“The universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it’s stranger than we can imagine.” –Arthur C. Clarke
This shit is fucking weird.
HETEROGEN INFILTRATION (which I will abbreviate as HI for the sake of my own sanity from fucking writing it out every god damned time) is the latest album from French Coldwave band LOST DESERT (which I will also abbreviate as LD for the reason above).
LD starts this album with this weird Twin Peaks-esque waiting room Cold War vamp-ish song titled “Ouveture,” which our resident somewhat-French speaker Michael Frett would translate as “a hefty movement,” though it feels nothing of the sort. It has that ebbing bass effect that Tangerine Dream uses in a lot of their creepier, morose music. It’s not that I don’t like it, it just doesn’t rub me the wrong way like it should.
What I mean by that is that this SHOULD be creepy, but it’s not. Moving on to the second track on this French coldwave tour de fuck, “Tu Avais Tort”: if my cohort Scoops is correct, this title means “discount porn song,” because that’s exactly what it sounds like. Not that it’s necessarily not to my liking, as there are many songs that are considered masterpieces with a heavily sexual or pornographic nature (see Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On”). I like that fuzzy violin-like effect that comes on every 10 seconds or so, but I have to say that I’m not a fan of the guitar tone. That weird phaser effect or whatever the hell it is just doesn’t do it for me, it doesn’t vibe with the drums well at all.
This is also the first track on the album with the vocals thrown in. Now, I’m no cheese eating surrender monkey Frenchie like Michael “French Is The Most Widely Spoken Language In The World And If You Disagree I Will Fight You” Frett, but I can tell that it’s sung with a lot of provenance, almost as if it sounds somewhat Egyptian, kind of an ancient vibe.
The next song is nearly a part 2 to “Tu Avais Tort,” titled “Nouvelle” (which means “trendy” or some hipster-esque bullshit). I have to say, what “Tu Avais Tort” was going for was most definitely achieved on this track. That fuzzy violin effect has a bigger part on this track, and the bass and drum combo during the first little breakdown is fucking lit.
The more I progress through this album, the more I realize that this is a psych rock French revival for the 80’s, which in itself was a psych rock french revival of the 60’s. There’s a term for that, right? Degrees of separation or some shit? I don’t know, it just sounds like a re-envisioning of, well, a re-envisioning. Which I don’t exactly mind, but it just seems kind of tried out.
Onto the next piece, “Sunrise.” The lyrics this time are in English for some odd fucking reason. She talks about remembering some night when everyone was dancing alone or some shit. I gotta say, this one picks up the beat a bit. A dance number for sure. But it doesn’t fulfill that energy that it initially promises in the first few seconds or so of the song.
Moving on, we have track number five, which is “Vision Enflammee,” which goes back to the psych-revival sound of earlier. It’s very apparent on this album, but it’s really starting to sound stale at this point. That stupid fucking phaser effect is back on the guitar, and the heavily reverberated vocals give off a depressing feeling, like it’s 5:00 am and you’re starting to get hungover from the bottle of cheap whiskey you slammed 10 hours ago. This is the type of song you leave on the lowest volume so you don’t let it bother you too much.
The next song picks up things in a much more 80’s fashion, in “Far Away,” up until the once again apathetically sad vocals begin. I don’t know if they sound off key, or what it is, but it just sounds off. Every time she begins to sing, I don’t know what the hell it is, but it just doesn’t belong. The instrumentation is lovely on this track this time around, save for the once again way too heavily phased out guitar. I love the drums on this piece, they sound tight and crisp as ever. The bass is pretty cool too, if you don’t count the fact that it’s way too fucking quiet. The synths are disorienting though, and the production is a bit too fuzzy overall. Nevertheless, good track.
Now we have “L’arme De Sang,” which, sad to say, is more of the same but with better bass. There are cool effects on Miss Depression’s vocals, and there are some excellent wave crashing sounds (really putting the “wave” in “cold wave”). The guitar on this track is much better, and the phasing isn’t as obnoxious as it was previously. But, it does drag on. Not like it was dragging on before, but the entire flow of the album really starts to wear on you at this point and I can only hope that it makes some drastic changes before I buy a black beret and rectangular reading glasses whilst reading my copy of Atlas Shrugged outside of a French bistro downtown.
Insert random transition into next song here, we have “Conversation.” The vocals are happier on this track, and there’s even some slap bass to accompany this driving riff played by the synth. HI so far seems like the kind of album for closet The Cure fans who exclaim how much they hate The Cure because they won’t admit that they’re most likely hipster-trash. I mean, on the worst days, hipster-trash is usually okay, but today is not a bad day, and so for this album, it’s all right. I just wish the vocals weren’t so somber sounding, and this song proves that this album does have a bit of joy to it after all. The instrumentation on this song is a bit poppier than usual, which is a nice change of pace.
I fucking hate apples. The next song, “Etrange Satire,” is my favorite song off the album simply because of how erratic the synths are. This really takes me back to shakedown scenes in 80’s tv movies (which I absolutely obsess over) and how they are executed faithfully but ultimately loosely. That weird crash sound effect at the beginning is an interesting effect, because it pretty much sums up the overall sound of this song, which is maybe foreshadowing I guess? I don’t know, I’m pretty hungry.
Haven’t had a meal in like, 3 hours. Is that too long? Maybe.
I’m unsure of a lot of things while writing this review.
Anyways, moving on to the next track, “Eyes of Ice.” Sadly, that stupid fucking phaser effect is back on the guitar. It just sounds so fucking washed up, like the guitarist is simply playing the effect and not the guitar. This is not always a disadvantage, but for music like this that really depends on structure it just doesn’t fit. The rhythm guitar is playing a lovely chord progression however, and the bass and drums are tight as always.
Now we have my least favorite song off the album, “Baby Watch TV!.” For some reason, LD thought it would be a good idea to take a bad quality live recording with overly loud drums and flat vocals and have it as the penultimate track on their album. I just don’t get it. The cheesy synths, the simplistic drum break, the obnoxious crowd noise (which was obviously taken from a very small venue), the cliché organ sound. It’s just horrible and doesn’t fit in with the album.
Now, we come to the conclusion of HI, with the aptly titled “Final.” This is a lovely piano piece that ties up the album quite well. Very gothic and dark haunting vibes from this piece, wish this kind of ambience was present throughout the length of this album. Though, it does end abruptly, which I don’t care for.
This album was pretty fucking weird. Some bad, some good, but it really was just okay. Nothing more nothing less. If you’re into 80’s psych-revival French cold-wave depresso-pop Cure-esque guitar phaser morose vocal sounding music, than this is the album for you.
Here’s an aspect of the digital music revolution that I haven’t complained about yet: its effects on obscure reissues.
For years and years reissues served a real and honorable purpose. They made it easier to listen to certain music by putting it back in stores. People used to live in a world where there were a concrete number of copies of albums they wanted and if that number didn’t bleed over into their area of residence at all then they were straight boned. “Oh man, they finally got in more copies of ‘But Seriously, Folks…’” they’d say, and their lives would be fuller and they would sleep better and all would be well for those people in that moment.
But now we live in the nightmare timeline so what is a reissue at this point? Sure people still buy albums, but the main purpose of a reissue in the year 2018 is to have it available on spotify. It has made reissues so much more democratic. There is no first pressing of a spotify upload. There is only THE ALBUM. Spotify isn’t going to have two or five copies of THE ALBUM, it’s just going to have the one and it’s going to live there forever now. If you’re lucky it won’t even have a garbage tracklist where every song ends in 2012 DIGITAL REMASTER at the end of it.
So reissues serve a purpose in that it is useful for every album to get exactly one reissue so that it is a part of the digital lifestyle. If you want to do a special edition with a bunch of studio demos or something then fine but most people are going to be ok with the one.This is ostensibly an easier process than reissuing physical albums was back in the day. I would imagine that once the rights are secured and there’s a .wav file sitting on a desktop somewhere, the rest is EZ peezy lemon squeaky.
So what this means I think is that eventually, any sense of discretion regarding what gets reissued is going to die. I think there is going to be a rush to get everything reissued so that spotify is full and people make money and then it’s going to stop forever outside of whatever terrible physical format is in vogue at the time. This is a net positive I think. The downside is that Spotify is going to be full up on albums that nobody is going to listen to because people weren’t asking for them.
Which brings me to Lost Desert’s Heterogen Infiltration.
Beer on the Rug, a bandcamp label known for their vaporwave releases, have put this french coldwave cassette from 1989 out onto the internet where it will live forever. In doing so they have immediately screwed up: this album is not available on Spotify. It is only available through the label’s bandcamp page. This kinda hampers that whole utopian future I was talking about up top where everything was finally available to listen to in one giant music hamper. Instead, they’re asking for money to listen to this thing outside its bandcamp page. I have to imagine that they’d get more money out of this thing if they put it up on Spotify instead of relying on the 5 people who want it on cassette to buy it. Regardless, this is a strange way to handle the reissuing thing.
This puts me in a position where it is much easier to say “don’t care about this album.” This is because this album is in no way worth paying any money to listen to. It’s not really even worth the time it would take to listen to. It is an extremely obscure cassette from the 80s and, like most obscure cassettes from the 80s, it is obscure for a reason. It has very little going for it except for one thing: its obscurity. This, I think, sucks, because my cynical brain says that the reason you can only get it from bandcamp or direct through the label is because it keeps this obscure thing that people only care about because of its obscurity, well, obscure. It’s not like you need to scour the internet to listen to it anymore, but you still need to jump through hoops. Ultimately it’s not worth it.