Album Review: Perilymph – Tout en Haut

Band: Perilymph | Album:Tout en Haut | Genre: Space rock, Progressive rock, Psychedelic rock | Year: 2021

From: Berlin, Germany | Label: Six Tonnes de Chair

For fans of: early Pink Floyd, Patrick Moraz, Phideaux

Bandcamp

While I purposely use pretty broad, amorphous genre definitions on this site, I generally aim to highlight acts who are musically adventurous or inventive. A common way artists spice up their music is through various forms of contrast. This is especially common in metal and various subgenres which start with “post,” where it’s often a harsh-clean contrast. Another dichotomy occasionally used is an electronic-acoustic one.

I’ve previously covered Perilymph, the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Fabien de Menou. The band’s last album, Deux, was a wonderful blend of synth-led space-kraut balanced smartly against pared-back acoustic passages. Tout en Haut (Eng. On Top) follows in a similar sonic and textural path.

The minute-and-a-half “Intro” sets a dramatic astral scene, with big synth lines and bombastic percussion which sounds like it could have been the opening scene to some ‘60s sci-fi epic. The intro resolves smoothly into “La Genese”, which has a laid-back jazzy funkiness to it. There’s a lounge-like retro-futuristic feel that the band utilizes skillfully; I could very easily imagine a less-able act making a botch job of this and coming off as campy. The last 90 seconds or so is a more urgent passage. A repeating synth motif acts as the focal point, but big, buzzing synth glissandi steal the show in the final seconds.

The album’s title track is next, and it opens on gentle acoustic strumming and nebulous synth pads. Once the verses get going, there’s a late ‘60s psych bounciness to this song, like you might expect to hear on one of the better cuts on A Saucerful of Secrets. Early Pink Floyd comparisons are easy to continue with as “Tout en Haut” launches into its second movement. The acoustic jazz-rock is reminiscent of “Pow R. Toc H.” or moments on More.

“Sans Savoir” starts with a haunting acoustic passage. Echoing vocals and harmonized acoustic guitars draw the listener’s attention, but synth is subtly deployed to flesh things out. Around its midpoint, the feeling warms up a bit, aided by a restrained synth lead.

In contrast, the opening of “Coulis” returns to some of the album’s earlier jazz-funk sounds. This track is mostly instrumental, with the last four-plus minutes dedicated to peaks and troughs of gradual buildup.

The nine-minute “Où” follows, and it takes its time to get going. Distant-sounding bass and squeals of electric guitar fold together with swirling electric piano and simple percussion. Things get pared back for the opening verse to a basic acoustic package. More texture is gradually reintroduced, and the song’s back half features rich atmospheres and engaging soloing.

Tout en Haut closes on “Le Sombre et le Rire”. This is a relaxed, lush piece that plays up its spacious atmosphere. The last couple minutes again delve explicitly into jazz rock. While I enjoy this track, it didn’t feel like an album-closer until its final minute. It’s got an appropriately grand finale, but the preceding five minutes don’t feel like they had that much  of a logical build-up to this.

Perilymph’s latest album is clearly related to its predecessor, though it is distinct from Deux. Even on acoustic tracks, synths are almost always present, which lends an air of continuity to this record. 

Score: 80/100

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