Artist: Louison | Album: Magnetic Feel | Genre: Jazz-fusion, Math rock, Progressive electronic | Year: 2022
From: Paris, France | Label: Independent
For fans of: newer Ozric Tentacles, Return to Forever
Louis de Mieulle is a multi-instrumentalist and composer I’ve previously covered twice on this site. Since his last outing, there have been a few changes. He’s moved from the US back to France and rebranded as “Louison.” His new album, Magnetic Feel, is much more electronic and synth heavy than either of his Sideshow albums. He also performs (almost) all the instruments, whereas those two prior releases were recorded with bands. This solo approach has also forced him to be more structured in his songwriting, and considering some of my comments on Sid€show 2, that’s probably a net good.
Not everything is different on Magnetic Feel. Though de Mieulle bills this album as “cyberprog” and “retrofuture,” there is a grounding in jazz-rock, math rock, and the contemporary prog scene. Like the two Sideshow albums, this is entirely instrumental, and there’s a strong sense of sonic continuity across the ten songs here.
The album kicks off with the energetic “Triangular Prologue”. Electronic percussion and glimmering synths certainly nod toward the sounds of the 1980s, but the particular tones and the production avoid the soulless sterility of a lot of the music of that era and of subsequent ‘80s-worship acts. There is a sense of ebbing and swelling tension throughout this piece, and the deployment of a variety of timbres with a limited selection of musical ideas makes for something engaging and exciting.
“The Big Galactic Rondo” is the longest song on Magnetic Feel, clocking in at a bit over ten minutes. The synth patterns contrast jittery staccato strikes with lush pads for an effect I could best call cyber-jazz. This piece is darker and more brooding than the opener, and its relative spareness makes its eventual build that much more effective. Following this is the short, spooky interlude, “Human Epilogue”.
The opening of “Conservation of Energy Pt. 1” is restrained. It feels like it’s fighting against a force that’s holding it back, and themes from earlier in the album briefly crop up. Its second half is rather warm and hopeful. In contrast, “The Big Freeze” lives up to its icy name. The synth tones are cold and austere, and there is an echoing expansiveness that only adds to the sense of musical isolation.
“Electron-Positron Annihilation” harkens back to moments on Sid€show 2 with its stripped-down and wintry feel. There is a sense of foreboding that only increases throughout this song’s runtime. Calming things down after that intense cut, “Stargazing” has a subtle warmth, and its somewhat meandering mood is a nice change of pace over the grim determination of some of the preceding cuts.
The second half of “Conservation of Energy” has the most organic-sounding percussion on the album, and this album’s main motif is given prominent placement. Though I enjoy this cut overall, it does feel a tad overlong.
Another interlude, “Galaxian Explosion”, follows; and much like “Human Epilogue”, it should have either been significantly trimmed or cut entirely.
Magnetic Feel ends with “The Big Rip”. This cut has some interesting, dark ideas in it, but it ultimately feels somewhat jumbled. I understand what de Mieulle was going for, but this song lacks cohesion.
Despite these gripes near the end, Magnetic Feel is a strong overall release. The electronic elements are fun, and the songwriting is nice and tight for the most part. I like the way de Mieulle revisited the same motif in a handful of tracks, and this feels like a natural refinement of his earlier improv-heavy releases.