[engl] “There seemed a strange stillness over everything; but as I listened I heard as if from down below in the valley the howling of many wolves. The Count’s eyes gleamed, and he said: ‘Listen to them—the children of the night. What music they make!’” Dracula. Bram Stocker. 1897. “It’s just a big trash can. And the trash can has been full for so long, That there’s no more room for our own waste. That’s Paris.” Paris. Taxi Girl. 1984. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here. This is the inscription seen on Dante’s Gates of Hell; but these are also the opening words of Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho – scrawled in red-blood lettering on the side of a building full of yuppies dressed in Armani. All the themes are there: pop occultism, the Passion of the Christ, and a synthetic view of the world, here’s what this Vox Low record is about.
An outline of Vox Low’s history: some Parisian disco and punk fans who took their shot as Think Twice during that hysterical period of Parisian ‘French Touch’ in the early 2000s. This movement, then marketed as an unprecedented musical revolution in the country of baguettes and saucissons, turned out to be no more than a bling swindle worthy of Christophe Rocancourt : whatever you do, the bourgeoisie will always get by fine in the end. In spite of its sound credentials, Think Twice’s music did not find any resonance at the time.
2018, times have changed: who feels like having fun yet? Jacques Chirac is losing his marbles, bedridden in a mansion in the 6th arrondissement of Paris behind heavy velvet curtains; Daft Punk are hiding baldness under motorcycle helmets, and everybody now listens to music on their Bluetooth devices by way of monthly digital subscriptions. Enough with right-wing hedonist disco, let’s put our Donna Summer records away – not in the mood anymore – and dig out Éliphas Lévi’s big black book: Can, The Fall, or Peter Gabriel-era Genesis.
This is a time for punk urgency, for depressed minimal Krautrock, for the great shamanic hypnosis. This bunch of greasers from the Porte de St Ouen area now perform as Vox Low, with Jean-Christophe Couderc (vocals and synth) and Benoît Raymond (legendary bass guitar, guitar, synth), later joined by Mathieu Autin (infernal drums and voodoo percussions) and Guillaume Léglise (savage SG guitar, synths as well) for setting up live performances. Indeed for Vox Low, stage performance is a founding act. It even has to do with pure ceremony, which quickly brought the band its cult aura. Seeing the combo on stage is an act of faith, a celebration of dark forces. Far from lazy live performances on Ableton, Vox Low is like an acid-house version of the Jesus & Mary Chain on stage. After having been the heartthrobs of Andrew Weatherall (whom they’ve remixed), after being remixed by the black angel Ivan Smagghe, after releasing maxi-singles on Jennifer Cardini’s techno label and on the brilliant Evrlst, Vox Low is now turning up on an insolently rock’n’roll label. Which is just logical, being one of the few bands able to stylishly surf between 60s rockabilly influences and cold, minimal techno from around Cologne or Berlin’s Zoologischer Garten Station.
Vox Low stands straight under a freezing acid rain, facing adversity, and from the outset of this first LP the message is clear; time for an OK Corral showdown with the opening title “Now, We’re Ready to Spend”: “It costs so much, but now we’re ready to spend.” These children of the night gatecrash the court of the Crimson King, climb onto the tables and piss on the silverware. A superb black mass for a bunch of hippies high on mandrax and dressed in rags and sheepskins. Vox Low manages to set a ‘Sauerkraut’ Morricone-Rock atmosphere of its own, hypnotic and druggy. Krautrock – never boring, always exciting – with an inimitable 60s bass sound, a trippy discarnate voice combined with some Moe Tucker-style drumming. Rock’n’roll attitude in the body of exhausted 90s ravers. Vox Low removed the bland and indecent house from acid-house, only to keep the dark acid side, like the Holy Chalice of Zaragoza. Later in the album comes the song You Are a Slave: “You are a slave/but you don’t remember” – a punk, nihilist topic for a straightforward cold-as-a-razor-blade title. There are hits as well, such as Something Is Wrong, their anthem for a jilted generation coming down from MDMA, for those who hate dancing, in the back.
A song like Some Word of Faith places the record under the seal of the Gospels, the Holy Scriptures, and Depeche Mode’s “Songs Of Faith and Devotion” album. Half muggy industrial, half leather rockabilly: like Frankie Goes to Hollywood covering Led Zeppelin – nothing less. Because, more than the filtered-disco years, the matter here is eternal oh-so-exciting new wave, from which TRUTH emerges when the spotlights from Top Of the Pops go out and you find yourself alone in front of the mirror of your sordid dressing room: in front of you, make-up, New Romantics, cocaine. Fade to Grey. In Rides Alone, Vox Low conjures up the suicided body of INXS’ Michael Hutchence, found dead in room 424 of Sidney’s Ritz-Carlton – naked, lying on the carpet among empty champagne bottles, a black studded leather belt around his neck. With Trapped in the Moon and It’s Rejuvenation, the Parisians deliver a certain idea of modernity: a cardboard western feel à la Morricone, as goth as the Sisters of Mercy, and VHS retro-futurism.
Vox Low delivers the record nobody expected anymore, one that captures the spirit of the world in motion, for the attention of a crowd of social rejects who have one knee in the gutter but refuse to surrender to the prevailing cynicism. A dark, poisonous, nihilist and erudite piece of work for those who worship Primal Scream’s “Screamadelica” and Gary Numan, who stand in line at the Berghaim with their pockets empty but their heads full of ideals.