By Derek Cooper
The guitar strum on the album opener of Les Gordon’s new Atlas EP invites one to listen deeper. As the vocal pattern - not quite actualized words, but rather playful syllables - comes into play, and particularly as the melody then establishes itself, it becomes obvious that the classically-trained French musician, whose real name is Marc Mifune, has upped his game since we last heard from him. The new organic orchestral arrangements on the six-song album show a reflective, almost Zen maturity from prior releases. This is genre-straddling at its best. There is a playful groove, beautiful textures as well as whole soundscapes, and an almost hip-hop feel to the arrangements while feeling classical at the same time. It is bouncy without being superfluous. It is thoughtful without pretension. You can dance to this in a club and lose yourself in thought while staring over a frozen lake, alone in a forest.
Atlas opens with the song sharing its same name, with the aforementioned guitar groove and a bouncy melody line that, while 4/4, gives off a near-waltz 6/8 feel. This composition has a lot to say for a song without actual words. Through chopped-up and sequenced vocal gestures, one is left humming an elusive melody. It is one you can’t sing along with, but not because you don’t want to. “Transradio,” the album’s second song, has a Zen-centered feel in its arrangement. This song would feel right at home on an Emancipator album, or even off of The Lemon of Pink-era The Books. The entire song moves forward with the combination of a deep groove, though it is the strings that truly drive the piece. The whole EP has a contradictory feel like this, and it works. The listener will feel as if they had heard the songs somehow before, but not nearly so fresh. I have not had an album make me feel like that in a long time.
“Rivage,” the fourth song and beginning of the second half of Atlas, has a relaxed hypnotic groove. Here, the pseudo-vocals take center stage, with repetitious samples and clever mixing and effects bouncing listener’s ears from side to side. This is almost an R&B song on tumble dry - but after a few drinks - and it shows true confidence in Gordon’s own capability; this is an artist with a clear vision of their own style and the technical mastery to pull it off. “Brume,” the album’s single, is a catchy and bouncy number. These vocal samples are almost as if someone took away Dan Deacon’s sonic cocaine and gave him some Ritalin and a really nice cabernet. Supple violins compliment the upbeat drums, giving a forward progression, while still remaining groovy. This song is classy while managing to not seem out of place among modern radio selections. “Horizon,” an upbeat and feel good tune (and my personal favorite), closes out Atlas. This is the closest Gordon comes to actual verbiage, with murmurs of “I was” and “goodbye” ringing throughout. It manages to feel simultaneously nostalgic and hopeful. It is a pleasant feeling.
There is a timeless modern-ness throughout this album. The only downside is that it is so short. Les Gordon has managed to progress toward his own musical vision, pulling off a balancing act of electronic sampling and organic classical arrangements that create an album all its own. Atlas is a clever and strangely beautiful EP, and I expect with this release we will be seeing much more of him in the future. In the meantime, you can find Atlas on Spotify, Soundcloud, or through his Facebook (if you read French).