Malajube

La Caverne

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Recently usurped by Polaris Music Prize-winning Karkwa as Canada's biggest Francophone indie act, experimental Montreal four-piece Malajube attempt to wrestle back the title with their most pop-oriented release to date, La Caverne. Recorded in a secluded house, self-described as a "geodesic modern cave," in the heart of the Laurentian mountain range, the self-produced fourth effort still bears the hallmarks of its isolated surroundings, whether it's the reverb-drenched acid rock symphonies of "Le Stridor," the Pink Floyd-inspired trippy atmospherics of "Mon Oeil," or the creepy baroque pop ballad "Sangsues," all of which would quite easily fit onto the soundtrack of David Lynch's next mindbender, while frontman Julien Mineau's hushed whispered vocals provide a suitably ghostly accompaniment. But perhaps burned by the disappointing response to their rather challenging prog-inspired third effort, Labyrinthes, the "Haunted Mansion" vibes are joined by a series of uplifting melodies, radio-friendly choruses, and an indie-disco production that sees the quartet embrace the dancefloor, as on the funky basslines and shimmering synths of opening track "Synesthésie," the Franz Ferdinand-esque "Le Blizzard," and the Hammond organ-driven power pop of "Cro-Magnon." The new wave synths and spiky guitar riffs of "Ibuprofène" and epic closer "Chienne Folle," the latter of which falls completely silent for 40 seconds before bursting into a brief outburst of unsettling and doom-laden psychedelia, suggest that the Strokes' Is This It might have been the only album left on the stereo of their middle-of-nowhere location. But other than these momentary lapses into derivativeness, La Caverne is a highly inventive affair managing to combine their trademark experimentation with a more accessible approach that should see them reinstated as their homeland's premier French-speaking guitar band.

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