Diaphane :: Lifeforms (Ant-Zen)

Diaphane is the solo project by Regis Baillet, a member in the electronic and experimental duet, Ab Ovo. Lifeforms is Baillet’s second solo record, beginning where he left off. Experimental electronica.

On the whole Lifeforms is a puzzling a piece of work. It’s a straight faced and dark record. Not as emotionless as Murcof’s tones (and Murcof are pretty serious) but delivered with even less expression. Lifeforms is billed as a ‘passionate and emotional album’—it’s a surprise to find anything but.

There are ambient parts, a choir singing song in the background, synth melodies heard during a hard-edged documentary—it is gripping and urgent stuff. And then there’s drum and bass… and dubstep. Yes, all that and… drum and bass… and dubstep.

It’s an intriguing concept, the idea of ‘cinematic-dubstep’—experimental and unusual. It has inventive and artistic qualities that have no doubt been an endeavor for Diaphane to explore. It’s unfamiliar territory too—there aren’t many out there working off the back of cinematized D’n’B, noise, two-step, et al. However, the final result is jarring and astonishingly, unaffecting—impassive and unexciting.

Almost as if Baillet’s soul was evaporated by the heat of the experiment; he has crafted a record which demonstrates his ability as an electronic musician—one who certainly knows what he’s doing—but for the most part it’s all in his head and completely nothing of his heart. Baillet must have thought and thought this one through but forgot to feel something along the way. Lifeforms is a record freezing and cold—too cold. It’s minus twenty Celsius for one hour long.

And then there’s the experiment—the documentary style synth sequences and the D’n’B. Third track “Fracture” sums it up best, a split in ideas that are fractured. It doesn’t manage to gel together. “Fracture” begins with the throb of a powerful drum and then a strutting bassline walks, cool and bendy. An urgent synth melody follows and it changes into a sequence—it’s all enough to be breathtaking. Baillet opts for a complete break, stops the synth sequence and plays a distorted drum and bass loop, quite like Noisia. And here lies the nuts and bolts of the review.

The issue is not that the drum and bass is poorly executed, or in light of Diaphane’s terrific synth work the drum and bass somehow pales in comparison. It’s that both ideas do not coherently work together—and they really ought to, because most of Lifeforms tracks have been put together like “Fracture.” In this case, both the electronica and drum and bass have too strong an identity to live in the same boat.

Yet Diaphane’s sound is well rounded—this is a very self-consciously structured record keeping the listener on their toes. IDM occasionally appears. There are glitch sections, ambient downtime, choir vocals and even electric guitar. On evidence, Baillet is a talented composer, one who blends most of Lifeforms together seamlessly, which is quite a feat. It actually all comes together near the end on track “Metastable,” quite like a Kelly Bailey tune, with a booming dubstep bassline. Unfortunately by then, we’re just one before finish.

Lifeforms is available on Ant-Zen.

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1 Comment

  1. Damned, three years to compose, three years without heart nor passion :-) Always surprising the gap between opposite points of views, Too much passion for some people, no passion or emotion for others (one in this case (even if this album is quite different from the first one for sure)). And one minute of pseudo Dnb in one hour of music, I don’t think I will be able to replace Noisia… ;-) But this is the interest of the criticism :-) One person, one point of view.

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