By Colin Gallant
Cinematic is certainly an overused adjective when it comes to music, but it’s near-impossible to avoid when describing Essaie Pas. The taut marathon of severe synth bludgeoning that made their previous release, Demain est une autre nuit (“tomorrow is another night,” 2016), so delightful was that it was partly indebted to musical innovations made in film scores like Blade Runner and giallo flicks.
The Montreal duo’s return to DFA with New Path retains tradition while being aptly named: the dystopian coldwave of the release still sounds hand-hewn and ruthless, but adopts a slicker varnish that helps make the menacing medicine go down. Every sound on the record feels richer, from the fuller bass to the higher-fidelity synths.
Lead single “Complet brouillé” recalls co-founder Marie Davidson’s “Naive to the Bone” in its cheekiness, yet has a robust tonality more suitable for a mega-rave than a sketchy DIY club. Once that track completes the deliberately-sequenced A-side, the distinct back half opens with perhaps the duo’s best track to date, “Les agents des stups.” Its seven-minute tension flex doubles the power of Demain’s most chaotic muscles, adding nuance with multi-tracking and dynamism in its passages.
The tactile feel of this record sells the listening experience on its own, but keener listeners may want to head to Genius or Google Translate to explore the sometimes French-language, sometimes just plain inscrutable lyrics. According to promotional materials, the subject matter is (fittingly) inspired by Philip K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly, and there are field recording passages that may take some careful listening to contextualize properly. But don’t be afraid of a little extra work: sometimes the best thing a record can do is hook you with its veneer and implore you to find your own way into the underlying complexities.DFA, Essaie Pas, New Path, Record Review