- David Letellier's music used to remind me of those production demos you'd hear on home theatre rigs around the turn of the century—disarmingly clear and robust sounds made to show off the systems they were made for. His 2011 album, OR, was the pinnacle of this feeling, with 11 tracks of sculpted metal that took on repetitive but rarely intuitive structures. Letellier's spent the years since then hammering that sound into more techno-friendly shapes. Last year's Solens Arc LP added a sense of narrative, framing itself around several movements that formed something of an abstract saga. Arriving just a year later, Cory Arcane has an even stronger narrative, and is also more emotive and off-the-cuff than Letellier's other full-lengths.
Cory Arcane follows the story of its titular character, the one depicted in the album's strange artwork, who "found her comfort zone in a constant state of crisis." The sleevenotes fill in the blanks with a jumble of high-concept jargon and social commentary, with the odd bit offering insight into the album's concept: "Endless social media scrolling"; "Slow drift towards the outer limits of society"; "The occasional blasts of kitchen appliances"; "Embracing the mayhem, contemplating the crumbling of a system." Cory Arcane is the story of someone struggling to break through the suffocating din of technology, communication and capitalism. It shows human nature—or at least human turmoil—fogging the immaculate surfaces of Letellier's music, which were once so reflective they seemed to reject feeling altogether.
The album is structured like a film, rising to a climax and coming back down again. It starts with hi-tech broken beat on "Acto" and the pacemaker palpitations of "Dark Barker" before arriving at the more confrontational "These Are My Rivers." The action scenes hit early on with "Safran," a gauntlet of dissociative sounds and textures. It represents both an impressive expansion of Letellier's sound palette (there are wood and rubber textures here) and the record's climate of sensory overload, with noises coming at the listener from all angles. "Burning Bridges" and "Sleepless Roads" reach the boiling point, embodying the personal crisis at the center of the album.
There's a striking moment in the tale accompanying Cory Arcane that points to why the album is so powerful: "The sound of the city, mixed with the music on her headphones, would weave complex rhythms and futuristic textures into a beautifully coloured, pixellated surface." That's a feeling that should be familiar to most modern music listeners. It's the sound of your own music mingling with the sounds of life going on around you. That idea powers Cory Arcane, a record where Letellier's music graduates from self-contained sound design to something contemplative of—and occasionally angry at—the world around it.
02. Dark Barker
04. These Are My Rivers
06. Burning Bridges
07. Bleu Oscillant
08. When We Were Queens
09. On Sleepless Roads