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'Never stay up on the barren heights of cleverness, but come down into the green valleys of silliness,' said the Austrian-Brit philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein back in 1947 (please come back, I’m not going to turn this into a Joey Barton Twitter feed). Apparently a lot of twentieth century pop culture icons took Wittgenstein at his word: think of Laurel and Hardy, of Monty Python and of Woody Allen’s early films; think of Spielberg’s blockbusters; of Indiana Jones and Star Wars and all of the great Eighties testosterone-fueled action flicks. All are inherently silly.
One of the reasons that the public’s love for these masterpieces of absurdity has endured over decades is that such care, love and thought has evidently been pumped into crafting their escapism; the process of actually creating something brilliantly silly was undertaken with utmost seriousness. What you might have guessed by now is that Rituels d’un Nouveau Monde, the new album from French electronica duo Zombie Zombie, is quite silly.
If Rituels..., or Rituals of a New World, isn’t quite Junior on the Schwarzenegger Scale of Silliness™ then it certainly falls closer to End of Days than The Terminator. Clearly though the project has been taken seriously, but this has somehow left it with a sour, po-faced expression that’s a million miles from the camp fun of their previous work reinterpreting John Carpenter soundtracks. Rather than recalling an enticing bygone age, the outmoded burping synths on tracks such as ‘The Wisdom of Stones’ jolt rather than charm.
This isn’t to say that there isn’t the odd moment of inspiration on the album. ‘Watch the World from a Plane’ and ‘Foret Vierge’ are the two highlights, giving the album its neat apex, with their duelling flanged synths and soft, first-half-of-NEU! 75-style rhythms you have around 13 minutes of cool, melodic Teardrop Explodes-type stuff. ‘L’Age D’Or’, too, has its moments dripping with 1968 counterculture that could pass for, well, if not Can then a pretty tight covers band. There’s even a kind of kitsch appeal to ‘Rocket #9’ with its robot vocals if you’re in the mood for it.
Apparently with the title Rituels d’un Nouveau Monde Etienne Jaumet and Cosmic Neman (man I wish that was my name) were looking to emphasise the 'made in France' nature of the album. This is naturally in stark contrast with anything actually on the album; there is a huge debt owed to the Krautrock movement’s more self-indulgent moments, and at times it tips over into the kind of prog Kansas might be embarrassed by. Many people love to embrace something a bit fantastical and silly; it just doesn’t sound like Zombie Zombie really enjoy what they’re doing anymore.
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