Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Encre

  • Encre [Clapping Music, 2004] A-
  • Flux [Clapping Music, 2004] A-
  • Common Chord [Clapping Music, 2006] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Encre [Clapping Music, 2004]
In the studio--live, he has a combo, documented on a less interesting bonus EP--Frenchman Yann Tambour is a solo laptopper whose works are invariably described by the few Anglophones who know they exist as mysterious and depressing. I say they're moody, and note for the record that the mood they evoked on a recent European sojourn was always comforting--notably during a jet-lagged rush hour as we sought lodgings in a language we do not speak on an Appian Way that was more picturesque back in the day. Tambour's music is slow and textural, deploying glitches and ostinatos in the service of a better-grounded groove than is laptop practice. Over this Tambour whispers now and then in a French it's just as well I can't make out, although my multilingual wife believes that on the first track he says either "there is still a time" or "there is still a liver," both of which seem chipper enough to me. Unless--uh-oh--it's "there isn't yet a time" (or liver). Oh well. A-

Flux [Clapping Music, 2004]
I know more about the French electronic musician Yann Tambour now than when I reviewed Encre's eponymous debut in 2005. I know that that record came out in 2001. I know that he's released three albums and three EPs under the moniker, and that both EPs I've heard, Marbres and Plexus II, are forgettable. I know that he leads another band or unit called Thee, Standing Horse that makes music as stillborn as its horrible name. I know that when I wondered jokingly in my first review whether he was talking about time (fois) or liver (foie), he was probably talking about liver, because the extensive printed lyrics here begin "Ah mon foie! tu pr?pares un vieux pr?mature" ("Ah my liver! You prepare a premature old age"). I know I'm not going to translate the rest of those lyrics, which on a casual scan tend passionate and pr?tentieux, and that I'm not going to let them stop me from reporting that Encre is one helluva laptop unit. It's one-man chamber music with a fondness for rhythmic repetition--for hypnotic motives, say--and also, occasionally, percussion. Tambour (the French word for drum, as it happens) plays guitar and kora, but his sonic palette favors chamber quartet sonorities, brief orchestral samples, simple piano figures, and other classical-type materials. Only half the eight songs include lyrics, which Tambour whispers winningly and mysteriously. I hope he's taking care of his liver. But I'd hope harder if he hadn't abandoned Encre for Thee, Standing Horse. A-

Common Chord [Clapping Music, 2006]
Encre's live album features a five-person group playing versions of Tambour's studio creations, some of them radically reconceived. The big difference is that they rock--the drums are always there, and almost always state a beat. Similarly, the music's louder in general; similarly, there's more guitar; similarly, Tambour oft exclaims where once he whispered. He also cedes one vocal to his female cellist. A laptopper with an outgoing side--we like that. A-