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Le Loup

• Le Loup

Le Loup's debut, The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' Millennium General Assembly, is made of juxtapositions. Electronic bleeps accompany Appalachian banjo strums, naked melodies bump up suddenly against full-blown explosions of sound, reverb drenched guitar plays a duet with a cherubic chorus. Key signatures shift suddenly, a cappella becomes instantaneously an orchestra of sound; yet with all these seeming contradictions rubbing up against one another, The Throne comes off as unified. At once organic and electronic, what keeps this album together is layer upon layer of circular patterns. The end result is that of listening to a computer-generated Medieval Mass that employs equal parts hillbilly folkie and '80s synth band keyboardist.

Digging into the origins of The Throne, this analogy isn't far from the truth. Bandleader Sam Simkoff composed most it on his computer with inspiration in part from Dante's Inferno; indeed, two tracks are named Cantos. Another inspiration, and the source of the album's name, was the massive installation created by outsider artist James Hampton. A metallic shrine built in a garage with all found parts by a janitor (who kept his art a secret), it now resides in a branch of the Smithsonian.

the complete shrine

Simkoff visited Hampton's creation often. It was so much of an influence that the subtitle for the song "Le Loup (Fear Not)" is also a reference to the placard inscribed in foil at the top of the shrine.

          fear not

The Throne is meant to be listened to from start to finish, with songs more like movements than pop singles. This being said, there are high moments, as in "Planets Like Vultures," which comes in with a heavily filtered a cappella lasting about a minute until low  keyboards, synths, and a drum machine slowly build to a soaring arc, complete with what must be almost everyone in the seven-piece band singing. Another standout is "I Had a Dream I Died." It's heavy on all Le Loup's signature elements: strummed banjo, clanging noise, swelling choruses, subtle French horn, and electronic percussion. The finale clocks in at nearly seven and a half minutes, making the last track the longest by far (although the last part of it is comprised almost solely of birds chirping).

Certainly one of the most unique albums I've heard this year, The Throne also happens to be listenable, oddly catchy and brimming with intelligence.
• Katy Henriksen

le loup

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