eline’s got the right idea. There are many that complain about electronic music having no soul. That’s probably not the idea that Celine had, though. It’s clear that she loves the stuff on its own terms. She knows it has soul, she’s just embellishing on it, texturing to her own needs. The sound clips from her demo (provided on her website) makes that much clear. On it, she sings improvised parts over Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada, and Black Dog instrumentals. Those tracks, so ingrained in this reviewer’s musical DNA, don’t sound better. They just sound sad—like when someone puts together a mash-up of Basement Jaxx and Celine Dion. Where’s my heart at? Celine not bothering to improve perfection.
But, on the other hand, my head will go on. At least for the length of Elapsed Time. That’s because Celine enlists the help of IDM producers to create tracks for her to work over, under, and through. Here, they’re working specifically to let her voice do some of the heavy lifting, rather than having her hoist it into fully formed compositions. Or so the thought goes. Celine’s got the right idea. It’s just that the execution isn’t always there.
Elapsed Time shares a lot in common with high-budget hip-hop albums. Celine’s brought in no less than nine producers for the album’s eleven tracks. Remarkably, the album holds together well enough. You can blame / thank the proliferation of Ableton et al. and a singing style from Celine that rarely wavers from a gauzy reverb soaked haze. Stuck in that moment after the cloth has been applied and before the ether hits, she sounds distant, remote, lyrically useless (they’re in English, but it hardly matters). The vocals are merely another instrument for the mix—sketching out a counter-melody, scratching out a complement, trailing off into the dead of static encrusted bytes.
You can rarely blame those bytes, though. Mr. Projectile delivers the early Autechre ant-stutter highlight “In the Sun,” while EU brings their Russian pathos to bear on the crawl-hop of “Open.” Even Ulrich Schnauss (predictably) takes care of business in his imitable style with “Un Reve.” It’s just that as often as she succeeds over these beats—“In the Sun,” “Open,” and the delectably Bjork-like “Attendre”—she sounds like she’s back on her demo singing over a track that surely could’ve worked just as well without her input (“Un Reve,” the David Michael-produced “Colors,” and the unfortunately spastic “The Boy.”)
So, once again, we’re back where we started from: some IDM desperately needs a heart, some already has it. The best producers, which eerily recall Alias’ collaboration with Tarsier from earlier this year, know this and have been constructed accordingly. Build a mixtape from it, set the rest on fire.