Published Apr 24, 2010In the three years since his 2007 debut album, Face à L'est came out, Montreal producer Guillaume Coutu Dumont has delivered a startling run of excellent singles ― ten, in total ― that went a long way towards distinguishing him as one of the most talented up-and-coming house producers at work today. Breaking the Fourth Wall, his second full-length, delivers ably on that promise. At 11 tracks, Breaking the Fourth Wall is a deep and complex journey through the powers of house music by someone who has no intention of dumbing down the genre. Throughout, Dumont effectively directs his cast of live musicians into delivering contributions that feel indistinguishable beside the curious ears of his samples, which run the gamut from jazz to funk to space rock to Afrobeat. All this makes for one satisfying and varied experience from beginning to end. While Dumont can work the usual house tempos with the best of them, tracks like "Radio Novela" employ polyrhythmic congas to bring the beat down to a slow-burning Afrobeat groove, while the mid-point 11-minute sprawl of "Discotheque" and follow-up "Intermède" ride Pink Floyd-ian solo guitars and horns into the next solar system. Containing no dull moments and immensely rewarding to repeat listens, Breaking the Fourth Wall ranks up there with Akufen's My Way and the Mole's As High as the Sky as a contemporary masterpiece of Canadian dance music.
This album successfully showcases a wide range of musical influences. Who were you listening to that helped shape the direction of this album?
I try to listen to a lot of music, and I don't only focus on electronic music. House and techno, as much as hip-hop, have their roots in a vast and complex network of influences. In order to understand what I do now, I always felt that it was important to look back to what was done before. There are a couple of records I listened to like a maniac during the making of the album: Q-Tip's Renaissance; the Budos Band's I and II; Bukka White's 1962 isn't 1963; Fat Freddy's Drop's Dr. Boondigga And The Big BW; J.J. Cale's Oakie; Donny Hathaway's self-titled album; Mulatu Astatke's Mulatu of Ethiopia; the Menahan Street Band's Make the Road by Walking; Yusef Lateef's Eastern Sounds; and Pink Floyd's Meddle and Dark Side of the Moon. Pink Floyd are the band I've stuck with since the longest time. Lately, I just went back to it like crazy. I think their sound influenced me a lot for a couple of moments on the album.
What do you think you brought to Breaking the Fourth Wall that maybe wasn't on Face à L'est?
It's been two-and-a-half years since the release of Face à L'est, so a lot of things changed, including my vision of the music and my capacity to translate it to a mix-down. I don't know if there is something on Breaking the Fourth Wall that wasn't there on the previous album. Maybe everything that was on Face à L'est just evolved to become what it is now. Don't they say, "better than yesterday, not as good as tomorrow"? At least that's what we say in French. One thing's for sure, there are more collaborations on this album. On top of my Montreal friends Nicolas Boucher [keys], Sébastien Arcand-Tourigny [sax], Marc-André Charbonneau [guitar] and my brother Gabriel [guitar], I was lucky to work with dOP, Dave Aju and Dynamike on some tracks. Those aspects definitely bring a fresh breeze that wasn't there on the first album.
If I'm not mistaken, you're a formally trained percussionist. How has that part of your skill set evolved since your early days in Egg?
I studied in Latin and classical percussion for a little while. Somehow it seems to be a long time ago. Playing an instrument is really a physical thing and I've lost most of it now. Not long ago, I tried to play congas with a friend and I was disgusted to realize how much I'd lost of it. Don't get me wrong, I've never been a Giovanni Hidalgo on the skins, but now I really suck! I use a drum pad for live percussion during my sets. You still have to be tight, but at least you don't need to focus on the quality of your sound. It makes things much easier.
The inevitable Berlin question: like others, your career has taken off since leaving Canada. What has living in Berlin done for your sense of artistic self and how is the everyday life of an expatriate?
I don't know if living in Berlin really changed the way I do music. I had a kid nine months ago and that changed me much more than moving to Berlin did. The funny thing is that we are a lot of Canadians around here. Almost all the closest people I had around me in Montreal are now living in Berlin. When I read this it freaks me out. The massive exodus is a dramatic thing. We'll have to get our asses back home soon. As boring as it may sound, my everyday life hasn't changed much, with the exception that things are a little easier now thanks to the crazy, but amazing two years that just swooshed by. (Circus Company)