On ‘Montauban,’ Remi Parson Ponders If We Can Ever Really Go Home Again

Fresh off last year’s stunning Précipitations LP, French synthpop mastermind Rémi Parson has released the much darker, more complex Montauban EP.

Précipitations, which ranked fifth on Vehlinggo’s Top 15 Albums of 2015, was a sanguine New Order-influenced record bathed in an intimate, lo-fi sound that was also complex and even cinematic at times. It also had a quintessential French music-geekiness to it — as if there was some sort of inherent gnosis. The result was a catchy body of work equally esoteric and utterly intimate and knowable to all.

Montauban has its own such paradoxes, but this time around Parson has expanded his reach a bit. For Précipitations Parson largely wrote alone in his London flat, using the implements he had around him. For this new EP, though, Parson teamed up with song engineer Simon Trought, multi-instrumentalist Sam Beer, and his close friend Bruno Galibert, and occupied London’s Soup Studio.

The result is still a rather sparse mixture of Parson’s hushed French-language parlé-chanté vocals over a noodly guitar, some buzzy, disembodied synths, and ramshackle beats. However, this time there’s a layering of instruments and emotion that gives the songs an added weight.

The added emotional baggage associated with Montauban appears to come from Parson’s focus on his hometown of Montauban, France, and surrounding areas — and on the idea of “going home” in general. The passage of time offers a harsh reality when it shows us that the tangible, sensual world can no longer match up with our memories.

“Montmurat” is the darkest song on the record. The cut begins with a brooding synth choir and strings, recalling Depeche Mode’s darker days, before giving way to an ominous array of minor-chord synths and jangly guitars — all held together with a scrappy drum machine and a couple tons of the crushing regret and pure bliss.

On the title cut, Parson uses his new tools to craft the most upbeat song on the EP, with hooks more reminiscent of his previous work. Given that the EP and this song are named after his hometown of Montauban, perhaps it’s no surprise this is the happiest-sounding song on the collection. There’s a sense of hope on this number.

The other two songs on the EP, “Rue Caussat” and “Messe des Officiers,” largely adhere to the darker dynamic, but they have their bright-shoots. This dynamic serves to underscore the record’s theme of blissful anticipation and soul-crushing disappointment that can accompany a trip home after a long absence.

All in all, Montauban is a great companion piece to Parson’s Précipitations album. The EP recalls the mixed feelings that accompany the revelation that one is a tourist in their own memories, which combined with the delectably intricate, bright, and catchy work of Précipitations provides a rich study of the human experience.

The EP is available now via French label Objet Disque.

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