Pépé Bradock – Imbroglios Part 1 review

Parisian producer Julien Auger has never been your average house producer. Over the course of a 15-plus year career as Pépé Bradock, he’s treated listeners to a frustrating trickle of often outstanding releases – leftfield house music jams that eschew the tried and tested in favour of odd, off-kilter sounds and strange rhythms. Sure, there have been moments of intense beauty – “Deep Burnt”, the jazz flex of 2002’s “Cycles” – and genuine bumpin’ floorfillers – “Love Is”, “Burnin”, the Prince-sampling, string-drenched heaviness of “Life” – but these are often a sideshow for his more adventurous creations.

In recent years, his productivity has slowed to all but a crawl, while his compositions have become increasingly leftfield. 2007’s immensely strange “Rhapsody In Pain” forged a sparse, offbeat house track around sounds of torture and painful struggle, while 2008’s “Hints Of Delusion” sounded like a horror soundtrack nightmare played out over a shuffling, soft focus house beat. Imbroglios Part 1 is his first single release since 2009’s Swimsuit Issue 1789, a typically crackling slice of left-of-centre house that suggested a return to the quietly grandiose deepness of his “Deep Burnt” period work. According to the blurb, each track is a rework of music from the Operation Veaux Carnivores film soundtrack. Of course, this could be one huge bluff; chances are, the film exists nowhere but the inside of Auger’s head. Don’t quote us on that, though – it could well be real.

Whatever the inspiration, there’s a distinct soundtrack feel to the material here, most notably “Attaque De Boulangerie”. It bubbles, whirrs and throbs with melodic intent, sounding not unlike a group of jazz-inclined synthesizer fetishists tuning up in space. It offers two minutes of skewed, beatless quirkiness before introducing a simple 4/4 rhythm. Within a minute the beat has vanished, leaving only woozy chords, whirling sounds and strange, dubbed-out moonscapes. It’s impressive, even if it does sound like lift music for paranoid schizophrenics.

Elsewhere, there’s more dancefloor-friendly material to behold, all drenched in Auger’s distinct production. “Inconsequent Pussy” wraps chiming, other-wordly melodies, strings and jazz hits around a glitchy groove seemingly crafted from a combination of snoozing cat sounds, electronic pulses and simple 808 kicks. In many ways it’s brilliant, though it certainly doesn’t scream “dancefloor banger”. But then Auger’s productions have always taken house and techno music to interesting new places.

“Katoucha” is more like the Bradock we know and love. Utilising woozy, slightly uncomfortable horror organs like new jersey garage stabs, he builds a crunchy, energy-sapping track that dips its toe into shark-infested waters whilst retaining a regal air of chiming deepness. It somehow manages to be both cripplingly intense (check the various soundtrack samples and bubbling atmos of children at play) and casually beautiful. The combination of these two disparate moods is what makes Auger’s Bradock productions so satisfying. You get the impression that he leaves in pleasant elements just to suck us in, before unleashing hell for six minutes. Bravo.

The EP’s most stunning most is “12Turn13”, a colossal, percussive beast that recalls his greatest dancefloor moments. Cymbals hiss, drum machine grooves lurch forward skittishly, and stuttering, seasick chords create an air of outright paranoia. Throw in tumbling melodies, contrasting riffs and nightmarish vocal hits, and you have one of his best compositions for some time. It’s hardly easy listening, but there’s an ice-cold beauty to proceedings that’s hard to ignore.

It isn’t Auger’s best EP by some distance, but there’s much to admire in Imbroglios Part 1. As usual, the fearless Frenchman takes house music in unusual new directions, offering hope that there’s life left in experimental house music. Next time you hear a mediocre deep house release or a tiresome retro-futurist piano jam, give this a listen to remind yourself that electronic music can be so much more than straightforward, groove-based fare.

Matt Anniss


Tracklisting:

1. Katoucha?
2. Inconsequent Pussy
3. 12Turn13
4. Attaque De Boulangeri