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Roméo Poirier, "Living Room"

Living RoomThis third album from former lifeguard/Brussels-based electronic composer Poirier may very well be the most beautiful distillation of his gently psychotropic strain of loop-driven, summery, surf-side electronica to date. The same could have been said of 2020's Hotel Nota, of course, but Poirier's work genuinely seems to become more fascinating with each fresh album (and each new detail that I read about his inspirations). Unsurprisingly, Living Room does not dramatically depart from the "Jan Jelinek inspecting a coral reef" aesthetic first debuted on 2016's Plage Arri​è​re, but it feels like Poirier's sundappled, beach-friendly vision of languorously flickering loops is increasingly headed deeper into more exotica-inspired territory, which is almost always a good move in my book. Aside from that continuing stylistic evolution, Living Room is also significant for being the first Poirier album to feature another one of his long-standing fascinations: the innate musicality of the human voice (particularly when de-coupled from language and meaning). Unsurprisingly, Poirier incorporates that new feature in a characteristically compelling and poignant way, as the album is peppered with chopped, screwed, and decontextualized fragments from his musician father's sample collection. The result is not quite "pop," yet it gets surprisingly close to it at times and those ephemeral glimpses of human warmth suit Poirier's swaying and sublime tropical dream beautifully.


The opening "Statuario" is a reasonably representative introduction to the album's multifarious delights, though its lazily sensuous bass pulse creeps more into a loscil-esque strain of aquatic-sounding dub techno than most of the other pieces. Aside from that, however, "Statuario" is a moonlit fantasia of chirping psychotropic frogs, submerged and enigmatic orchestral fragments, blurred and hissing textures, and sophisticated harmonies. That latter bit is a surprisingly crucial part of the album, as Poirier's chord progressions and melodies rarely feel conventional–there are almost always passing shadows of dissonance and hints of uneasy harmonies gnawing at the edges of Poirier's Endless Summer-esque bliss. That element makes Living Room a more complex and mysterious experience than I expected, but Poirier displays an impressive lightness of touch with his more jazz-inspired tendencies. I am tempted to describe the baseline aesthetic of Living Room as "bathtub-recorded Endless Summer" meets "loscil doing a DJ set at a tiki bar," which admittedly sounds very appealing, but there are too many interesting twists throughout the album for that glib assessment to feel right. There are obviously other artists who have made killer recordings in this vein before Poirier, but that does not prevent Living Room from rivaling those earlier classics and Poirier brings an especially fresh and innovative aesthetic to the table.

While I am quite fond of the aforementioned "Statuario," there are a number of highlights deeper into the album that rival or surpass that opening statement. The first such highlight is stammering and gently convulsing "Bespoke," which almost feels like a sexy but deconstructed R&B song struggling to remain in focus as dimensional barriers dissolve, time erratically stretches and condenses, and hallucinatory electronics flicker and smear in the periphery. Soon after, the warmly flickering and undulating "Anna" delves even deeper into sultry R&B territory to similarly great effect (I especially love the slippery and sensuous "hook" at its heart). The final two pieces on the album are instant classics as well. "Les grandes lignes" feels like a languorously pulsing locked groove burrowing into a psychotropic jungle of hissing and shivering insectoid sibilance, while the closing "Superstudio" feels like a Beach Boys classic a la "Wouldn't It Be Nice" or "Good Vibrations" aggressively deconstructed into a single stuttering moment of summer bliss immortalized in suspended animation forever. As for the remaining pieces, the most damning critique I can muster is that some of them are too brief or feel like an extremely promising foundation for something more fleshed out. Mathematically, that means that roughly a third of this album touches greatness, but it is crucial to note that this is not the sort of album that I normally go into expecting to find a bunch of hot singles. The fact that they exist and that there are so many of them is basically icing on the cake, as Living Room is an immersive, beautifully textured, and masterfully crafted album from start to finish.

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