I think everybody would agree that having two bands collaboratively write an album and not just going the easy way (one band does Side A, the other Side B) can be a heck of a complicated thing. Just remember the awesome “In the Fishtank” - compilations Konkurrent Records put out: they only worked so well, because they were the result of very spontaneous eruptions of interactions and direct clashes in a Dutch studio.
And now Rouen-based label Soza / Collective 5024 releases a collaboration record by two fellow French bands, Endless Floods and Greyfell; some guys in Greyfell are also involved in the totally independent label and therefore this is a very “indie” cassette-only release. However, I am sure that there would have been a lot of labels that would have loved to release this wonderful piece of art by ÂGE ⱡ TOTAL (at least in a perfect world, there should have been loads to do so). Why? Because this record is a perfect combination of appeal, avantgarde and ambition.
Four songs, two “monsters” of more than fourteen and sixteen minutes respectively plus two “short” ones, combine for a total of 42 minutes. All of them killer songs, even the longtracks which are absolute must-hears this year. The band uses some enchanting organ-like synths at the basis of their songs, while they are also not afraid to really riff it out fiercely! The nine musicians involved create a very modern definition of Wall of Sound. In the past, this was always seen as a Phil Spector-thing: using many instrumental tracks, layering them upon each other so that they are much more than the sum of their parts. In some way, ÂGE ⱡ TOTAL also do that but with a very different approach: they do not want to sound mighty, they just are. You have huge riffs laid upon elegant synths enriched with some violins, trombones and, of course, a magical rhythm section; the latter itself is a little miracle, as the two bassists and two drummers involved have never played in one band. That is another fact about ÂGE ⱡ TOTAL: it is very interesting to see such a tight sound created by a collaboration, because it requires a lot of communication what the result should sound like.
The people involved share a clear , highly ambitious vision which I would describe with ecclesiastical avant-doom.
Avantgarde because of the incorporation of some very nice machine sounds and noise elements that really support the album, especially on the second track “Carré”, plus some fringy structures and the fact that they do not use choruses, everything is flowing into one direction.
Doom, well, because the songs are very long, very chunky in parts and highly elegant. Ecclesiastical because of the synth sound; it often sounds like a church organ (hence the connection to doom as well). But you might also say it is pretty hard shoegaze as there are certainly some elements of it, for example when you have the long vibratos of a single guitar note in contrast to long reverbs of a riff.
Interesting is the combination of that wall of sound with the vocals, as you have four vocalists sharing duties and each seems to bring something individual. We have some slightly ethereal lines, some good harsh growling, some mighty (maybe even poppy?) clean sung parts and sometimes also spheres where they all add up to one mighty choir (for example in the last track “The Songbird”).
One thing is very clear to me: This record needs to be heard. It is as much My Bloody Valentine as it is Isis, it is equally psychedelia and doom, having pop appeal and street dirt. If you told me this was the result of a longstanding and highly experienced band I would believe you as this does not sound like two bands working together. And that makes this record even better, even more enjoyable, more admirable. Two units sharing one vision and becoming one mind-blowing collective that release a record that will hold up for a long time.