Aquaserge

Laisse ça être

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Aquaserge began as an experimental offshoot of the French pop group Hyperclean, and their singular, hard-to-define brand of avant rock incorporates prog, psychedelia, free jazz, chanson, and other genres. After releasing some of their poppiest material yet (a 2013 collaboration with American Francophile April March, followed by the 2014 album A l'Amitié), Aquaserge signed to Marc Hollander's legendary Crammed Discs in 2016. Laisse ça être is their first full-length for the label, and it's one of the most cohesive blends of their pop instincts with the experimental tendencies of their earliest work. At times, their work brings to mind Van Dyke Parks arranging a Soft Machine album, and it would be impossible to overlook the influence of the group's namesake, Monsieur Gainsbourg. Their compositions are erratic and knotty, but also playful, seductive, and joyous. "Tour du Monde" opens with horn blasts and a slinky groove similar to Afrobeat-referencing groups like NOMO, and it's joined by angular, Sun Ra-esque keyboards and intricate, panned vocal arrangements. The instrumental "Virage Sud" contains buzzing synths, lumpy rhythms, and a suaveness recalling Stereolab (which is not a coincidence, as Aquaserge co-founder Julien Gasc participated in the final lineup of that band, in addition to playing on some of Laetitia Sadier's solo albums). The lengthier "Tintin On Est Bien Mon Loulou" and "Si Loin, Si Proche" expand on this Stereolab-gone-prog direction; the latter is particularly lovely and easily the album's standout track, managing to sound complex yet hypnotic and blissful. The jazzier "C'est Pas Tout Mais" is punctuated by horn blurts and fits of laughter before getting calmer and more aired out toward its conclusion. The concluding songs are a bit trippier and more disoriented, particularly the queasy acid-lounge of "Charme d'Orient." Arty and ambitious but never overwrought, Laisse ça être is a thoroughly enjoyable journey.

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