Album by Album is infuriatingly impossible to google, excruciatingly impossible to describe, and irresistibly listenable.
You know your experimental alien-landscape musical project has succeeded in flummoxing music writers when every review or mention ends up directly quoting most of your bio because they can’t find the words to do it justice. Bonus points if you also confound search engines and make it damn near impossible for anyone to find any information about you and your record on the internet.
I count myself among the bewildered and bewitched when it comes to Album, the duo of Olivier Fairfield (Last Ex and FET.NAT) and Simon Provencher (VICTIME). Since I first heard it, the pair’s idiosyncratic self-titled debut has been a head-scratcher for me — not that I expected anything less. Fairfield’s work with FET.NAT, in particular, their Polaris Music Prize shortlisted Le Mal left me similarly flummoxed. While I appreciated the concept and ambition of that album, its execution didn’t quite connect. Album is an altogether different enigma. I’m guessing that’s due to Provencher’s dance-punk influence. There’s a melodic — though heavily manipulated — streak coursing through Album’s thirty-minute running time. It’s this hint at structure, however faint, that builds anticipation for a musical resolution that never comes, that keeps me hanging on.
At times, Album feels like an obscure 90s IDM album played through speakers submerged in a swimming pool full of jelly. (“Interlude”). The next moment, compositions like “Hommage a M. Cusson pour M. Hoek” explore an alternate-universe version of glitch-pop-R&B that injects Album’s experimental and abstract sounds with the smallest — yet highly effective — amount of traditional arrangement. There’s a song called “New and Annoying,” which is the perfect name to describe Album as a whole. That’s not to say that Fairfield and Provencher’s music is annoying, but rather my inability to name and describe what it is about Album’s blown-out experiments and wild audio landscapes that keep drawing me back to it.
For a record that seems intent on being alien and off-putting, there’s something profoundly human and personal about what Fairfield and Provencher do together. Whether that was their intention or not, the album Album is a conundrum that may be better experienced than explained by a bumbling blogger like me. There’s something fitting about a record so infuriatingly impossible to google and so excruciatingly impossible to describe, being so irresistibly listenable.