Initially, it was hard to know what to make of an album likened to “seeing the future in the bottom of a bottle of Cherry Coke, or accessing the infinite through the twists of a pretzel”, but that’s what Montreal’s Chocolat went with for their new record Rencontrer Looloo. Now, I’ve listened to the record countless times and regrettably have had no such revelations (I’ve even had a few pretzels but remain woefully stuck in the finite), but I feel like I have somewhat of a better understanding of what the comparison is aiming at. Ultimately, Rencontrer Looloo is about using familiar means to achieve strange, unfamiliar ends.
Chocolat’s new LP is a glorious patchwork of influences, moods, and tempos that disregard consistency in favour of something more erratic. Call it… mélange rock. Entertaining, disorienting, and wildly over-the-top, it’s a record that seeks to manipulate and subvert the listener’s expectations whenever it can. Every time you think you have a lock on the band and their sound, Chocolat drastically shift gears and veer off on some other tangent. In a mere thirty-three minutes,Rencontrer Looloo dabbles in everything from garage rock to jazz to pop. There are psychedelic elements, chugging metal riffs, claviers, pianos, big-haired guitar solos, and steamy saxophones. Songs like “Mars” and “Les mésanges” recall Bends-era Radiohead; “Retrouver Looloo” and “Ah ouin” contain trace amounts of the Buzzcocks and The Stones; the foreboding “Koyaanisqatsi (apparition)” sounds like something off the original score of Stranger Things. It all plays out like some scatterbrained love letter to popular music.
This expansive approach works because of the strength of the individual songs. In lesser hands, the lack of continuity would be too much to handle, but Chocolat are pros. Formed in the mid-2000’s, they are a few years into their second incarnation after an extended hiatus to pursue other projects. Their seasoned experience shines through onRencontrer Looloo in the form of confident, efficient songwriting. No song feels too long or overdone, which is surprising given the album’s overall grandiosity and flamboyance. Vocalist Jimmy Hunt also does a fantastic job keeping the album grounded. As the songs cycle through a flurry of different styles, he adapts his impressive range accordingly, delivering hook after hook until one of the only measures of true consistency on the record is how goddamn catchy it all is.
On an album full of anomalies, the aforementioned “Koyaanisqatsi (apparition)” stands as the most glaring aberration of the bunch. Its eerie, synth-driven soundscape seems especially random at first, but a little digging proves otherwise. Koyaanisqatsi is a Hopi word that roughly translates to “unbalanced life”, a notion which characterizes Rencontrer Looloo, with all of its clashing styles, quite well. The song also sits in the exact middle of the track listing, despite directly speaking to the idea of imbalance. It seems only fitting that the most drastic stylistic shift on the album would also harmoniously divide its two halves, becoming a literal and thematic centrepiece. Looloo embraces its contradictions and hinges on its discordance in the most calculated of ways, using them as foundational principles; it’s balanced by imbalance. Chocolat shrug off the overarching safety that dominates many modern rock records. On Rencontrer Looloo, they’re perfectly content to tap into the chaotic incongruity of life and the music that colours it.