E.P. REVIEW: French Diseases of the Soul by Deckard Croix

Deckard Croix is a singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist (guitar, keyboard, bass) hailing from Columbus, Ohio. His musical style is somewhat multi-faceted, though psychedelia, ambient and musique concrete all feature in his work predominantly. Krautrock, atonality and dissonance as well as indeterminism are also part of his artistic lexicon and influence his compositional approach.

His recordings show a preference for a “lo-fi aesthetic”, exclusively recording on analog equipment from 2001-2008. In 2010, he released Bocca di Leone, a “large collaborative project celebrating the culture and peoples of Sardinia”, while 2018 saw Croix become involved in Manos, an improvised psychedelic/ambient band. They released their eponymous debut in 2019 under Croix’s own label, Tachisme Records. 2020 saw the release of Splendour Plus Misery, a “freak-folk” acoustic album, while the EP Noncommunication of the Cephalopods and a sound collage album, Mise en Concrete were released in 2021.

This EP, French Diseases of the Soul, consists of three tracks and Croix has described as “a three-part stellar nursery of frigid music”, and a “sister album” to the Noncommunication of the Cephalopods EP. The first track, Ennui (French for boredom) is a fourteen minute instrumental that weaves quite a spell upon the listener across the duration. The music is a masterclass in minimalism, subtle organ and synths growing organically in texture and musical tension. A very low two-note recurring motif gives the music a quietly ominous quality, along with delay drenched, swelling synth strings. Around two thirds through we hear a Frenchman on the phone, the influence of musique concrete on Croix apparent here. The final minutes are incredibly peaceful and tranquil, making for a satisfying resolution.

Second track Umbrage has a distinctive grandeur from the outset, featuring a compelling vocal performance from Deckard. Built around a brilliant, brooding bassline and echo-drenched guitar, the languid tempo allows the music to breathe, an understated psychedelic epic with hints of Aphrodite’s Child and the more languid moments of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.

Lyrically, the enigmatic and sophisticated style brought to mind the more experimental work of Scott Walker (a noted influence) or someone like Van Dyke Parks (legendary collaborator on the Beach Boys highly avant garde Smile album). Croix is obviously a very literate songwriter and the arcane poeticism of certain lines brought to mind poets like Dylan Thomas, E.E. Cummings and Gerard Manley Hopkins: “Lord and Lady of our sustenance, cowed and cowardly indecent. Aztec moments, privy to this heart, the wiles of the wind (so entrepreneurial).”

The EP concludes with Pique, another ambient instrumental and expression of his minimalist side. This one is not so much psychedelic as mystical, entrancing strings creating a remarkable beauty and tension, a mesmerising blend of the tonal with the atonal. The effect is undeniably hypnotic and transports the listener to somewhere circa Betelgeuse, as the best ambient music does. It’s an enchanting and yet slightly unsettling composition that manages to transcend space and time.

Overall, this is a truly unique EP from a sophisticated composer and songwriter. The EP is bookended by two superb instrumentals that show how less can be more, while Umbrage shows his skills as a lyricist and vocalist. For those looking for genuinely original alternative music of the psychedelic and ambient variety, Deckard Croix might well become your favourite new artist.

VERDICT = 9.1 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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