Review: Essaie Pas – ‘Demain est une autre nuit’

For those still mourning the disbandment of Dirty Beaches (and who continue to await any substantial material from Alex Zhang Hungtai’s so-far infecund reinvention as “Last Lizard”), here’s an alternative take on Canadian gloom-pop to satisfy your appetites. One half of this duo, Pierre Guerineau, even carried out production work on Dirty Beaches’ Drifters record and has also worked with fellow cult Montreal musician Femminielli. Guerineau’s partner in Essaie Pas (and in marriage) is Marie Davidson, who has in the past released solo records under her own name.

The press release states that the project was “born on a hot summer night in 2010” but it sounds as
though the unforgiving Canadian winter soon set in because the record’s mood is largely cold, bleak
and dystopian, not unlike the work of Dirty Beaches, if a touch less scuzzy and Suicide-fixated.Demain Est Une Autre Nuit begins both softly and dramatically in the form of its title track. The synthesized strings and wonky spoken-word vocals are reminiscent of ‘Hana’ from Asa-Chang & Junray’s 2002 opus Jun Ray Song Chang (a disorientating, attention-grabbing contender for the greatest opening track of all time). ‘Dépassée Par Le Fantasme’ is more throbbing, with high synth notes, minimalist electronic drumbeats and further spoken lyrics courtesy of Davidson. Like numerous works by several of today’s electronic bands, it has probably been influenced by the soundtracks of John Carpenter and thus feels both backward-looking and futuristically sci-fi at the same time.

Guerineau’s authoritative baritone takes the lead for the first half of ‘Retox’, contrasting perfectly with Davidson’s smoother, higher tone. Musically, the track’s synthetic funk propulsion, glitchy beats
and especially its alarming air-raid sirens could form a suitable update to the electronic score of some old arcade beat-’em-up game, conjuring up that intimidating atmosphere as Player 1 gradually approaches the end-of-level boss.

‘Carcajou 3’ represents the jauntier celebration of victory, maybe after you’ve beaten said boss (and spent your own weight in 50 pence pieces). It’s an update of an earlier Essaie Pas composition, the
third version they’ve done, and an arguably superfluous one at that. It adds a touch of variety to the album, yet is noticeably out-of-sync with the more ominous tone the pair succeed in building elsewhere. A second disappointment is the largely instrumental ‘Facing The Music’, which utilizes faster beats than elsewhere but fails to live up to its attempts at dry-ice-cloaked techno intensity.

‘Le Port Du Masque Est De Rigueur’ is more pleasingly sinister, with its relentless motorik beat,
menacing synth chords and mischievous background crackling, like some giggling robot gremlins mocking you as you spiral your way towards certain doom. ‘La Chute’, on the other hand, brings the record to a relatively optimistic conclusion and does so with a far more interestingly sanguine sound that the earlier resurrected botch job of ‘Carcajou 3’. It’s a floaty number that basically sounds like a shoegaze-influenced Vangelis score for the audiobook of a French-language cyberpunk novel. It spits you out of the grim smog of the sprawling metropolis and into a picturesque countryside landscape, like Rachel and Deckard driving off into the mountains in the screwy happy-ending version of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner.

Written by JR Moores