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Headphone | Work in Progress 1998-200- (Ici d'ailleurs)
The debut release from France's Headphone is as exploratory as the open-ended title suggests. Although this is a self-proclaimed work in progress, the free flowing compositions are in no way incoherent fragments of ideas. The Headphone collective coalesce around the musical ideas of multi-instrumentalist Jean Michel Pires (drummer for labelmates The Married Monk and Bed, whose Marc Sens and Benoit Burello contribute here), improvising lengthy pieces from a blend of live electronics and acoustic and electric instrumentation from the rock and jazz fields. The results are a stately yet smouldering series of mood pieces, which are worthy bedfellows of Mark Hollis' groundbreaking and breathtaking Talk Talk compositions circa 'Spirit of Eden' and 'Laughing Stock.' Album opener Pulf acts as an introduction to the musical themes which dominate this beguiling album, as lethargic double bass, dry rim-shot taps and chiming guitars intertwine around minimal and levitating organ notes and drones. Although the music is separated into five tracks, suggesting various pieces recorded over an ongoing period, the seamless mixing ensures that the album is best enjoyed as a cohesive whole. Indeed, the introduction of gentle piano, horns swelling and bursting at the seams, guitar feedback and cyclical drumming over the course of Sublime Parade, Hoboken and Explatino serve to add more colour to an established musical palette, rather than an incongruous array of styles. By the appropriately titled album closer The End, composed by Benoit Burello (leader of Bed), a subtle hint of some of Headphone's listening habits is given with a sample of Pink Floyd's tongue in cheek improvisation Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast. Even so, Headphone have a jazzier compositional ethic than the aforementioned acid rock pioneers, despite this minor paying of dues. One is genuinely surprised at the brevity of the record (thirty-seven minutes), as the space this beguiling album occupies is thoroughly engaging. Headphone's debut is the perfect hazy soundtrack to twilight wanderings along the rue Git Le Coeur.

Simon Berkovitch
CWAS #12 - Summer 2003