Two years ago, three students medical students in France picked up instruments and started to record some music. Their first single reached Number 2 in the French charts and from then onwards the young electro outfit had to juggle their intense studies with gigs at prestigious venues. The wait for the debut album of one of Europe’s most exciting and intriguing acts is over – Jabberwocky’s Lunar Lane is ready to be consumed.
Now, this article might at times feel more like an introduction piece than an album review – but that’s because Jabberwocky’s premier record is first and foremost an introduction not only to the band but also to a genuinely academic study of the melancholic condition. In a long release on their website, the ensemble quote famous French writers in a discussion of how Lunar Lane came to be – specifically stating their influence as a single term coined by writer Gerard de Nerval: “the black sun of melancholy”.
That is not to say this is a depressing album to save for some time when things seem particularly miserable, in fact, it’s pretty perfect for everything. A word on the band’s unique style: Combining solid musical theory through piano-based instrumentals and sharp-edged electronic composition, Jabberwocky’s material is supremely versatile and unfailingly exciting to listen to.
Paying close attention to each song we get the feeling that a huge amount of energy has gone into every lyric, note and release date. Supposedly describing the condition of clinical depression through the medium of a femme fatale, each track on the list ties in naturally with those either side of it. This makes the coupling of Photomaton (the band’s most famous track) and Fog rather spectacular considering a long gap between their respective release dates.
In Fog, which follows the introductory track, Maze, we hear atop a stunning composition of electronica some unnerving lyrics pertaining to an existential crisis: the message of the line “We all fail. We all fall and fade away into the fog” is rather monochrome. The same tone is maintained in Photomaton with the lyrics, “There’s no more light in my sky”, casting us back to that aforementioned black sun of melancholy – however in this piece the band uses heavy bass drums (a mainstay of their more iconic tracks) and marvellously unique electro to mix lulling vocals with danceable production.
Also featured often in the record are oases of chaos/frustration in what otherwise would be a desert of composed tracks. Bursting out of an eerie opening few bars, the main body of Alastor is an energetic work with R&B essences before subsiding back into the saddest piece of the album – a lonely piano in Interlude.
Once the interlude is over, we enter a string of more empowering tracks than the likes of Fog and Maze; the simple words in Holding Up, “It’s not time for giving up”, pretty much sum up the track which uses high tempo keyboard notes in unison with droning electro keys to balance said empowering feeling with an astounding tranquillity. Erratum and Ignition weren’t quite up to the same standard as Holding Up in that sense that they lose the intrigue of Jabberwocky’s usual work and replace it with an obscure, buzzing production in Erratum and elements of trap in Ignition.
Setting those two tracks aside, the LP finishes stronger than many others I’ve experienced this year – especially in the electro genre where the last few tracks of an album are often patchwork compositions which exist to emerge, stripped apart, as a remix on MajesticCasual or MrSuicideSheep. For bass-heads out there, Pola surpasses the heavy production of Photomaton and infuses a metallic, siren-like backing with deeply engaging vocals. Either side of Pola are Dizzy Youth and Jeopardy, a pair of more experimental tracks that manage to grab the listener’s attention while presenting us with a sound more askew from Lunar Lane’s generally multi-layered production.
The closer, Quantif, isn’t the best song on the album but it affirms everything the audience has learnt from listening to the tracks preceding it: Jabberwocky’s profound combination of electronic production, tight piano recital and gripping samples define a true beauty of electronic music. Lunar Lane is as stunning as I could have dreamed, and despite some mopey lyrics, Jabberwocky continue to astound with their versatility and consistent brilliance.
Picks:Fog, Photomaton, Pola