Steeple Remove - Position Normal - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Steeple Remove - Position Normal

by Jeff Penczak Rating:7 Release Date:2015-11-22

Bear with me for this is a weird one and the information surrounding it (mostly in French) is confusing and contradictory. The fourth (Discogs says fifth) album from this veteran (18-year-old) French (Rouen) quartet gets a belated (?) release, having originally been released way back in January. The (apparently) new imprint (Gonzaï) mentions this version is being released on Not for Sale Records (the catalogue number NFSR001 supports this) and Gonzaï’s website claims it’s based in Paris... Kentucky (pop. 8500)!

The publicity machine also highlights the fact that three of the tracks originally appeared in the Emmy Award-winning, cult (French) sci-fi series, Les Revenants (not to be confused with the godawful American ripoffs, The Returned and Resurrection or the upcoming Leo DiCaprio film), although I’ve already heard (and loved) the soundtrack by Mogwai (which doesn’t include any Steeple Remove tracks). Whew! Now that your brain is suitably rewired for sound, let’s, uh, return to the album at hand.

     Steeple Remove’s sound has been described as shoegaze, krautrock, and post punk, but opener ‘Mirrors’ sounds rather gothic to me (the singer reminds me of Bauhaus frontman Peter Murphy) with a heavy dose of darkwavers Clan of Xymox stalking around in the background. Unfortunately, a lengthy mid-song digression derails any energy the track initially created.

     ‘Silver Banana’ conjures up images I’d rather not perpetuate, although the Electroclash buzz does get the blood flowing and the feet moving. The next three tracks may be familiar to fans of Les Revenants, but don’t expect Mogwai. For starters, ‘Unclean’ (actually used in three episodes) has a stalking vampire vibe that reminds us of The Bad Seeds’ unforgettable performance in the night club scene of Wim Wenders’ Der Himmel über Berlin (Wings of Desire), while the psychedelic pop of the vibrating ‘Sunshine’ leans closer to Plasticland, Kula Shaker, and Brian Jonestown Massacre. Finally, ‘Invisible Lights’ (from the “Serge et Toni” episode if you’re keeping score) sounds like The Handsome Family’s theme from True Detective (first season, thank you) crossed with some diabolically weird shit thunked up by David Lynch for one of his solo albums (and foisted upon Julee Cruise to interpret). (I’m gonna have to go rewatch the first season to see how these songs were incorporated into the show, but as stand alone tracks, they sound great.)

     Returning (sorry!) to the rest of the album, ‘Calling Up’ will get you Raveonettes fans in a tizzy, ‘Imaginary Girl’ finally rewards those “shoegazer” labels (although the detour into Enoville for some not-so-Discreet ambient textures is unnecessarily unsettling), and why-oh-why ‘Home Run’ starts with Toni Basil’s ‘Mickey’ beat is puzzling to say the least. Thankfully we’re mercifully saved when it grows up and turns into a rather bouncy Nouvelle Vague synth smash. Still, at over seven minutes, it could’ve used some editing – even that’s a bit long for a spandex ballet. The last half sounds like a completely different song trying to escape the clutches of krautock and these twains don’t meet in my musical universe.

     My patron saint and guardian angel Jeanne D’Arc was burned at Rouen, but I’m not sure this is what she was listening to “while the flames rose to her Roman nose and her Walkman started to melt”, but it will light a fire under the more complacent listener, and perhaps that’s what Steeple Remove want to do – make us reject the boring, cookie-cutter music that the game shows and charts are spoon feeding us and tune in and turn on to something fresh and nouvelle. Well, mission accomplished. C’est bon!

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