Foudre!—the French word for lighting and an old unit of measurement for liquids) is a project which has already been making quite a commotion among those with hearts wide open for drone music.
Formed by Saåad’s Romain Barbot and Grégory Buffier with Frédéric D. Oberland (Oiseaux-Tempête, FareWell Poetry, Le Reveil des Tropiques), Foudre! is a promising collaboration not only for the debut album I’ll be discussing here, but also for their first live show that is due to take place on June 7th this year. That will be during Lowave’s Singapour Mon Amour, when the project will be performing a live soundtrack to Ho Tzu Nyuen’s film Earth, with special guests Christine Ott (Tindersticks, Yann Tiersen) and Paul Régimbeau (Mondkopf, Extreme Precautions).
I was privileged enough to follow the project’s development by secretly receiving bits and pieces of Magnum Chaos while it was still in the process of being recorded. Now, after finally having the chance to spin the album in its entirety with James Plotkin’s mastering as the finishing touch, I am witnessing just how huge Magnum Chaos has become. Spanning over forty minutes, the five featured pieces here take you on quite an eclectic journey through a vast universe of drifting music—drone, ambient, and dark ambient with a slight touch of psychedelia: it has it all of these aspects in the just the right amounts. The record was captured during the first series of improvisation sessions between all three musicians. ‘We didn’t really think it will make an album’, Romain Barbot says about the nights he spent playing what would later become the music of Foudre! This recording is the actual birthing of a new and very promising band. An absolute creative freedom is what this album has to offer.
The listener will find themselves introduced to Magnum Chaos by ‘Oracle’, with its deceivingly gentle high-pitched drones and isolated, tense lows. These elements move slowly and are gradually enhanced by a ever-increasing sonic layering. Trembling soundscapes are pierced by delay feedback until the thick bass drones enter a delicate warm sea of drone—and that’s just the beginning. Yes, it does kind of set a tone for the record as a whole, but not a single movement is repeated in the coming tracks. Each one lives in its own way and with the sole purpose of furthering the tension in the ambiance; to fill the air around you with electricity transmitted through sound.
‘Cellarius’ calms things a bit with its comforting yet distant percussion, theremin-like vibratos, and slow melodic pads which form a thick soundscape and quickly escalate with abrasiveness in a way that is slightly reminiscent of Saåad’s sound, probably because of the heavily effected guitar work (and sound in general). Side B of the tape takes things to a place that is a bit darker and harsher but still diverse. ‘Vestigia Pedis’ moves from raw and primal soundscapes to calmer sonic depths with an almost orchestral and choral feel to it. It grows into ‘First Exit’, whose minimalist melody is the carrier of gentle basses, synthetic sweeps, and psychedelic arpeggios. If Magnum Chaos was opened in a somehow positive, perhaps melancholic way, its ending would be grim and massive. In its five minutes, ‘Vajra’ brings immense bass frequencies and microsounds that gravitate all around the listener, dragging behind them waves of troubled melodies. That’s the ultimate epitaph of the emotionally draining experience this album actually is, and then it’s over, with you left there alone, empty, and anxious.
‘It’s only music’, some people say. Well, not this one, for sure.
03) Vestigia Pedis
04) First Exit