- Essaie Pas' latest album is unlike anything Pierre Guerineau and Marie Davidson have previously released. It's true that every Essaie Pas record has been different—the project is mutable and sonically unfettered—but New Path is a significant evolution. Until now, the husband-and-wife team have drawn from their own lives and experiences to write music, which has ranged from the psychedelic rock of their debut cassette (Tout Est Jeune) to the melancholic minimal synth of their last album for DFA (Demain Est Une Autre Nuit). On New Path, Guerineau and Davidson take cues from science fiction to convey the paranoias of the modern world.
The LP is inspired by the Philip K. Dick novel A Scanner Darkly and its themes of drug addiction, paranoia and surveillance. (New Path is named after the rehab clinic where Bob Arctor, the novel's protagonist, ends up.) Tracks like "Les Aphides" and "Substance M" emulate the psychosis of a dark drug trip. On the former, Guerineau's and Davidson's voices reverb and relay in sinister whispers, echoing some internal dialogue. We're made aware of this persistent, pulsating rhythm—possibly a heartbeat—that rises and flutters as the anxious synths and atmospheres create the sense of a panicky drug high. "Substance M" starts in shadowy ambient withdrawal, then steadily evolves into a densely rhythmic vortex pierced with synth flashes.
Like A Scanner Darkly, New Path is dark and darkly humorous, as heard on "Futur Parlé" and the euphemistic "Complet Brouillé" (or "Completely Scrambled," a reference to the "scramble suit" Arctor wears to conceal his identity). In both instances Davidson adopts her alluring chanteuse persona. Where "Futur Parlé" is more edgy and neurotic, "Complet Brouillé" is effervescent, glitchy and lots of fun. The track that follows, "Les Agents Des Stups," is an unbridled machine jam that ably projects the raw energy of a live performance.
As with the novel, the album ends at "New Path," where Arctor—renamed "Bruce"—is put to work on a farming commune. In the book, he's neurologically damaged from withdrawal, and lonely minor chords set a suitably desolate tone. A computer-synthesised voice standing in for Arctor speaks in fragmented, child-like phrases. As bleak as it seems, New Path's final moments are fleetingly hopeful, conveyed through faintly chirping birdsong. But once that warmth fades, the album's unsettling mood is what lingers. It's one of Essaie Pas' finest efforts yet.
01. Les Aphides
02. Futur Parlé
03. Complet Brouillé
04. Les Agents Des Stups
05. Substance M
06. New Path