Cavalier (a.k.a. Agnès): A Million Horses

A Million Horses
Drumpoet Community

Like Matthew Herbert before him, Swiss techno musician Jean-Pierre Vaucher enjoys using aliases. He has a lot of them—Benelli, Modeste, Ray Valioso, Torpedoman—and each one, he says, connotes a slightly different kind of music. Agnès (pronounced “AHN-yes”, not like your grandmother Agnes) is his default moniker, with which he makes dark techno close in spirit to Anders Ilar, but for this record he goes by Cavalier, who writes sort of danceable songs in the interstitial sliver between deep house and microhouse. At the behest of his label, Drumpoet Community, he added 13 tracks to his six-track A Million Horses EP for this long-player, which amounts to a very full, very lengthy, and mostly enjoyable set of house cuts for the faithful.

Cavalier’s songs don’t progress much, most of them just do their thing until they end, with the drums dropping out every so often, but Vaucher has said that he gets lost in his own music when he makes it, and he wants you to lose yourself in it too. Certain songs are ideal for such an activity. With its sidelong keyboards and propulsive kicks, “Lipizzan” is shadowy and sophisticated, the kind of dusky track that begins a DJ set in style. “Uzunyayla (Hallucinatory Narcosis)” floats by on a cloud of strings and glockenspiels underpinned by finger snaps, as if it’s actually trying to hypnotize you, and “Yonaguni” is like a dream of a prosperous Detroit, where machines are the heart and soul of the city.

Devotees of deep house will relish the jazz-inflected keys, the light essences of melody, and the many kinds of grooves Vaucher has brought to the table. Oddly for an album of this nature, though, the beats are not nearly what they could be. Although Vaucher plays and records all the drums himself, some of them tend to sound like they were grabbed hastily from a techno-for-beginners kit and then mixed far too high. In addition, song lengths were seemingly determined arbitrarily, swinging wildly from a little over one minute (“Percheron”, which is heartbreakingly short) to more than six minutes (“Brumby (Low Pembina)”, which is too long). These sticking points contribute to the draggy feeling A Million Horses can have over extended periods, but if you love house music so much that you’d marry it if you could, Cavalier’s got at least a few things here that should make you very happy.

RATING 6 / 10