Review & Full Album Stream: Rostres, Les Corps Flottants

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on June 27th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

rostres les corps flottants

[Click play above to stream Rostres’ Les Corps Flottants in its entirety. Album is out June 29 on Solitude Productions.]

Maybe it’s the middle of the night and you have a new pair of headphones you want to try out. Well, France’s Rostres have a debut album on Solitude Productions called Les Corps Flottants (“floating bodies”) that has plenty of alone-time vibes and sonic detail to go around. Comprised of seven songs running a total of 47 minutes, Les Corps Flottants finds the Pau-based duo of bassist, guitarist, keyboardist and recording engineer Alain Brunet and drummer/percussionist Lionel Mermin bringing a contemplative, sometimes minimal, sometimes lush vision of instrumental heavy post-rock.

A remarkable thread of patience is woven through songs like the 8:25 opening title-track and the percussion-and-keyboard-and-ebow centerpiece “118,” and the nine-minute “Au Faite des Honneurs” carefully winds its way though slow-motion riffing that winds up sharing a moody feel with classic UK-style doom but still has a personality of its own thanks in no small part to an echoing harmonica guest spot from recording assistant Julien Duboux, so it’s not exactly like Rostres are doing one thing, or the same thing, all the time, but fast or slow (mostly slow), loud or quiet, Les Corps Flottants is a record defined by its mood, and like its cover art, that mood is pervasively gray.

Mermin and Brunet are joined by a host of guests throughout including guitarist Nicolas Bonnetain on guitar for “Glaire,” Jean-Baptiste Salles on double-bass for “Les Corps Flottants,” “Glaire” and “Au Faite des Honneurs,” the aforementioned Duboux harmonica spot, and Communal Kevin adding percussion to the opener, “Meandres,” “118” and “Glaire.” The double-bass definitely makes an impression, and I won’t take anything away from the percussion or harmonica, but Les Corps Flottants is less about any given appearance or any given instrument than it is about the overarching effect created by them. Perhaps unsurprisingly, immersion plays a significant role.

Second cut “Exorde” has its heavier stretch, as do many of the surrounding tracks — Rostres liken it to a Pelican influence, and I’m not inclined to argue — but even in that weighted rollout, the focus is more on drawing the listener into the soundscape being crafted, and even the album’s hardest-hitting moments don’t lose sight of that central intent. I’m not saying I think Rostres sat down and said, “Okay, now we’re going to write some hypnotic heavy post-rock. Here’s a copy of Neurosis‘ The Eye of Every Storm and some Russian Circles — you’ll need both by the time we get to ‘Meandres’,” just that their work is deeply engaging and expressive, and in listening, it feels like that’s precisely what it was written to be.

Generally speaking, that’s enough for me as regards a debut. Intention, execution, an awareness of aesthetic and a showing of potential for growth? Absolutely. Not every first album needs to remake a genre or provide a generational landmark, and Rostres do well to create a sonic identity of their own from the elements that would seem to have inspired them, making a seemingly conscious effort to find an individual path between their ideas and modes of working, so that the crashing beginning of “Glaire,” the loud/quiet tradeoffs and the descent into minimalist guitar strumming that follows before the inevitable return of volume all feed into a larger purpose.

rostres logo

They’re functioning not only on their own wavelength, but in the larger scope of Les Corps Flottants as a whole. And further, “as a whole” seems to be exactly how the record was meant to be taken. There are breaks between the tracks, so it doesn’t seem to be that it was composed as one long piece or anything like that — though Rostres may indeed get there — but amid all the nuance and depth of layers, there’s a flow that’s not always easy to mark out but prevails nonetheless through the slow-motion twists and turns. That whole “being hypnotic” thing helps there too, as one might expect, but it’s even more than that. With the effectiveness of mood-creating at its center and the palette of muted colors from which the band draws, there’s an evocative aspect to Les Corps Flottants from “Les Corps Flottants” onward, and even down to the structure of the track placement, that too feels completely intentional.

This mindfulness of approach can be a tricky line to walk, particularly in the style of heavier post-anything. The inherent danger is that the balance between the cerebral and the passionate will tip too far to one side or another, and the expression will be lost in either a self-congratulatory exploration of effects or an onslaught of volume and crushing riffs. Both certainly have their place, the progressive and the regressive, but Rostres keep the conversation fluid among the two sides, and while staying conscious of what they’re doing as the recording method they’ve employed would require — hard to fudge it when you have to switch from recording bass to guitar to keys because you can’t just jam it all out at the same time — they’re still able to convey some urgency beneath all the flowing tones and aural contemplation.

“Au Faite des Honneurs” and “Deversoir” make a closing salvo worthy of the opening duo “Les Corps Flottants” and “Exorde,” underscoring the point that Rostres have set themselves on a creative path that’s as open as they want it to be. Whether they develop their style along a more ambient and subdued path — I’ve always wondered what would happen if Neurosis kept going along the line of the record noted above — pursue heavier sounds, or keep a steady handle on both, Les Corps Flottants feels like the starting point of a new outfit looking to push further. That’s the most pivotal impression their first album makes, and accordingly, it’s only fair to consider it a progressive work even though so much of it obviously comes from the heart. Of all the elements at play throughout Les Corps Flottants, that is the one that hopefully stays consistent in whatever they do next.

Rostres on Thee Facebooks

Rostres on Bandcamp

Solitude Productions on Thee Facebooks

Solitude Productions website

Tags: , , , , ,