Ocoeur: Memento (n5MD)
Franck Zaragoza’s newest EP as Ocoeur (phonetically from “Au cœur” = “to the heart”) shows off his production skills in spades with three completely gorgeous new originals paired with two handsome remixes. Ocoeur’s sound is rich and dynamic, mixing pure electronic sounds with more electro-acoustic sound design and lush, cinematic arrangements. The closest comparison I might draw is some of Jon Hopkins’s most luscious tracks and arrangements, but Zaragoza’s hand is more delicate, less coarse. That much is immediately noticeable in “Fusion,” the gorgeous opening track. It bristles with quiet tension as tremolo drones hold steady under its otherwise tragically beautiful piano and strings. An added layer of manipulated textural noise adds another thin layer of tautness to a strong first showing. The second track, “Memento,” begins with a layer of bubbly noise before it shifts shape into a squirmy, textural pattern of rhythm. This then serves as the backdrop for another beautiful arrangement of delicate sounds, feeling like a lush re-interpretation of all of that crunchy beat-laden IDM circa 1999-2000. “4.16” continues the streak of beauty with its sparkling music-box melodies over a winding bass synth and a crunchy electro-acoustic rhythm track. Zaragoza’s talent for manipulating what appears to be organic concrete sounds into beats and other patterns is noteworthy, providing a detailed and technical layer of complexity where I often find myself wondering what sounds are “real” or fully synthesized. While their end results are very different, he has this knack for sculpting sound in common with Amon Tobin (whose Isam album remains one of the best experiences in sonic fidelity I can recall in the last decade).
The remixes of “Light,” the original version of which is on his previous n5MD album, Light as a Feather, stand strongly alongside his new originals. Ben Lukas Boysen (of Hecq) contributes a stunning rework that emphasizes piano (prepared or otherwise manipulated) over all else, with a different sense of drama from the original. Recent n5MD signing Elise Melinand also contributes a handsome rework, drawing inspiration from the spaces between and prolonging them into a haze of drones of strings, electronics, and voice. Halfway through it takes a more obvious turn, layering strident percussion over some nice, deep bass to give it more of a pulse. Both treatments offer nice alternatives to Ocoeur’s original, and all three versions are equally good in my opinion. In my backlog of new music, this had nearly slipped through the cracks. It was released back in December quietly as a digital-only EP, and it’s well worth your full attention.