- Eric Burton, AKA Rabit, has his fingerprints all over the scene commonly referred to as experimental club. As well as working with artists like Elysia Crampton, Chino Amobi, Why Be and Angel-Ho, he's also helped pioneer the style, deconstructing grime on EPs for Diskotopia and Tri Angle before starting his own label, Halcyon Veil. Burton has continued to push the scene into new frontiers of weirdness, and he finally breaks through to the other side of complete abstraction on his new album, Les Fleurs Du Mal, named after a 19th century collection of poems—six of which the French government deemed indecent and banned—by Charles Baudelaire. It's a stunning, dark and sometimes perplexing record, tapping into a deep well of subversive electronic music that goes all the way back to the late '70s.
The LP is a stark change from the music that came before. A dismissive review in The Guardian said it represented the "dance floor deconstructed too far," and, true enough, it bears little resemblance to the club-informed style of Burton's previous work. This music has more in common with the out-there mixes on Halcyon Veil or the collage-like limited edition release Supreme from last year. It's music that has shed the strictures of the dance floor in search of something more esoteric.
Les Fleurs Du Mal paints in broad, impressionistic strokes, like the Vangelis-esque synth lead on "Bleached World"—one of the LP's more memorable moments, even if it's all too fleeting. Burton's compositions seem to fumble through the dark, occasionally striking something loud or surprising before returning to the shadows. It makes for an impressively foreboding listen, but the LP's slower moments might drag on for less patient listeners.
Every so often there's a detail on Les Fleurs Du Mal that'll pull you in, and it's those touches that make it worth coming back to. The way Burton uses samples can feel grotesque and uncomfortable, like in the trembling "Ontological Graffiti" or the funhouse effects of "Humanity's Daughter." The latter features a pitched-down rendition of Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide" over an unnerving sound montage. A faintly strummed acoustic guitar emerges from "Rosy Cross"'s turbulent ambience. It's part of a larger theme on Les Fleurs Du Mal, where recognizable or comforting sounds are sunk in alienating atmospheres.
The most jarring track, "Dogsblood Redemption," is a horror movie collage of noise, blast beats and what could be maniacal laughter or crying. At one point, Jim Morrison screams: "You're all a bunch of fucking slaves!" The resolute darkness of it all—every sample on "Dogsblood Redemption" seems primed for scaring the listener—connects Les Fleurs Du Mal to some of the earliest and most unfriendly work of groups like Throbbing Gristle and Coil, two obvious antecedents to Burton's antagonistic and unsettling approach to music. (Drew McDowall, formerly of Coil, had a hand in producing the album.)
Those artists delighted in subverting the mainstream, releasing noisy sound pieces alongside work that parodied and terrorized the popular music of the day. That's how Burton works, too, but on Les Fleur Du Mal he moves away from dance floor tropes and explores something more inward and personal. It's a new language made from found sound, odd samples and a jagged sense of composition, a language that Burton is still learning how to express himself in. But while it's not perfect, Les Fleurs Du Mal is a brave leap into the dark, a place so suffocating, black and unknown that it bears revisiting just to see what you might encounter on your next descent.
02. Bleached World
04. Ontological Graffiti
05. Dogsblood Redemption
07. The Whole Bag
08. Humanity's Daughter
09. Rosy Cross
10. Ontological II
11. Prayer II (Gemme)