Gez Varley

Bayou Paradis

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Gez Varley, the less celebrated -- and for a while admittedly forgotten -- member of the early '90s techno duo LFO, returns from a three-year absence with a remarkable album for the prestigious Force Inc label that should re-establish his reputation in the techno community. His first album, Presents Tony Montana, may have garnered some attention, but it suddenly seems quite formative when held up against Bayou Paradis, a follow-up that takes the best element of Presents and expands upon it, namely Varley's ability to pile layers of glistening reverb atop rather skeletal yet effective rhythms. Where Varley tried to offer variety on Presents, he instead offers what essentially amounts to ten variations on the same motif for this album. It's quite an uncanny proposition. But as elementary as this approach may seem, Varley's execution is undeniably stunning. Granted, the percussive rhythms aren't anything particularly out of the ordinary, even if they do evolve into steady builds that result in several climatic moments. Rather, it's the precious synth manipulation that carries this album's weight; harking back to the classic Basic Channel, Maurizio, and, in particular, the early Vainquer records on Chain Reaction, Varley takes simple high-end synth tones or even low-end percussive tones and tweaks them in the most poetically imaginable ways. It's difficult to make mechanical sounds emotive, but Varley seems to have mastered this art, and he smartly uses his rhythms to build tension and suspense, further heightening the emotional force. As simple as Varley's approach may seem, don't underestimate it -- this is truly evocative techno, stripped down to its most minimal elements: a steady percussive rhythm for energy, sparkling synth washes for emotion, and absolutely nothing else to interfere, filling in all the space with subtle reverb and echo.

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