Published Feb 06, 2015After releasing no less than seven EPs in as many years, as well as two full-lengths and contributions to the National's acclaimed sixth studio album Trouble Will Find Me, French electronic producer Erwan Castex — aka Rone — has made a name for himself as a purveyor of whimsical, glittery, minimal techno and IDM. But early material from his third full-length, particularly early single "Ouija," presented a marked shift in Rone's sound, shying from the smooth and pleasant compositions to which listeners had become accustomed, and transitioning to a much more complex and at times darker industrial territory. But "Ouija," as it turns out, was not a great indicator of the shape Creatures would finally take; it's far more inviting than the foreboding first single would intimate.
First and foremost, Creatures is a much bigger collaborative project than anything Rone has released thus far. Whereas his sophomore album Tohu Bohu bore the trappings of Berlin techno — having relocated to the German capital for its recording — in all its insular glory, Creatures was produced and recorded in the French commune of Dreux, a small northern village, which allowed Rone to synthesize the various contributions into a self-contained package. There's a prominent lyrical component to the project, including vocal contributions from Montreal singer-songwriter Sea Oleena and Frànçois and the Atlas Mountains frontman François Marry, that was absent on Rone's earlier releases and that add layers of depth and meaning to the songs, as sometimes only human voices can.
In discussing the process behind the album with French publication Sourdoreille, Castex mentions wanting to add more instrumentation to his process, making the electronic soundscape more organic, but also inversely modulating the acoustics with electronic effects. The results are made apparent on cuts such as "Acid Reflux," which features Japanese trumpeter Toshinori Kondo, where the trumpet sounds ebb and flow in ways that constantly defy notions of natural and fabricated.
On "Calice Texas," multi-instrumentalist and labelmate Bachar Mar-Khalifé packs the track with soft plucky strings, drums and his own plaintive vocals, spliced together with samples of Castex's daughter, who interrupted their session, resulting in one of Creature's most experimental and satisfying cuts. "Freaks," inspired by the 1932 Tod Browning film of the same name, is arguably the album's darkest cut, filled with strings by French cellist and regular collaborator Gaspard Claus.
Creatures is a pensive release, one that slowly unfolds and retracts as you follow along, and one that confirms Rone's assertion that electronica and classical music are intrinsically linked. It's the type of album that shifts with every listen, making you discover unknown corners of certain songs, with nary a lowlight or highlight in sight. (InFiné Music)