We’ve grown used to music being little more than files: small, compact, disposable. We rarely listen to physical records any more, let alone actually listen to a whole album start to finish. We are such busy people leading busy lives; music must be ever-evolving - reflecting feelings on a whim. Whether we’re at the gym, punching it out to ‘Eye of the tiger’ or in an airport listening to Eno's masterpiece Music for Airports - we can find music to match moods just as soon as our thumbs will let us. God bless evolution. God be praised for opposable thumbs: no longer simply for holding club sandwiches but also perfect for the spinning, clicking wheels on aesthetically perfect MP3 players. We’re just one ‘click’ away from completing every moment.
I suspect you can remember a time when you bought a record, tape or CD (possibly with your parents’ money) and lay on your bed listening to it in your room, rapt by the accompanying lyrics and artwork. That doesn’t happen so much now we have MP3s. We rip or download…and go. "I can carry thousands of songs; hundreds of albums. Quality’s for losers! Look at the amount, bruv – even at 320kbps, I got 4 days of music on this! And I can play it on my phone."
What has this got to do with France's Angil and the Hiddntracks? Curse your impatience – I was getting to that. If you miss the old days of listening to a whole album, Ouliposaliva may be your salvation.
The unpronounceable title comes from a French group of writers who practice the art of constrained writing. Constrained writing in this case is the practice of not using the letter ‘e’ anywhere in the lyrics. This, then, would appear to be the aural equivalent of Georges Perec’s novel which he wrote without the inclusion of a single ‘e’. It makes you wonder what the French have got against the letter ‘e’…
There are many striking features of Ouliposaliva: the dark comic art of Guillaume Long which beautifully captures the albums mood is what hits first but then, looking at the disc, it’s impossible not to notice the creative commons license granting us listeners permission to copy and sample the contents of the disc. Hey, cool! But would you want to?
"You most probably don’t want anything bad to occur," sings Angil (Mickaël Mottet) "but if you avoid risk – you’ll just pass away." If words like these wrapped in avant-garde, dusty, lo-fi, jazzy trip-hop don’t immediately turn you off, then it’s quite possible that this could be for you.
‘Do not think’, ‘Narrow Minds’ and an emphatically delivered and wonderfully harmonised "fuck you" are the strongest indicators that a less than favourable response is predicted. The percussion of ‘Took no drugs, had no drink’ is nothing more than hand-claps and foot-stomps embellished by what sounds like a ring pull being dropped into a glass jar. ‘Trying to fit’ is almost hip-hop in its lyrical delivery but all offset by a jarringly ghoulish out-of-tune piano and layered with thick, classical melodies played out on strings.
Consumed by sheer artistic madness, Ouliposaliva will have you flipping chaotically backwards and forwards through the booklet, whilst its metaphysical philosophy will leave you ruminating on more than just the music. Mottet deploys verbal poetry like Soul Coughing’s M. Doughty and, like Javier Bardem in ‘No Country for Old Men’; he’s almost always a step ahead of you. This truly is an album you can’t just dip into, it’s a winning concept. And though it may not win millions of hearts, for those with time, it’s a truly rewarding experience.
“Is it shit music?” Mottet asks, and before you can respond, he replies “No, it’s not. It’s sounds to occupy my vital air.” How do you argue with that?