Our Daily Bread 486: (Album) Labelle ‘Eclat’

January 11, 2022

Words by Dominic Valvona

Labelle ‘Éclat’
(InFiné) 24th January 2022

Few have done more to both elevate and wed the distinct sounds of Maloy to a contemporary, often experimental, palette than the Réunion Island composer Jérémy Labelle. A traditional music, born in the 19th century as an outpouring for the suffrage, reverberations and lament of slavery that core inspiration – only found on Labelle’s island home – makes connections to the classical and to the rhythms of the East and the scratchy, hypnotic musical genre of Morocco known as Gnawa. The last of these can be strongly detected o both the dainty danced, retuned ‘Giant’ and the rattled and cosmically bandy suite it leads into, ‘Mes Mondes’. It’s no surprise to find that Moroccan venerable style works, as Labelle pitched up his signature Maloy fusion a quartertone to match it.

Forbidden as the entwined revolutionary music for Réunion’s indigenous population (mostly made up of those who arrived from Madagascar and the Indian Ocean’s atoll of islands) by the French colonial powers (still an official region of France that never achieved independence), Maloy was banned right up until 1981. One of the island’s two most popular ingrained styles it was nevertheless wrapped up in rituals, played at religious ceremonies; seen as an unwelcome occult influence by the French. Here it’s pushed like never before into an almost avant-garde direction, augmented and suffused with electronic music and transformed beyond measure.

Labelle’s known for transducing his original conceived compositions into something cosmic, universal and unique. That process, which was likewise successful on the previous critically acclaimed albums (Éclat marks his fourth studio album proper), led to a highly experimental set of pre-pandemic performances performed by a string quartet. What makes it so distinct though was that he set out to break all the rules of classical composition, writing music for a traditional rock band set-up but running it through an acoustic-electronic chamber ensemble.  Adding another layer to the process, multifaceted London producer, composer, DJ an artist in his own right Hector Plimmer reshapes, cuts and put’s in congruous augmented effects. The results send this brilliant album suite towards jazz and techno whilst never losing its expletory post-classical roots.

Éclat (or “spark”, though in my translator searches it came out as “shine”) as its name makes clear sounds almost like the light above Labelle’s head suddenly switched on, prompting a sublime, yearning and pining contemplative/reflected counterpoint of Philip Glass. Max Richter, Nils Frahm, Simon McCorry and Kriedler.

More sustained, reverberated strings and atmospheric synthesized beds are layered with shorter, arched bows, warped snatches and arpeggiator-like pitter-patters. Ambient music transduced into subtle stirred violins and cellos undulate beneath emotive swells and moments of real intensity. Often these bowed strung instruments wail like an electronic guitar or sound more like a rusty saw biting into the fabric. On the quickened ‘RON’ those same strings are enveloped within a scrawled vortex; funneled through a black hole into a universal horizon reprise of Glass-like seriousness.

This record is incredible: already one of my highlights of 2022. The Maloy tradition and the classical are remodelled, sent out into an ever-more expansive cosmology of fusions. Éclat is every bit as dynamic, emotive and fresh as the previous albums, if not the most sophisticated and interesting yet.

From the Archives:

Labelle ‘Orchestre Univers’ (2019)

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog monolithcocktail.com For the last ten years I’ve featured and supported music, musicians and labels we love across genres from around the world that we think you’ll want to know about. No content on the site is paid for or sponsored and we only feature artists we have genuine respect for /love. If you enjoy our reviews (and we often write long, thoughtful ones), found a new artist you admire or if we have featured you or artists you represent and would like to buy us a coffee at https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

One Response to “Our Daily Bread 486: (Album) Labelle ‘Eclat’”

  1. […] off the back of his expansive universal vision of Maloy music and the classical, this January’s Éclat album, Labelle now appears alongside his classical and jazz studied foil on a both electroacoustic […]

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