Guillaume & The Coutu Dumonts Guillaume & The Coutu DumontsBreaking The Fourth Wall
The cover is an exploding head. A little of everything splatters out of this head: a red, vicous substance that might be blood, but also small robots, dice, horns, suitcases, and people. The body of the person whose head has exploded is wearing a suit and tie, with a badge on the lapel, so he could be a participant in a conference or the visual metonymy of the artist at a festival, with his pass. But the body doesn’t interest us because the explosion, if it should be interpreted in relation with the album, is what is really important. This splash is here to tell us –this is only a supposition– that Guillaume Coutu Dumont, a Canadian who emigrated to Berlin like so many other Canadians who make house, techno or other musical derivatives, has a head so full of ideas that they have to come out somehow, even if it’s by breaking the walls of the skull and splattering out violently. And this is true, as you can see by following his launches for Mutek or Hartchef, or in the first album, “Face À L’Est” (Musique Risquée, 2007)—in one of his albums, you can expect anything. Anything good, that is to say.
What was the most surprising about that “Face À L’Est” was the natural integration of the wind instruments and metal in a danceable context. It was an organic union of traditional sounds and rhythms worked on with cutting-edge technology that is an inherent part of the Mutek family, although it gave the impression that Guillaume hadn’t taken it as far as he would have liked to. In other works, like the maxis that he signed under the alias Chic Miniature with Ernesto Ferreyra, he probed a more grotesque line, a deformity of Latin house, so the reasons for holding back on the album were unclear. He did some very interesting audio sightseeing that took part of a trip through exotic lands, with one foot still in the security of his own home, the comfort of technology, without throwing himself blindly into an adventure. Has he solved this issue in “Breaking The Fourth Wall”? Yes, but no. To begin with, the natural integration of the saxes, trumpets, and Afro-Caribbean percussion and miniscule digital sounds is much more complete than before, so well blended that a few minutes have passed when you realise that what is really playing is a sax stuck in between compressed beats and clean sound. Because there are saxes everywhere, starting with “Mindtrap” (which also is a sort of evolution of elegant jazz-house towards the baroque), and continuing with “Can’t Have Everything”, a song where what is important isn’t the vocal participation of dOP, but rather how the keyboards, the anise bottle samples, and the rough techno background remind you a lot of Cobblestone Jazz. Everything good rubs off (in this case).
When the metals dominate the sound spectrum in “Breaking The Fourth Wall”, you might think that this is the record that St. Germain would have made, a decade later, if the disappeared group had evolved from posh house to serious house (does anybody know where the Frenchman has hidden himself?). Guillaume & The Coutu Dumonts’s album sounds like a recreation of the cool that works both in restaurants with a Michelin star and clubs with a strict dress code and a clientele over the age of 28: it’s the record that Laurent Garnier would have liked to make when Garnier calls his jazzmen friends to improvise scales over his fancy footwork in honour of Chicago. But if it were only that, Guillaume’s second album would have been no more than something correct and predictable. Nevertheless, this is a notable album because besides bop-house there is also a delicate filtering of African music, (the desert part), like the Jajouka air of “32 Tonnes De Pigeons”, downtempo with elements of Cuban son in “Radio Novela” (Dynamike participates in the voices), and old-school house without additives or off-beat updating, such as in “Walking The Pattern”.
It is also a notable album because it doesn’t stay solely with the sum of house, jazz, and well-placed ethnic touches, but rather it also explains the dance music of the geographical area of its birth (it may be Canadian, but Detroit and Chicago are a stone’s throw away), confirming that it has known how to read the history of dance music properly. “On The Lips” sounds like a slightly caricaturised version of Derrick Carter and his imperative vocal ecstasies, and for a moment it might seem that the galloping “Hélicopter” could be a version of the song by the same name (but with a “k”) by Plastikman –the “thriller movie” moment of the end confirms that it’s not, but it wouldn’t have been a bad idea. And to complete the flavour of an album that advances on several fronts and which is difficult to define, Guillaume Coutu Dumont also dares to take a cosmic detour, which starts off schaffel and ends up like an homage to the gliding guitars of Ash Ra Tempel in “Discothèque”, or lets itself rock on the waves of ambient broken by weightless saxes in “Intermède (Breaking The Fourth Wall”, “Unwelcome,”and “Décennie” . This rounds out a work in which its possible to intuit where it is going, but it always dodges you with a feint, unsettles you, and never lets you keep up with the devilish rhythm of its ideas. I imagine, then, that today’s house must be more or less this, and I think it’s brilliant.