For many of us, the first artists that come to mind when French electronic music is mentioned are heavyweights like Daft Punk, Justice, or artists on the Ed Banger label – creators of sample-heavy, funky, dancefloor-ready music.
French producer Loumar has mished and mashed a whole bunch of electronic genres together to make a superb EP. The secret ingredient? Love.
This kind of music is where the name Loumar has so far appeared- the French singer/producer most recently lent her vocal talents to the nu-disco tracks Leaving Train (2014) and Deep Down (2013). Her debut effort Avril, however, eschews this particular French touch in favour of offering something with more lingering ambiance and emotional dynamics.
Drawing musical cues from a number of electronic dance music genres, and patching them together in intriguing and unpredictable ways, Avril is a series of songs that can be appreciated equally as vignettes of nights on the dancefloor, or as heartfelt, electronic love songs.
The first track Loaded opens with a Burial-esque pairing of ethereal harmonies and a wordless vocal line, punctuated only by the throbbing of an 808 kick and far off clicks and pops. This quickly shifts to new sonic territory, grounded by sparsely placed, trance-like electronic piano and scattered with dub-like echoes of slices of Loumar’s voice. The track serves as a fitting introduction to Avril, and its stylistic mix serves as a good introduction to Loumar’s general production style. If your appetite is whet by this point, you’d be well advised to stay tuned for the rest of the EP*.
Loumar’s strength as a producer seems to be creating the glacial, trance-like ambience that fills most of Avril, as well as mashing up easily recognizable rhythms and signature synths to subvert expectations and add a narrative to her songs. Standout tracks for the album, Chrysalis and Dizzy make good use of these production methods, with both interplaying between this trance-like ambience and mash-ups of recognizable dance music tropes. Cameos in the EP include the plucky bass of Chicago-era house, a hard trance-style gated synth, and drum tracks ranging from trap, to 2-step, to hip-hop – all assimilated over the course of a few songs.
On paper this all sounds pretty arbitrary, but to the ears, this compilation of styles is what makes Avril an engaging listen. Loumar doesn’t seem concerned with adhering to any sense of standard structure or rhythm, as someone producing for a specific dance music scene might be. Instead, she seems to produce her beats to fuel a sense of drama and narrative. In the same way a songwriter might slow down or shout to punctuate emotional points in their narrative, Loumar punctuates hers with pad swells, crashing soundscapes and rapidly shifting drum rhythms.
In some ways, though, Avril also seems like it is a chrysalis (ha!) phase for the young producer, especially when it comes to the treatment of her own vocals. As her vocal efforts on dance tracks have shown, Loumar clearly has the chops to produce a clean, emotive vocal line. In Avril, though, this is largely averted in favour of distorted, sliced, and auto-tuned vocal lines, often with ethereal amounts of reverb.
Though this often works well in the context of her production style, at times it seems like a self-conscious effort to obscure her voice from being fully bared. I’m hoping Loumar will occasionally shed this safety net in future work, as some of the almost-human electronic piano lines found throughout Avril seem to be crying out for an unadulterated voice to bring a soul to their digital form.
All things considered, this is quite a solid first release from Loumar, which explores the rarely-tread middle ground between heartfelt song writing and electronic dance music. In the Soundcloud description for Avril she has simply written “this is all about love” – and for the most part this is something you can sense when listening to it.
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*The hurriedly-assembled, gratuitous remixes are definitely an optional listen.