What do you think of when you think of electronic dark-synth? Hold onto that sound. Add a touch of Kraftwerk, driving rhythm that beats your heart for you, and a little monotone spoken-word en français: this is Montreal duo Essaie Pas. With Marie Davidson on vocals and keys and Pierre Guerineau on vocals, keys, and production, Essaie Pas blend French pop with sparse synths and industrial tones reminiscent of horror movie scores. They are most certainly no strangers to trying – and succeeding – despite what their name may suggest, having released a handful of EPs, split single cassettes, and an LP since they formed in the summer of 2010. Demain est une autre nuit is their first widely available full-length album.
The album opens slowly: unfolding static, an alien hum, and mournful strings. “Tomorrow is another night,” the album title promises, and this one sounds like it will never end. A woman’s voice, distorted and skipping, adds to the din, her smooth intonation setting a tone of seduction for the next thirty-six minutes. “Dépassée par le fantasme” introduces a throwback sequencer vibe over factory floor beats and haunting, minor-key organ chords with grandiose progressions that evoke Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera. Taken together, these elements set a high bar for the album’s energy level, and bring us into the gritty glitter of a Nicolas Winding Refn film. “Carcajou 3” is a sinister thriller and album highlight, it is coldly industrial and yet also nostalgic, populated with minimal synths. Deeper into the tracklist, “Facing The Music” has the intensity of an EDM club banger with subtler force, beginning with a driving techno that grows darker as the song progresses and devolves the listener into a trance-like state.
The tracks are frantic and looping, and within them you can feel neon lights and the animal thrum of the big city. Songs could easily soundtrack a dance floor, a bank heist, the chase scene of a Bond movie, or an 8-bit video game, with a choose-your-own-adventure momentum that aches of youthful energy not bound by a certain time or place. In three words: panting, frenetic, hypnotic.