recorded material. Judging by what we hear on Infini, though, it's one hell of a high note to go out on.

8

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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