The last time we heard from French producer Agoria in the long player format, it was with the soundtrack he recorded for action flick Go Fast more than two years, ago; his last proper artist album, The Green Armchair, brings us further back to 2006. One of the ways in which Sébastien Devaud has kept busy in the meantime is doing A&R for his InFiné imprint, promoting leftfield electronica from the likes of Clara Moto, Francesco Tristano, Aufgang and Rone. They're acts whose ambitious compositions have seemingly made quite an impact, as Impermanence, Agoria's third proper album, is the product of accomplished but ostentatious musicianship.
Devaud always had a keen ear for collaborations: In the past, he's worked with guests as diverse as Sylvie Marks, Tricky, Ann Saunderson, Peter Murphy and Princess Superstar, and Impermanence is no different. Both Detroit wonderboy (Seth Troxler) and patriarch (Carl Craig) show up this time, and both are immediate attention grabbers, but mostly because of the guests themselves rather than the actual music. "Souless Dreamer" starts with Troxler's spoken words as he mumbles drunkenly in aquatic tech house surroundings. "Speechless" sees Craig singing in full-on sensual mode, rubbing cherries on nipples and tickling tonsils on top of another straightforward, inconsequential beat and anemic melody. Luckily, it's immediately followed by "Grand Torino," a sumptuous affair that has delicate piano motifs intertwining with long-drawn-out strings to maximum effect. It's atmospheric techno at its most luxurious, and it makes up for the underwhelming collaborations that precede it.
Bar "Panta Rei," the mood is somber, almost funereal elsewhere. "Heart Beating" has female vocalist Kid A serve her histrionic chant (think Björk meets Lou Rhodes of late '90s drum & bass-lite duo Lamb) as the track gets taken over by synthetic handclaps and oppressive cellos; "Little Shaman," featuring former collaborator Scalde's operatic antics, is a scary piece of techno noir, while the "Under the River" snippet sounds like the kind of ambient piece with jazzy undertones you hear in David Lynch movies when a character is coming down from an especially painful psychotic episode. The album closes on the 2009 single "Libellules," a track that wanders restlessly but leaves you wondering where it wanted to go in the first place, giving the album a strangely frustrating ending.
Agoria might not have the same kind of influential impact on the French techno scene of someone like Laurent Garnier, but with steady enthusiasm and commitment, he has become a genuine force to be reckoned with, especially through his label releases and his mix CDs (we at RA even named his entry in the At the Controls series one of the best compilations of the last decade). In contrast to Garnier's upbeat and primarily tribal take on techno, Agoria's music has gotten more remote and desolate. Impermanence is an impressive dour mixture of sorrowful techno and chamber music—a definite acquired taste.
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Tracklist: Agoria - Impermanence 01. Kiss My Soul
02. Souless Dreamer
03. Panta Rei
06. Grande Torino (Album Mix)
07. Heart Beating
08. Little Shaman
09. Under the River
10. Libellules (Album Mix)
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