Alone, Not Alone
t’s not hard to see why people cling to the aesthetic of retro-futurism. The modern world’s a mess. The promise of a blissful utopia where everyone has their own flying car and revolving space age bachelor pad has not been kept. Instead we’ve inherited disease, poverty, and an ever-increasingly fragile ecosystem and political climate. Living a life of rounded, monochromatic happiness seems like a welcome alternative. Montreal producer Montag is only the latest artist to take up this cause with his music, providing the soundtrack to the future we don’t have.
Montag’s music is quite pleasant, touching on the breathy vocals and sweeping strings of 60’s French pop, with touches of digitized noises and bleeps. However, in 2005, the sound of the album is entirely dated. This is the same sonic territory first mapped out on the John McEntire-produced Stereolab albums and carried into the 21st century on Broadcast’s outstanding Haha Sound. At this point in time it seems like there is little to gain from another Rhodes and vibraphone-soaked pseudo lounge album.
Antoine Bedard, the producer currently known as Montag, does have one ace up his sleeve. He manages to imbue the album with a quasi-symphonic feel through his evident gifts as a string arranger. “Les Choses Se Placent” is a beautiful slice of glitch-lite chamber pop, replete with a vocoder melody and occasional martial drumming.
However, Montag should learn better to play to his strengths. Far too often his arrangements recede to the background in favor of ho-hum minimalism. He also shares the proclivity of artists like Scott Herren in using his sub-par voice beyond its abilities. His melodies and vocals are mainly forgettable and less than enthralling. According to Montag, the album was an investigation of memory and yet I have a hard time remembering much of the music on the album.
All these faults aside, I can’t deny that I have a soft spot in my heart for this kind of music. I guess you could list me in the ranks of people who try to imagine a more ideal world of lazy delight. Alone, Not Alone is the kind of album that is made for the compact disc format. It sounds crisp and complex on headphones and is the perfect music to show off your five grand stereo at a dinner party. It’s hard to have a violent reaction to it either way and so, in the spirit of the album, I won’t trouble myself.
Reviewed by: Jonathan Forgang
Reviewed on: 2005-02-21