(Paris, France // Born Bad Records)
So what’s the purpose of pop music in 2014? It fills our head with silly things, It makes us better. Sometimes, it invents a little. Sometimes, it steals away from the past; sometimes it makes pristine copies from things we like. Sometimes, it guides us, sometimes it tortures us. Sometimes it makes us ecstatic. More than often, it disgusts us, and it demeans us, too.
But one thing it does less than occasionally is making us dream, eyes open or eyes closed. Psychedelia is at a standstill, ecstasy is no longer effective on anyone, the terras incognitas of yore are squared from the Wild West to the Land of the Rising Sun and great songwriters are working for nobody as nobody is there to listen to their songs anymore. As for the great magicians of pop music, the children of George Martin, David Vorhaus, Syd Barrett or Don Van Vliet who used to command us in our dreams using potions, spell books and mirrors, they all went underground: if pop music’s most beautiful race ever – the esoteric one – is still practiced by some, it is done so in secret laboratories and underground corridors that are buried deeper than those of garage rock, punk or black metal.
A secret society of diligent practitioners of the cabalistic part of pop music for an eternity, Dorian Pimpernel only seems to be working with one goal in mind: restart the Machine that once made us dream and go into ecstasy. Formed in the mid-2000s, it’s a gathering of odd balls only: one discreet drummer who claims to be “captivated by Ancient Greece”; a songwriter who’s also a philosophy scholar and the author of a book on the aesthetics of the Minimalists; an actor – director – assistant-director – composer of film music; an actor-bass player and record collector who you would be advised not to try and silence one he’s begun to list of favorite artists (he claims to have “more memories than if he were a thousand years old”); eventually a guitar player who played his guitar for a very long time locked up in his room “without thinking he would one day have the guts to leave”.
Far from the old habits of your ol’ band of mates who migrate from the living-room to the practice room after a nice chat over a handful of favorite records, Dorian Pimpernet gathered around a general disinterest for sport and a strange concept of pop (in the strong sense of the word “concept”, that would have approved Gilles Deleuze had he shown a stronger interest in pop music): “moonshine pop”, i.e. the esoteric, whimsical, volatile, evil little sister of the famous “sunshine pop” of California.
Founder of this aesthetic movement at a time when he was sole member of the Dorian Pimpernel Club, Johan Girard explains: “At the time, in the mid 2000s, I has this habit of listening to records of sunshine pop on repeat. And I had this idea of taking the notion backwards, attempt a sketch of its underside, but without distance, easy postmodern irony or cheap revivalism. The idea was to come up with something modern, which wouldn’t be a mere update of ancient forms through the flavor of the day, but a method to create an actual world by assembling gradually, brick by brick, tone by tone, the shades and intentions designed to inhabit it.”
After a first attempt at an album for a label at the other end of the world (Hollandia, released on the Japanese label Rallye in 2006) which we can now judge, in hindsight, as more embryonic than its follow-up, Allombon creates an actual world for us to live in, and wishes us to sink so deep into it that only our dreams and nightmares shall be deep enough to accommodate its creatures, chants, architectural works.
Similar to the half magic, half-literary, half alchemical treatises, half tomes of poetry of the Renaissance, Allombon creates a complex and coherent world, every song of which is both a fragment and a complex whole to unfold, simultaneously autonomous and potentially able to make us see it in full and tragically flawed, poetically empowered with the sentiment of the loss of the worlds that lie next. Together or separately, every one of those ten songs thus deserves its own exegesis, its own footnotes, and all your attention.
But we should also inform the listeners who don’t care much for encyclopedias and prefer to visit mazes without a plan that they have an absolute right to stay in the dark. And if what they will hear on their way into the the unknown may sound dense, non-linear and foliated to their hears, it will most of all sound melodious and wonderful.
If our five freaks are practitioners of a dark secret doctrine, they are first and foremost believers of the power of the great pop melody. And if their art is esoteric in any way, it is in that of Alice in Wonderland, using gentleness and vivid colours. Inspired first and foremost by the first wave of scholar psychedelia (Sgt Peppers, SF Sorrow, An Electric Storm by White Noise, The United States of America by The United States of America), then by the Second wave which stormed during the 70s (“building bridges between Canterbury and Düsseldorf” – that is to say between Kevin Ayers and Kraftwerk – is one of their few self-avowed projects), then by the big, more or less famous names of library and film of the golden age era (Morricone, Basil Kirchin …), eventually by the thousands of haunted instruments (rare or very rare synths, old guitars) that populate their curiosity cabinet shaped studio, Dorian Pimpernel have only one stated goal: give rise to tornadoes to carry us someplace else.
Promoters of a kind of of Hauntology à la française (let us remember that the Anglo-Saxon version of hauntology covers, through its memories of witches and dust, Ballard and archaic electronics, one of the most mysterious musical scenes of our time), Dorian Pimpernel aims, to quote Ludwig Wittgenstein about his architectural works, “talk, perhaps unconsciously, an ancient language, but to speak it in such a way that make it belong to the new world, without forcing it to belong to the latter’s taste”. What Dorian Pimpernel are putting forward is, like the British band Broadcast before them, a music that is nostalgic only on the surface of its surface, and true to the essence of its time. Meaning: ambiguous both in terms of sounds and intentions, flashing, multiple, but also, more importantly, instantaneously enjoyable, smooth, poisonous, damn beautiful. The good news for those in a hurry, is that this sophomore album dressed in the costume of a debut one deals only with thematics of adult music (all the songs deal with lost illusions and paths which lead nowhere) and takes the shape of a manifest.