Sorry about the lack of updates, I’ve been ill. And lazy. And I can barely find a record worth buying.
Beside all those excuses is the realization that early January is no time for punching forward. TS Eliot might indeed have thought April the cruelest month, but I’m guessing the old cat loving, Jew hating bugger never had to spend his hangover recovery time in post-Hogmanay Glasgow. It’s even harder to get through without a box of records to rummage around in. Worse still – You have the box but it contains not a single tune you want to hear.
I think the issue is that, whilst the world outside looks like it has caught the same bug that is making stuff drip out of my nose, my tolerance for anything loud and banging is substantially curbed. I would listen to Michael Ferrogosto’s new release for Dog In The Night if I could but I imagine it would just make my teeth rattle. I know some people would find such a thing a shot in the arm, something to get them moving again. Not me, though; no sir. I need something warm and subtle.
Ludovic Navarre is perhaps overlooked these days by the house and techno gangs, which is a little odd given exactly how many records he has sold over the years, and also for the way he seemed to preempt so many big name French acts (Daft Punk, for instance) in creating music that quickly transcended its beginnings and broke free of the cage created by scenes and expectations. His first album, the timeless Boulevard was a departure from virtually everything else that was happening at the time. It wasn’t inspired by Chicago, or Detroit, or the first stirrings of clattering European techno. There were no nods to jungle or rave either. In its own way, the music that Navarre created as St. Germain distanced itself from everything else around it whilst being the very epitome of what electronic music could and should be capable of. In some ways there is a similarity with Theo Parrish today, both sharing profoundly individual ideas about what they are trying to achieve.
The album itself was a deep one, even by the standards of some of the more atmospheric electronica that it shared its moment in time with. It continues to teach valuable lessons today, particularly about what deep house can be. Specifically it reminds us that deepness, the heavy yet airy sound that is supposedly so popular now has virtually nothing to do with sounds or equipment. It is all about feel, about emotion. Beyond that, the album is a testament to Navarre’s own influences; jazz and blues, dubby reggae and chilled, instrumental hip hop. All of them flavoured with the sort of wistfulness and melancholy that recalls music less than the mood of New Wave cinema.
The lead track from Boulevard, Deep In It shimmers like a river returning to life in the spring thaw. House provides the bare bones of the tune; a skeleton to hang the flesh of Navarre’s ideas from. It borrows liberally from 50s and 60s jazz in its language, accenting with tight, flattened claps and the low stroll of a thick bassline that gives heft and purpose to the frills, the beautiful, evocative melody and the chime of the minor chords. It’s deep, yes, but what really opens it up as a classic is the way Navarre condenses down his impressive tastes and musical knowledge into a few minutes of sonic story telling. We all know the tale, even if we haven’t heard it put into words.
It’s pouring outside again, and there are 110 MPH winds forecast before the temperature drops and the snow comes. Balls to that; I’m going to wrap myself up in Deep In it and sleep until the winter darkness passes. Then we’ll see who was right about April.