fri 19/07/2024

Album: Thomas Bangalter - Mythologies | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Thomas Bangalter - Mythologies

Album: Thomas Bangalter - Mythologies

An impressive move into composition, but where is the original voice?

Popular musicians “going classical” can work well. Look at Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, at Richard Reed Parry and Colin Stetson from Arcade Fire, or at the late Jóhann Jóhannsson who had a successful career as indie and electronic musician in Iceland before becoming a globally beloved orchestral composer.

Of course the boundaries are flimsy anyway these days, with the likes of Max Richter, Nils Frahm and Anna Meredith existing comfortably with one foot in the concert hall and one in the gig venue. Crucially, each of these artists has been able to negotiate their own position among all this, and create a distinctive voice.

Less so Thomas Bangalter. It’s odd, as with Daft Punk and as a solo producer, he’s long been a master of taking generic sounds – house, techno, disco, soft rock – and rendering them unmistakeably his own. But what he’s done here is, pretty much, created a late 19th century romantic ballet score from scratch. It would be wrong to call this pastiche, because he’s so eerily good at it, that it never seems to be aping Tchaikovsky, Debussy, Prokofiev, but rather creating a lost work that could well have sat in their midst.

There are some tells that it’s not that old: sections lock into repetitions a la Philip Glass, and every so often, especially when the timpanis start rolling there’s a worry that it’s about to become Zimmerfied, collapsing all centuries of composition into pure cinematic affect. But really this is very much as if the past century and a bit hadn’t happened. It’s exquisitely played by the Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine, one could imagine would work impressively with ballet dancers. But you have to ask the question: WHY? What’s the purpose of putting so much skill and dedication into something that could already exist? And where is Bangalter in all of this? Maybe he’ll drop a fearsome acid house remix of one of these movements and remind us what he’s really capable of, but until then, this remains way more impressive than it is actually great.

@joemuggs

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