St Germain - St Germain

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  • Ludovic Navarre's last two St Germain albums sounded determined to evoke the Parisian district from which he takes his name. Smoky jazz swirled around as if you were in some candlelit cellar club, while he nodded to the other black American influences of Left Bank culture in the bluesy guitar and deep house rhythms that inspired his first F Communications singles. Indeed, his music presented such a romantic vision of the city that it seemed like the audio equivalent of an Eiffel Tower postcard (as the title of 2000's Tourist might've implied). Navarre seems to have been something of a tourist himself 15 years later, with his self-titled new album recorded in his Paris studio following travels in Mali. Rather than the jazz ensemble found on Tourist, he enlisted musicians from his local Malian ex-pat community for St Germain. Navarre is the programmer and musical director, one who guides proceedings so subtly you often hardly notice his presence. There's a subdued house beat at the heart of tracks like "Family Tree" and "Sittin' Here," while "Mary L" is another of his occasional dub flirtations, but nothing has the same dance floor heft as his anthemic "Rose Rouge." Navarre instead uses understated production to stage a series of impressive performances from guests like kora player Mamadou Cherif Soumano, guitarist Guimba Kouyate and vocalist Fanta Bagayogo. The blues samples on "Real Blues" and "How Dare You" sound like leftovers from his earlier records, but the guitars have the scorched, dust-caked quality of desert blues bands like Tinariwen. Given the time it took to produce and release St Germain, Navarre clearly wasn't rushed, and it's best to sink into that same unhurried mindset as you listen to the album. Follow the journey of Soumano's fingers over the kora and eavesdrop on whispered conversations between the instruments. On moments like "Voila," where Bagayogo's plaintive vocal swoops over Kouyate's intertwining guitar and n'goni strings, St Germain conjures up rich and atmospheric landscapes equal to Navarre's earlier work. They're different from where we last left him, but they still seem to find him right at home.
  • Tracklist
      01. Real Blues 02. Sittin Here 03. Hanky Panky 04. Voila 05. Family Tree 06. How Dare You 07. Mary L 08. Forget Me Not