Guillaume & The Coutu Dumonts, Ubiquitous Gaze

[Circus Company]


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“Minimal” — in its kinda-organic, vaguely tropical, hinting-at-house iteration — doesn’t get much coverage around these parts anymore. There was a brief moment a few years back, though, when it was on the tip of everyone’s tongues — when each Oslo release was awaited with baited breath, when “Mumbling Yeah” was “Hyph Mngo,” when it was only a matter of time before a new Villalobos stepped in from the wings (that person probably being Romanian, or at least sporting an Onur Özer haircut). And then — blame Berghain, blame 130 being the new 140, blame Luciano (via Carl Craig’s ultimate shame-face) — it was wiped from our nerdspeak, and it’s never really returned.

Sometimes I wonder if we critics messed up, like we tossed this stuff to the side before it had really had a chance to be more than lightweight Villalobos or the soundtrack to a fantastically angular and age-inappropriate haircut. Guillaume Coutu Dumont seems like a good place to start. This Canadian’s tracks (for labels-of-that-moment like Musique Risquée, Hartchef Discos, and, yes, Oslo) didn’t seem like the work of a bandwagoneer so much as a skilled sound designer who happened to find a voice in the form of the moment. Yet so many of those mid-decade clichés never really fit this guy: he looked east, not south, with a sultriness emanating not from a beach bar but through the door of a tobacco-choked jazz club. And his two albums, Face À L’Est and Breaking The Fourth Wall, displayed artistic depth beyond a desire to crank out 13-minute, Ricardo-baiting tools. Why exactly are we content — thrilled, even — to talk about Roland-driven tracks that could have been made in 1986 instead of turning our full attention to someone who’s really making a go at creating his own sounds? Did we fall prey to toxic associations?

I’m not sure “Ubiquitous Gaze,” Coutu Dumont’s latest for Circus Company, will be the release that brings him or any of these guys back to frontrunner status, because trends or no trends, these tracks just don’t sound all that fresh. Opening with a vocal sample that asserts “this music thing” is “the only thing for me,” Coutu Dumont spends nearly nine and a half minutes riding slamming disco drums, twinkling piano licks, and warm, gritty strings. Though pretty, it’s mostly just pleasant — Moodymann-lite, maybe — and there’s not much here to justify its considerable length. A “Stringapella” version basically tweaks the original into a hefty intro, which depending on your DJ style could be a good thing. “You’re The One,” a more claustrophobic take on Coutu Dumont’s sound design (and an infinitely less obnoxious use of 20th Century Steel Band’s “Heaven And Hell Is On Earth” than that Dances With White Girls song), has real promise. But compositionally, he’s treading water here, neither building nor switching up the flow enough to support the extended runtime. Trends and affiliations are meaningless if the tunes are compelling enough to reach the sorts of DJs who could give a shit about petty music journo banter. These are probably not those tunes.

kristan caryl  on September 7, 2011 at 10:33 AM

i know genre debates are futile but seeing as they form a large part of the intro… oslo was surely never classed as minimal?! anyway, this guy’s album was pretty good last year i thought, shame if this is a bit whack.

littlewhiteearbuds  on September 7, 2011 at 10:48 AM

A good deal of Oslo’s releases (especially earlier) were rather minimal; I’m thinking of Christian Burkhardt, Mara Trax, Nekes, Federico Molinari, even Johnny D. And Love Letters From Oslo was even more minimally inclined.

John  on September 7, 2011 at 11:55 AM

Whoa… shameface, indeed

stu  on September 7, 2011 at 4:35 PM

videos like the one linked above make me not want to play tracks in public ever again. if the past could pass judgement on the present it would be utterly mortified..

__  on September 7, 2011 at 9:05 PM

ubiquitous gaze is great..played it last night and the crowd was loving it…and why do u insist on mentioning ricardo 3 times in a review for a guillaume coutu dumont release? you barely even talked about the music, even if you didn’t like it describe us why. don’t go off on some tangent about trends …but this kind of thing is typical for a LWE review

Chris M  on September 9, 2011 at 1:13 PM

“shame-face”? Carl Craig always looks like that. Hell—this is as animated as I’ve ever seen him.

cz  on September 10, 2011 at 10:08 AM

Yeah, i don’t know about any “shame-face”. Carl is definitely one of the more stoic mothergrabbers out there. But, either way, Luciano can kiss my ass. That remix of FYC is atrocious. Guillaume & The Coutu Dumonts is kind of a douche too. There’s one track of his that is gold but I keep that one to myself. 😉

Adamm  on September 11, 2011 at 3:20 PM

I think the review is spot on. I haven’t been overly thrilled with where Guillaume & The Coutu Dumonts have gone since the beginning but they’re always worth a listen; this one passed me by. Thanks.

anonym  on September 15, 2011 at 6:50 AM

this kind of review is bogus… there is no need to mention Luciano, Carl Craig and other irrelavant info especially links.. this is the sort of review you would find on RA… LWE has some of the best reviews on the net… lets keep it that way… if we wanted something else we would go to pitchfork or the ever so trendy Resident Advisor… thanx

littlewhiteearbuds  on September 15, 2011 at 11:25 AM

Everything in this review is relevant to Jordan’s criticism of the record. He laid out the conditions under which many people gave up on a type of music Guillaume still makes. Those include what Luciano counts as his DJ sets these days.

It’s definitely good to stay on topic, but the topic here was minimal with tropical flavors, not just the record being reviewed. Our reviews often strive to discuss larger points, and that’s what Jordan achieved here.

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