Recommended: d’Eon – Music For Keyboards Vol. 1
Whether or not he’s named after the captivating character of the Chevalier d’Eon, it’s fair to say that Canadian producer d’Eon makes truly arresting music that commands your attention. Releasing on Hippos In Tanks, a label described as “a taskforce dedicated to innovative solutions in modern music”, in the last year he has worked on a split-release/collaboration with Grimes, as well as contributing a remix to CFCF’s “Cometrue” EP on UNO NYC. Ahead of his forthcoming LP for Hippos In Tanks, the nattily titled “LP”, he has promised to release three volumes of keyboard music that he has put together over the past decade or so, the first of which dropped a few weeks ago. Speaking to FACT Magazine, the Montreal native said: “I feel like sometimes improvisation gets a bad rap.”. This collection stands therefore as many things: a salve for fans as they await “LP”, a mission statement in favour of improvisation, a glimpse of an artist’s back catalogue as he finds his direction.
Opener “#03” (we’ll come back to the track titles shortly) consists of a series of repeated, cascading phrases that seem spun from a joyous web of hope and expectation. It seems from this bright opening that the direction of this body of work is unlimited, the possibilities endless. In a world of predictability and formula this is a marvel. If “#109” rings any bells, it’s because it’s seemingly as inspired by Steve Reich’s “Music For 18 Musicians” as the title of this collection – that is if Reich had enlisted pan-pipes and sampled some adlibs – although bearing in mind that this track was sampled by Madvillain that would have been nicely prophetic, even from Mr. Reich. It’s not just deep atmospherics, however, as it goes on to incorporate jungle-style beats before drifting off to oblivion. From here tracks ebb and flow either with the time-signature-free feel of Popol Vuh or Tangerine Dream, as free-hand experimentation wafts over repeated left-hand anchor points, or plod along with a dreamy yet rigid, waltz-like quality.
The track names are important, as they offer a glimpse into the mind of this producer. Rather than fuss about with arbitrary names for such disparate instrumentals, he has, one might gather, simply named them in the order that they were created, rearranging them as he saw fit for the purposes of cohesion. As the remaining two volumes materialise over the coming months, the enticing possibility arises for the trainspotter to create and arrange a playlist in numerical order in the hope of tracking and observing d’Eon’s working patterns; such are the trappings of the iPod generation.The standout track of the release is “#61”, which has the feel of a Gregorian nightmare, as rattling organ sounds float and swirl above a two-note bassline that’s filled with awesome dread. Almost half-way through this nine-minute exercise in fearful dystopia, a heavy, distorted beat kicks in with an entirely unrecognisable rap sample mumbling conspiratorially over the top. Two minutes later that same sample is flipped up a few octaves, rendering it squeakishly parodic, comical, terrifying. “#15”, the track that immediately follows, is a frenzied vignette that fizzes with nervous energy for a brief 54 seconds. It’s only with “#14” that we can gain some well deserved resolution and clarity. The track comes off somewhere between Biosphere and “SAW”-era Aphex Twin – blissful, expansive, yearning. “#63”, similarly, offers rays of sunshine between the dark crevices that pervade this work. Closer “#118” is a lilting meditation that could as easily soundtrack an Ibizan sunset as a meaningful moment of reflection in a John Woo action flick. It also segues nicely, in my Winamp playlist, into the aforementioned CFCF remix, which was, fittingly, my first introduction to the man and his work.
At first it might seem off-putting to be presented with 16 unnamed tracks under the broad banner of “keyboard music”, but this collection pays dividends when given time and attention – we can only hope that the next two sets will be of a similarly high standard. As for “LP”, which will supposedly see d’Eon go down a more pop-oriented route, well, that’s just something else to get excited about.