Favorite Albums of 2017(so far) : Maine’s ‘V’

There’s been a gradual shift in my brain over the last few years to music that doesn’t necessarily tell a story through words more than through mood. Listen, I grew up devouring the Beatles, Rush, the Kinks, Flaming Lips, Radiohead, Wilco, and the list goes on. I was a song guy. I was moved by stories and words and grand musical statements in the classic songwriting tradition. I still love the songwriting tradition and even do it myself when time allows, but over the last three to four years I’ve found myself drawn to instrumental music. In-particular, heavy synth music. There’s something about synth music that feels ingrained into my DNA that I hadn’t known was there till about four years ago when I bought Walter Rizatti’s score for House By The Cemetery. The last time I’d heard that music was when I was probably 14 years old when I first watched Fulci’s trashy classic. Hearing it again at the ripe middle age of 39 I felt there was something that I’d unlocked in my head that had been stuck up there since that balmy summer night all those years ago. That music instantly connected with me. There was no warming up period. It just instantly hit me.

From that point on I began grabbing as many of those Italian horror scores as I could, and expanded into newer artists that had a kinship with the synth and all things eerie and Gothic. I’m always looking for someone who can move me with a turn of a melody, hypnotic repetition, and who can create a sonic world where I’m quite comfortable spending time in. One person new on my musical radar that can do all of those in spades is Michel Dupay, aka MAINE. While a lot of synth music is a synthetic creation, built on circuits, wires, tubes, and buzzing waves of noise, Dupay takes a much  more organic approach to his heavy synth sound. According to his Bandcamp page, MAINE’s music is “Fiercely analogue, pre-midi musique from Montmartre, Paris.” A lot of electronic music uses midi to help create and build songs. It’s a process by which an artist can connect and sync several pieces of electronic tools and gadgets allowing a pristine connection of different musical pieces. Dupay is creating music the old fashioned way, by performing these songs as a band without the safety net of midi and syncing.

“He makes music the old fashioned way. He performs it.” – John Houseman.

I’d seen Burning Witches Records talking MAINE’s new album V up quite a bit over the summer. A couple months ago I finally got around to checking it out and I was absolutely blown away by the record. It hits every dark, melancholy tone just right. It’s a slow burn LP, too. It allows you to work your way into the album gradually as to savor the bits and pieces without overindulging. You find new things to love each time you drop the needle. There’s something very European about the sound. It’s quietly alluring and subtly dance floor-ready. Something like the vinyl-only “Black Cloud” feels like a slow cloud rolling in over the Parisian sun. “La Pluie” evokes visions of cobblestone streets, centuries-old villages, and seaside walks. “Cadence” has a very early-80s vibe. Something that might have accompanied the opening credits to a “Satanic Panic” occult film. “Below The Landslide(featuring Nina)” is an exquisite piece of synth music. With the addition of vocals it becomes something far more emotional and engaging. “The World Without” is pure desolate beauty, like a slow crawl through some dystopian landscape. “I Never Wanted to Write These Words down for You” gives you the feeling of waking from some long, ancient rest. Tremolo-effected electric piano gives the track an almost pop sensibility. It’s like the moment when the clouds break and there’s shards of light hitting the earth once again.

This record is so sonically rich. It has the production value of an early 70s Alan Parsons production. There’s an aged refinement that permeates the record I can’t get enough of. It’s dark, but there’s a warmth in the songs. Like early OMD obsessed with Vangelis. The production and engineering is almost like another instrument altogether.

V is an hypnotic listening experience. There are not overwrought explosions of sound. It’s all very cool and calculated. Some tracks feel as if they feed right into the next, giving you the experience of one long, musical piece rather than individual shots of songs. The album’s organic nature only adds to the feeling that these songs sprung up from the earth. Dupay masterfully weaves these songs together like a Gothic tapestry for us to wrap ourselves in and embrace whatever journey they’re going to take us on. I cannot recommend V enough. It’s a masterpiece of restraint and storied beauty.

Buy the album right here.


Maine : V

Lofty beauty. That’s the phrase that comes to my mind when I hear the music of Maine. No, I’m not talking about the indigenous sounds of Bangor, Augustus, Portland, or Oguquit. I’m talking about French electronic musician and composer Michel Dupay’s band Maine. I haven’t dug in too deep to Dupay’s past or what he did prior to Maine, not yet anyways. Right now I’m currently basking in the beauty of his newest LP titled V. Yes, there are are four other releases before it titled I, II, III, and IV, and they are absolutely stunning. Each one is a major step to something new, and V is the culmination of those steps. It’s a musical structure of dark, lofty beauty.

Dupay makes a heavy synth album that carries with it a lot of weight. It feels dense; built with stone, timber, European soil, and the ghosts that linger in that soil. There’s an early 80s discotheque quality to the music, but more Gothic than dance floor fodder. There’s a doomed romanticism that lingers over the proceedings, and with that there’s something very human about his work despite his preferred instrument is a fabricated machine that manipulates electricity with modulation to create melody. Dupay also makes Maine records without the help of MIDI instruments. All of his music is played, not synced with computers. That gives his work an immediacy, as its recorded with real drums, guitar, bass, and female vocals on a song. It’s the perfect melding of organic and synthetic.

V is comprised of 14 tracks, all slow, meticulous builds of tension and melancholy. “La Pluie” saunters out of the speakers with a mix of doomed sophistication and early 80s 4AD flair. It feels like opening credit music to some lost Italian Giallo film. “Trajection Lure” puts me in mind of UK artist Pentagram Home Video, albeit with slightly loftier goals. “Now We Rise And We Are Everywhere” has almost a video game vibe to it. It builds an electric anxiety while still retaining this semblance of early alternative 80s. “There And Then” could almost fit perfectly in some John Hughes film about friends or enemies becoming friends. There’s something very uplifting about this track.

I think one of the most affecting tracks here is the beautifully haunting “Below The Landslide”, featuring Nina on vocals. With the church organ-like sounds, tightly wound drum track, and the the loping melody it feels like a quiet moment by the seaside. There’s a longing that permeates this track. “Chaque etoile est un soleil qui se couche” is another that seems to shine, as does the tranquil “Left Hand”.

Elsewhere, “Black Cloud” has a bit of a wheezy analog groove to it. I could imagine some post-apocalyptic hero making his way through the wasteland with this track playing over the proceedings. It’s minimalist, but anything more on here and it would topple the magic. “Cadence” puts me in mind of Slasher Film Festival Strategy(another analog hero in the realm of synth music) with its ominous bass and strut of a rhythm.

The imagined film score is something of a popular thing these days. When it’s done right it can take you into that imagined world. Maine may not fit quite into that imagined film score genre, but his music definitely takes me into another world. Or realm. Cobblestone streets, hovering fog, and a chill in the air. Trees emptying themselves of dead leaves and a moon that looks big enough to hit with a rock. It feels like it came out of a time capsule. Beautiful electronic music from a bygone era. There is a beating heart in the chest of this machine, and it beats loudly.

8.3 out of 10