Home Read Albums Of The Week: Hyperculte | La Pangee

Albums Of The Week: Hyperculte | La Pangee

Ironically (or intentionally) issued on Black Friday, the Swiss duo's third album hopes to employ hypnotic art-rock to loosen capitalism's chokehold. Good luck with that.

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Emanating from Geneva’s diverse DIY scene, post-punk / experimental rock duo Hyperculte return with their third album. Mixing disco rhythms with gothic gloom, the band retreat from capitalism’s chokehold while saluting environmental activists and countercultural communities

La Pangée is a rhythm-forward, forward-thinking release that reaches back 200 million years or so for its inspiration. The clue to this particular paradox is their chosen recording venue. Simone Aubert (guitar, drums, vocals) and Vincent Bertholet (double bass, vocals) travelled from Geneva to a village farmhouse in La Baume Cornillane, laying down these songs in the studio of Johan Caballé over two five-day sessions. La Baume Cornillane, geologists believe, is at the precise centre of what was Pangaea (La Pangée in French) before it broke up into smaller continents.

Whatever this means in the here and now, La Pangée sounds like it should be the epicentre of something. The eight songs, lasting 34 minutes, are briskly economical in their arrangements, using the studio cleverly to give the impression of a wider array of instruments than are present. Hyperculte channel their pop leanings, as heard in their previous albums and the duo’s other bands — Simone plays in punk minimalists Massicot and the electro-organic Tout Bleu; Vincent in the genre-hopping Orchestre Tout Puissant Marcel Duchamp — into a darker strain of gothic brood than ever before.

La Pangée was shared with that world almost exactly one decade after Hyperculte formed, at short notice, to play a show with iconic Dutch punk troubadours The Ex in December 2013. The duo’s second and previous album, Massif Occidental, was released in April 2019, after which they toured on and off between commitments to their other groups. A two-week tour of New Zealand the following March was cancelled after three shows; once Simone and Vincent were back in Switzerland, the ongoing pandemic put this project on ice for two years (although Tout Bleu and Orchestre Tout Puissant Marcel Duchamp both released albums in 2021).

A period of reflection, though enforced, proved useful for Simone to refocus on Hyperculte as a project. Did she and Vincent have the drive to continue, after downing tools for so long, and were their motives artistically honourable — as opposed to simply writing a new record because that’s what bands do? A long discussion between the pair demonstrated a mutual conviction, and La Pangée demonstrates that too. Not without playfulness, even wit, it’s nevertheless hard to miss the ratcheting up of intensity levels here.

The notion of retreating from capitalism’s chokehold holds sway over La Pangée as a whole. Sometimes it’s presented as an impossible dream, as on Le Chemin: Bassline-driven and peppered with woodblock percussion from Simone, the song gets louder and heavier in its second half, culminating in a full-scale noise breakdown as it speaks of unquenchable forest fires caused by global warming in the face of governmental apathy. Sometimes it’s an achievable goal: Jamais Trop, built from cowbelled-up disco drums, staccato guitar and Anglo-French dual vocals, is about strength in community, and prizing the things which keep communities united in straitened times.

Sonically, La Pangée is Hyperculte’s darkest album yet — no accident — and much of that darkness is concentrated in its latter stages. Les Malheurs, a lament for the migrants who face desperate peril crossing European waters, makes heavy use of dub echo amidst Simone’s sinewy post-punk guitar line. Les Pierres had a working title of Bauhaus, and while the finished article is no clone of that classic band it leans stylishly into a ritualistic goth-rock vibe, with Simone singing in Latin: a witchy incantation to change the world, she says.

Simone and Vincent draw on a wide base of musical inspiration in Hyperculte, not least their other projects, but in this case music is a subcategory of cultural expression — dance productions, plays — and of the ups and downs of daily existence. The creativity and solidarity of the DIY/experimental scene in Geneva, itself part of that daily existence, is essential fuel for their fire; without it, we may not even have a La Pangée to discuss. “Money is evil, and art will save us all!” state Hyperculte, and it’s a slogan that matches the spirit of their sound.”

 

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