Didier Laloy Belem & The Mekanics Igloo Records
Review by Tyran Grillo
Diatonic accordionist Didier Laloy and cellist Kathy Adam, known together as Belem, combine forces with the machinery of Walter Hus for an experience like no other. Hus’s creation is, at its core, an automated organ, but in the fullness of its expression a veritable orchestra, the sonic equivalent of a monochromatic film painstakingly hand-tinted. Film is indeed the metaphor du jour, as any of the album’s 11 pieces could be the ideal soundtrack for, say, a Brothers Quay short (and by saying as much, I give it highest compliment). And while other albums have attempted similar experiments—notably Pat Metheney’s “Orchestration” project—there’s something organic about this one that sets it apart. Although I can only imagine how wondrous it must be to witness this music in a live setting, I enjoy letting its images project themselves onto the screen of my mind, to roam as they will.
"Tu cours encore"
The program is nominally divided into separate entities, each more idiosyncratic than the last, but as a whole they work as one body. Marrying free-flowing and machinic, “Tu cours encore” sets the scene with its haunting arpeggios, acoustic and programmed alike. The contrast between these two signatures is stark and fascinating—a mélange of calliopes, carnivals, and childhood memories. Such nostalgias percolate through such tracks as “Basoan” and “Tempête,” strengthening a restless undercurrent in the roulette of fantasies and realities that is “Norvégien.” The percussive details provided by Hus’s automaton turn every rhythm into a force of whimsical suggestion, especially in the album’s highlight, the surprisingly uplifting “Lego’s Tragedy.”
"L'homme au chapeau"
"Le Petit L'homme au chapeau"
Much of the remainder consists of dance-like constructions gilded by the duo’s simpatico interactions. Between the mellifluous cello lines of “L’homme au chapeau,” through the tango-infused “Dardara,” and at last funneling into the music box of “Le petit homme au chapeau,” this journey toes the line between waking and dreaming at every step, leaving us with the feeling of having revived a long-lost memory. - Tyran Grillo