Music is like playing video games. At least that’s true of Louis Cole’s music. Everything is colored. Time, his third album, deepens the foundations of this facetious music.
But if there is a joke, it comes directly from the musician’s personality. “I have always just tried to make my own favorite music. As hard as I could. And I guess this is what came out,” the Californian confides.
Super Nintendo as inspiration
There is no question here of complicating the music for the beauty of the gesture. Like the man himself, the lyrics are light, unfiltered thoughts that are transcribed as they are: “When you’re sexy, people wanna talk to you / When you’re ugly, no one wants to talk to you.” French surrealist writers used this automatic writing but Louis Cole’s thoughts are filled with video games rather than absinthe. “I have played some Mario Kart with him, definitely,” he tells us when talking about Thundercat, who contributes to “Tunnels in the Air.” Time’s music is very marked by the 1990s. On “Weird Part of the Night”, we can hear the nostalgia for a period dominated by Sonic and Bomberman, while the curses of “Freaky Times” evoke the characters of Street Fighter 2. He must have spent long nights getting carried away on the controllers. In fact, insomnia is repeatedly invited into the lyrics: “In the weird part of the night / That’s the time I feel alright” and “Never sleeping always awake” on the two previously mentioned songs. We can understand the enthusiasm that emerges from the album by this second state, symptomatic of sleep deprivation. But despite his eventful nights, Louis Cole did not lack discernment.
Don’t mistake speed for haste
The feeling of speed is surely the main difference between Time and previous albums. The high tempo of some songs has a lot to do with it, but they are skillfully highlighted by much slower compositions, such as “Everytime,” “Phone,” and “After the Load Is Blown.” Alone, the gliding of these tracks would have made this album a dream-pop project similar to what Matty, the pianist from BadBadNotGood, released this summer. But the hybrid nature of the tracks invites comparison with the French General Elektriks or the eclectic duo The Ting Tings. Electrofunk merges with pop as if under the effect of a centrifuge. With several years’ experience in the music industry, Louis Cole has surrounded himself with proven track records. Taken under the wing of Flying Lotus by Thundercat pianist Dennis Hamm, he also invited Genevieve Artadi, with whom he forms the duo KNOWER. But the most remarkable collaboration is the one with Brad Mehldau. The dilettante listener will find it hard to believe that Louis Cole is a drummer with a jazz background. The Californian’s playing is more like breakbeat than any other jazz movement. And yet, he retains two fundamental elements of this jazz school: freedom and harmony.
The paths of jazz
Improvisation has always been a central element of jazz and Louis Cole claims this freedom in his music. The electro side of his compositions can wrongfully raise some eyebrows. Let’s take as an example Giorgio Moroder, who explains about the song dedicated to him by Daft Punk (“Giorgio by Moroder”): “Once you free your mind about a concept of harmony and of music being correct, you can do whatever you want.” The song’s drummer is none other than Omar Hakim, a great jazzman if ever there was one. In other words, all roads lead to this musical freedom. Some will classify Time as electronic music, others as pop. The truth is that Louis Cole does not give it any obvious importance. His answer has already been found: “Fuck the world and be real cool” (“When You’re Ugly”). He cannot be classified, and for good reason; his music is sought-after. “Everytime” for example, intelligently exposes the artist’s sentimentality and the chord changes superimposed on the lyrics of “I’m Way Off” imply that he is “not well” or “I’m playing badly.” On “Phone,” the harmonic progression is as interesting as the lyrics are hollow (“Learned the names of all your stuffed animals”), leading to a tension that would almost resemble artistic intellectualism.
Fortunately, the album’s videos are there to remind us that nothing is serious. From the dance steps of “Weird Part of the Night” to the scandalous costumes of “When You’re Ugly,” Louis Cole indulges in burlesque and invites us to have fun. A video game session, they said.
Louis Cole, Time (Brainfeeder)
Louis Cole on tour:
17 October 2018
Turf Club, St. Paul, MN, US
18 October 2018
Chop Shop, Chicago, IL, US
19 October 2018
El Club, Detroit, MI, US
20 October 2018
The Drake Hotel, Toronto, ON, Canada
25 October 2018
Mercy Lounge, Nashville, TN, US
26 October 2018
Terminal West, Atlanta, GA, US
21 November 2018
Parkteatret, Oslo, Norway
23 November 2018
Islington Assembly Hall, London, UK
25 November 2018
La Machine du Moulin Rouge, Paris, France
28 November 2018
Brighton Music Hall, Allston, MA, US