When the Bagpipe Sings i’ th’ Nose

François Robin and Mathias Delplanque
L’Ombre de la Bête
French sampling-synth-composer bod Mathias Delplanque has been hit or miss for me with his previous ventures, but François Robin seems an interesting cove as he turns up in the avenue clutching his veuze-bagpipes from Nantes. It might be a shade too glib to say that he’s “soloing” on top of Delplanque’s rhythm tracks, but the duo work hard to recast this traditional instrument in a very modern electro-acoustic setting, with transformations of all sorts freely permitted, plus beats and synth drone – hence the claim to offer the listener everything from Krautrock grooves to ambient swimming pools.

Having said “traditional” I’m not sure how traditional the tunes, or the mode of playing, really are – although in places Robin does seem to be executing interesting scales that carry more than a whiff of the past and might date back to ancient times of feudal struggles. I’m mainly swept along here by his passionate mission statement where he claims “my instrument is animal”, and other utterances where he alludes further to his assumption – a very valid one – that his chosen instrument is a living beast…as echoed, sort of, in the cover art. But I wish he’d been allowed to let the animal off its leash, and cut loose with something equally earthy and raw in the music. I won’t say Mathias Delplanque has a deadening effect when he walks into the studio, but many of his projects end up far too genteel for me, and even when he attempts “noise” it doesn’t really carry enough of a jolt. Nor does he do enough here to truly bring out the voice of the bagpipes; he adds too much sauce, or honey glaze, to the roast boar.

My faves so far are ‘Perdu’ and ‘L’ombre’, but it’s ‘L’homme à la tête de cheval’ which serves up the pagan animal-magic title we’ve all been hungering for since we first slipped the disc into the automated treetrunk, and it’s the album’s sole Wicker Man moment. ‘Le Puits’ disappoints, an overlong Pink Floyd dollop of mush replete with Rick Wright styled doodles and a rather soppy sound. (27/05/2022)

Stream it here