French explorers Aluk Todolo push smear of spacey, dizzying sounds to send ‘Voix’ into stars

Aluk TodoloAs noted 15 million times on this page, I have been watching pro wrestling avidly for decades. Initially, I just kept up with the storylines from the announcers and the wrestlers talking about their motivations and why they wanted to destroy their opponents. As time went on, I realized there was another layer of plot afoot, one woven together by the performers’ actions, facial expressions, and timing that pushed the sub-plot going on physically.

That idea is one I often think about when approaching instrumental bands. Groups that go without singers and elaborate (or more simplistic) lyrics have a bigger challenge engaging their audience with their musical journeys. I have friends who prefer not listen to instrumental bands simply because it’s not as easy to grab onto the threads, but I’ve always felt the opposite. There is so much space to explore and possibilities lingering out there, that a record could become whatever you want to make of it. French explorers Aluk Todolo are the perfect example of this type of thing, a band that can capture your imagination simply through their playing and jettison you off to somewhere else. You don’t need to have a story told to you. Instead, you can feel their intracacies and waves and take whatever type of trip suits you.

Aluk Todolo coverThe band has returned with their excellent new fourth record “Voix,” a six-movement album (and follow-up to 2012’s great “Occult Rock”) meant to be digested as a whole, because that’s what it is. It’s a piece designed to be experienced as one, not unlike a movie, and as each new segment feeds from the other, you can’t help but get caught in the waves. Aluk Todolo–guitarist Shantidas Riedacker, bassist Matthieu Canaguier, drummer Antoine Hadjioannou–enrapture you with their hypnotic melodies and musical precision, leaving you no need to hear them speak to you with words when they are just as effective using sounds.

Each track is given only its running time as a title, so we start with “8:18” and its doomy lurching that reminds a bit of the opening to “Iron Man.” It charges up and gets loopy and proggy, with some dreamy passages surging, and the journey taking you into pockets of wind gusts. The lead guitar work burns, while a cosmic glaze is drizzled over it all, and we’re into the second piece “7:54.” The sounds that carry over swim, with the drums splattering and the guitars charging. The song seems to radiate, with murk rising and its various parts bustling, and then sounds stretch overhead, sounding like a jet engine. The guitar works smokes and hovers, leading into “5:01.” The humidity thickens as it eases into calm. The track floats for a while before it ignites, with each part of the track then smoldering. The melodies later take on a mesmerizing tone, with the guitars getting tornadic and your brain melting down.

Then it’s on to “7:01,” where the piece settles down again, with a noiry splash and the various sounds crying. The guitars then dig back in and begin to agitate, while the darkness spreads over everything, bringing back the spellbinding power. As the piece goes on, the pace begins to steamroll, the bass gallops, and we’re right into “5:34,” which continues on the same path. The guitars strike like lightning, but as the song progresses, it gets a little moodier. The drums drive, the bassline runs circles, and the track begins to induce panic, leaving you gasping for air as the finale “9:29” arrives and keeps snaking through the thick air. Spacey noises give a hard woosh, with guitars humming underneath that, and the bottom end getting aggressive. The pace scorches later, letting the chaos hang like a cloud before surfy, trippy elements take hold and numb your brain. The final moments slowly trickle off into the distance, as the remaining echoes make their mark.

Aluk Todolo keep driving into deeper black holes and expanding the space around them. Their records are journeys that never feel or sound the same way twice, and that same thing goes for “Voix.” This is a stunning piece of work that is cinematic and mind altering, and it is going to drive you to places in your mind you may not have known existed.

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