Recording information: Victor Studio, Paris (2013).
In some ways, it's a shame Etienne Jaumet called his first album Night Music. While that name was an apt description for his Carl Craig-produced solo debut -- which expanded on the atmospheric tech-house he also explores as one half of Zombie Zombie -- La Visite is also filled with tracks that sound best after dark. This time, Jaumet opts for a more streamlined, and more danceable, approach reflecting the years between this album and Night Music. His collaboration with Richard Pinhas and his DJ gigs inform La Visite's sleek yet playful feel, exemplified by the single "Metallik Cages," where a slow-building and burning beat is joined by foggy synths and clanking percussion with sinister and kinetic results. The title track follows suit, balancing Jaumet's trusty saxophone with newer elements like his vocals so deftly that its flirtations with camp never get in the way of its momentum. Even songs that hark back to Night Music or his work with Zombie Zombie, such as the winking "Anatomy of a Synthesizer," could fit easily into a dancefloor mix along with "Stuck in the Shadow of Your Love," a whispery, urgent standout that makes the most of its surging synths and rolling beats. Jaumet doesn't abandon Night Music's introspection entirely, however. Many of these tracks are downright subdued, which is all the more impressive considering that their instrumentation could tip over into wackiness in less assured hands. "Moderne Jungle"'s blend of sax and rubbery electronics sounds contemplative thanks to the vast amount of space surrounding them, an approach Jaumet returns to on "Midnight Man" and "Module Mou," which resembles Night Music's drifting kosmiche in miniature. The ease and flair with which Jaumet blends old and new, and atmosphere and purpose, on La Visite make it some of his most accomplished music yet. ~ Heather Phares