With the release of their second album, Labyrinthes, our favorite francophiles, Malajube, were poised to hit the United States running full steam ahead. The question everyone wanted answered was whether or not they would convert from their first language to a more commercial language, one that would surely break them into the independent scene in the neighboring country. The answer, dear reader, is an emphatic “no!”
They open the album with the epic “Ursuline,” which has a certain sense of urgency once the songs gets going, but just as you expect the band to push over the top and rush through the song, they scale the entire number back, slowly leading you towards the outro of the song. It’s a statement the listener must respect, as the band has the capabilities to lead you wherever they wish.
Still present this time round is the organic sound. Usage of gang vocals, both brash and soothing go in and out of the record. Pianos, guitars, drums and extemporaneous instruments/sounds are also used indiscriminately. It’s a sound that one has come to expect from our northerly neighbors, as they seem to rely a lot on the soundscapes of fellow Canadians, Broken Social Scene. This time around, the band sounds a lot warmer than on Trompe L’oeil.
Yet, through it all, the band sound just like something you would listen to on something like KEXP. The guitars are driving, providing the pace of the record, but the band can pull that sound away from you immediately, resting, instead, on atmospheric “oohs” and “ahhs.” Clever combinations of sound come within each song, which is precisely why this band garners the interests of fans today.
And you’ll come across songs such as “Heresie,” which will win you over in a short span of time. In fact, the coupling of the aforementioned song with “Dragon de glace” is probably one of the more special moments you find on the album. It’s a mellower Malajube than the one presented on the earlier part of the album. It’s a pleasure to come across a band that puts out an album where to layout of the songs on the album shows a strong thought process, as if they wanted you to listen to the album all the way to the end.
But, the one detractor, as alluded to earlier on, is the fact that the band, while respectable, maintain their allegiance to their native tongue. It’s not that the vocal element is not appealing, as one can take a certain emotive quality away from the songs, but its the lack of a connection between the band and most listeners. Musically, the band can take you many places, but a lot of people will want to connect with the lyrical content, and that is simply not possible for people versed in English. It’s the one miss on this album, though for many, it’s a pretty big miss.
Download: Malajube – Les Collemboles [MP3]