Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2012-11-20


Encre: Common Chord (Clapping Music, 2006) Encre's live album features a five-person group playing versions of Tambour's studio creations, some of them radically reconceived. The big difference is that they rock--the drums are always there, and almost always state a beat. Similarly, the music's louder in general; similarly, there's more guitar; similarly, Tambour oft exclaims where once he whispered. He also cedes one vocal to his female cellist. A laptopper with an outgoing side--we like that. A-

Encre: Flux (Clapping Music, 2004) I know more about the French electronic musician Yann Tambour now than when I reviewed Encre's eponymous debut in 2005. I know that that record came out in 2001. I know that he's released three albums and three EPs under the moniker, and that both EPs I've heard, Marbres and Plexus II, are forgettable. I know that he leads another band or unit called Thee, Standing Horse that makes music as stillborn as its horrible name. I know that when I wondered jokingly in my first review whether he was talking about time (fois) or liver (foie), he was probably talking about liver, because the extensive printed lyrics here begin "Ah mon foie! tu pr?pares un vieux pr?mature" ("Ah my liver! You prepare a premature old age"). I know I'm not going to translate the rest of those lyrics, which on a casual scan tend passionate and pr?tentieux, and that I'm not going to let them stop me from reporting that Encre is one helluva laptop unit. It's one-man chamber music with a fondness for rhythmic repetition--for hypnotic motives, say--and also, occasionally, percussion. Tambour (the French word for drum, as it happens) plays guitar and kora, but his sonic palette favors chamber quartet sonorities, brief orchestral samples, simple piano figures, and other classical-type materials. Only half the eight songs include lyrics, which Tambour whispers winningly and mysteriously. I hope he's taking care of his liver. But I'd hope harder if he hadn't abandoned Encre for Thee, Standing Horse. A-

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