- There's a fine line between nostalgia and Luddism, and it's one that Rone treads heavily. Creatures, the French artist's third album, doesn't pine for the heyday of late-'90s electronica as much as it sounds stuck in that era. Erwan Castex's sweeping compositions echo the likes of Mouse On Mars, µ ziq and Warp's influential roster, rarely updating their proven ideas except in their impressive sound design. It's all meticulously crafted with a keen ear for mood and emotion, and yet Creatures has trouble moving beyond a pastiche of Castex's record collection.
Variety has never been an issue for Castex—he can jump from weightless atmospheres to anthemic string sections to skull-crushing beats with aplomb. This happens on Creatures, but it takes time. Things get off to a strong start on "(00)," a determined swell of robust synths that climb into the stratosphere. Track two, "Acid Reflux," is another swirl of melodic tangents, and "Elle" emerges from that nebulous plateau with slow-crunching beats, slide guitar and a bloated brass section. The latter production shows Castex piling sounds onto one listless melodic theme until it buckles under the weight.
Creatures does better elsewhere. Splitting the difference between Chris Clark's heavy boom-bap and Idiology-style glitch, "Ouija" starts the album's second half with an adventurous streak of maximalism. Castex switches gears on the somber interlude "Roads," and uses "Calice Texas" to slowly ramp up into the caustic trawl of "Freaks." This dynamic narrative helps lend Creatures a sense purpose.
Vocals add more personality to Castex's work, even when they're used mostly as texture. Gossamer harmonies from Montreal singer Sea Oleena lift the twinkling "Sir Orfeo" closer to dream-pop. And though "Memory" takes a technicolor trip-hop motif straight from Music Has the Right to Children, its staccato vocal samples give the tired broken-beat nice rhythmic accents. Electro-ballad "Quitter La Ville" features a stirring performance by Fránçois Marry, which Castex accompanies with his album's most distinctive production. Unfortunately, Creatures closes on a low note. "Vif" is nondescript soundtrack filler, all mid-tempos and crowded instrumentation—neatly summing up Rone's latest record in three minutes.
02. Acid Reflux
04. Sing Song
06. Sir Orfeo
09. Calice Texas
11. Quitter La Ville