Stevie Qngo - Le Libournais (Le Pacifique Records, 2020)
One of contemporary dance's most intriguing imprints oversees this utterly wonderful debut release from Steve Qngo, which treads the fine line between vivid realities and star struck imaginings.
The membrane between experimentation and structured intent is perhaps thinner than you might expect, and this sentiment has been expressed significantly over the past few years. For many producers, breaking down that structural feel that defines convention and regularity is a game well worth playing, as it leads to an even further exploration of what music can mean and perhaps more importantly how it can sound. Continually morphing and manipulating the sound waves and drumming patterns at your disposal becomes as much a part of the core sound as keys or chords are, with these various elements working together to birth worlds that feel oddly inviting. The flows between differing structures distorted, the patterns of normality blurred, the feel of the atmosphere hard to pin down, but all this amounts to experiences like no other, as we are offered a window into a world that remains unique in its entirety to the record it resides within. Abstract as a notion prevails because of its non-form, its seemingly non-meaning, its hidden substance presenting itself over numerous listens and by that point we remain hooked within the comings and goings that transcend from the needle, an elevation of sorts into realms that seem unfathomable initially but we grow into them with the help of the guides set in place. The kind of music that requires a deeper listen, with the ills of convention distilled down to a flavour that is more out there, more irregular, requiring a mindset that is willing to venture down paths new in order to realise the fantasy being sold to us. When labels are able to apply this kind of feel to all their releases, its quite the trip, particularly when the music they release traverses as wide a field as possible, it makes for a fascinating journey through the membranes that tightly wrap themselves around the fields of expressionism and experimentation. From the blissed out tones of ambient and field recordings, through to explosive and densely layered house, through to dreamy atmospherical pop, no matter what flavour you wish to engage with, you always leave the session with an emboldened spirit, as doors and windows fly open to possibility in your own creative endeavours. We may yearn for convention in all its myriad of forms, yet within the history of music the realest statements have been made by those who defied convention, throwing out rule books in relation to sonics and mood creation and embarked on journeys that furthered the discourse of music. Now more than ever, we need these labels who are concerned with continuing and pushing music's rich narrative, to explore and establish new facets that interlink and groove with one another, to conjure up new perspectives and emotions within all of us. Expanding the mind is good once in a while, and to find labels who offer that kind of feeling every single time is only good for the human experience, and its something which should resonate within all of us.
If one label going today embodies these ideals, then its certainly the Brussels based imprint Le Pacifique Records, who for the past few years have pushed some wonderful music that traverses the spectrum in regards to mood, tone and experimentation. Named after the street which the label was conceived on, Le Pacifique personifies one of the many forms of new age electronica, where experimentalism and abstraction remain prevalent themes running through the varying releases, but always allowing for plenty of room in which listeners can grow into the music, finding their own space to call home in a truly fascinating underbelly of enriching sounds. The amount of genres on display is fantastic, with a whole plethora of producers and musicians flexing their creative muscles in such fascinating ways, facilitated by a overarching identity that finds the moments to make us fall into the mind but also the heart, with a balance made between pure experimentalism and deeply thought provoking emotive burners. Its a world that remains loosely defined, but retains core themes that run through its heart, with unconventionalism paired with the more recognisable sounds and structures we are more familiar with. Its a fine line, but one that Le Pacifique navigates flawlessly, as the label balances the varying trains of thought within their label with meaningful expressions that manifest themselves into wonderful unique sounding records, that sing to varying tunes across the spectrum with gusto and purpose. The label has always gone above and beyond to cater for our varying switches in mood and context, and their discography now reads like a wonderful meandering through the mind, a journey that picks up on all the moments we wish to express ourselves and all those times which we needed to look inwards and get to know the inner workings of the mind just that little bit more. Its a duality in experience, an ability to dip into two differing trains of thought and come out feeling refreshed and invigorated, with the ability to do so facilitated by the heads who run this wonderful imprint, and its something we highly appreciate as listeners. The label's discography reads like a long saunter through the cornerstones and crossroads of contemporary dance music, where the weird and wonderful collide with the exceptionally up tempo, with so much character and originality on display its hard to not fall in love with so much of the music presented to us. Some of our favourites include
the soft undulating tones that sing to the heart strings on the 'Double Dribble' release by Capelo, that arrived in 2016; the deep and subtle notions that flow and unfurl on the excellent 'Burnel' EP by Fasuto, that also arrived in 2016; the playful and tender feels that resonate from the 'Hermanio Age' EP by Lawerence Le Doux, which arrived in 2017; the gorgeous hyper charged ambient tones that swirl around the periphery on the 'Ribaut' album by Aidons Antoine, that also arrived in 2017; the sensual vividness that embraces us on the superb pop tinged 'Plante' record from Rodolphe Coster, that arrived in 2018; the incredible depth and variety that overflows from the 'Various 02' EP, that also landed in 2018; the outer there emotionally charged leftfield excellence that resides within the Jeunesse 7 produced 'Nividic', that arrived last year; and finally, be sure to check out the mixtapes from Jeunesse 7 and Weird Magic if you have time to spare and a mindset thats prepared for the remarkable. As modern age labels go, Le Pacifique has carved out a gigantic space to inhibit, with its continually expanding world filled to the brim with elements, tones and objects, never for one moment ceasing to move yet merely changing shape and outline, interchanging between differing places and plains that provide us with so much audial joy. Its truly exceptional, and we implore you to give it a go.
And now, we arrive at the subject of todays review, 'Le Libournais', that is the debut release from producer Stevie Qngo. In an ode to his former town, Qngo explores the transparent membrane between classical piano stylings and field recordings, with the tracks delving between the two narratives that persist from both sides of the audial spectrum presented to us. It remains a utterly compelling story to follow, as we drift between semblances of sequences and background fillers, a flittering of melodic swells paired with snapshots of dreamscapes and the sounds we hear around us, all captured in micro bursts of expressionism and creativity. A pairing of crafted and recorded sounds like no other, a gorgeous plain of existence that calls from far away yet occupies a very special place in our hearts. It moves one to imagined spaces, vividly capturing feelings we have about past places and people all the while painting a picture of what we see and experience now. So, without further delay, lets delve into Qngo's debut with an open mind and an expansive heart, and take in all that is on offer......
Up first comes 'Recharge', where we are welcomed into the world being painted before our eyes, with all its sonics and interactivity on display. The track starts with a cacophony of voices, perhaps recorded live at the Etterbeek music academy, with the recording moving through the motions, picking up on so many conversations and expressions, and as we become absorbed into the room a fast paced piano line emerges from the deep, as it begins to take over the room with the conversations taking a back seat to proceedings. Its tone and feel are wonderfully inkeeping with the conservations going on, its energy and activity perfectly complimenting the manner in which the voices converse with one another. And like that, the recording stops, and we drift right into the next cut, 'Interlude RC Massiac'. The recording gets right into it with the pulsating rhythms and space age chordal arrangement, its brief interlude sparkling into life before receding just as fast as it came into life, as a vocal in unison line comes into view before it too moves away into the light. A single voice then beckons to us to come along for the next phase, which slides right into a piano sequence that rides along the crest of energy that birthed the song into life. Its sombre and glitched out arrangement crafts another sequence of thought, one that provides a respite to the significant amount of energy that was released during the previous few encounters, taking its time to unravel and weave an audial narrative that remains pitch perfect and texturally on point. The noise outside the window becomes evident as time passes by, as the swelling drones and audial elements begin to over come the piano line, crafting a climax that seems fitting considering the beginning of the track, as we drift away into the outdoors and beyond. Up next comes 'Pont De Libourne', and this one begins with yet another big swell, yet this time it persists onwards and outwards. The keys are suitably expansive, with a layering system that is both highly sensitive and delicate, but again takes in the whole room, the whole context, inviting us to dip right into a world brimming with feels and sombre expressionism. the chords move like water down a misty stream, catering to the rhythms of life and the world around us, crafting an environment that feels so much larger than that we encounter, as flickering piano riffs gleam through the intensifying mists that surround us in every single direct. Its a mystifying presence, one that engulfs the consciousness with its serenity and fullness, building a world that delights the senses and plays along to the heart strings. Simply astonishing.
Up next comes 'Info@', and this is a short but very sweet interlude. The track opens up with the droning key lines that quickly unravel into melodic structures, with all manner of beautiful chords joining into the momentum going forward as light drumming effects come through the bottom end of proceedings. Its joyous and wonderfully balanced, and we defy you to find a track with more going on in it at a 40 second length. Up next comes 'Trois Hommes Dans Un Wagon' (great track name, by the way!), and this one continues the feels from the previous cut. The tune opens up with a series of melodically enriching tones and textures, all of which are weaved and layered together impeccably with meaning and care, as they all do their best in unravelling and dipping and diving to achieve yet another soundscape that encapsulates us within its boundaries and just expands and expands. Its yet another chapter in this increasingly engrossing story, and we are all for it. Lastly, we end up at 'Home4', and this one quickly develops into the biggest swell yet. The chordal lines become highly expansive, swelling to their absolute limit before the piano chimes in to do the rest, taking us away to a picture perfect post card scene where everything is detailed and touched up to vividly recreate a particular mood, a particular feeling, one that reminds us of a past place once lived, or a previous memory shared with a particular context. Its music that opens up the mind to possibilities and remembrance, a series of cuts made by a remarkable music maker who pairs idealism with reality in some of the most memorable ways going.
This record reads like a traversing through time, where we remincise about places and people who remain there in our memories. Approaching the record in a chopped up mixtape kind of style, Qngo effortlessly drifts between differing plains of musicality, density and application, with the shifts between piano only riffs and deep deep chordal arrangements crafting a wonderful contrast between how we remember and what we remember. Its as if he went along a strand of memory and picked apart how he felt about his old town, highlighting all kinds of aspects and experiences which are played out before our very eyes. We lap it up with every passing second, eager to learn and take in more of the wonderful sonics and intriguing composition, with the home made quality of the recordings only making it more personal, more vivid, more real. Its a EP of bottomless possibility, and we cannot praise it enough.
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