Paul – the latest EP from French trio Féroces – showcases a confident compilation of the charming cinematic post-rock that the band epitomises. Though lacking in new material, it truly captures the genre’s namesake, combining speech and soundscape wonderfully.
Experimentation has always been a goal for most musicians in the pursuit of keeping their sound fresh and appealing. Increasingly then, the industry sees artists go to great lengths to resist confinement to a genre. Despite this, there are others who make themselves comfortable, building on the foundation that a genre label affords them; acts who seek not to depart, but to define. And so we come to Féroces, and their latest EP – Paul.
Comprising members of existing acts such as Stellardrive, Asidefromaday, and Hiro, the band’s Twitter bio succinctly characterises their sound as ‘rock music & French movies, somewhere between Mogwai and The Cure‘. That just about sums it up for the Besançon-based cinematic post-rockers. What’s not made clear is the extent to which the cinematic aspect of their sound is embraced. Féroces sport similarly ethereal, sprawling soundscapes to those long-pioneered by giants such as God Is An Astronaut and Explosions In the Sky. However, while the latter groups gained their label through the resemblance their music bears to the highly-textured scores of cinematography, Féroces have their own agenda and vision for their music.
The EP’s single-name moniker (as is customary for the group) is a direct reference to the character portrayed by François Cluzet in the 1994 film L’Enfer (Hell), directed by Claude Chabrol – shown on the cover. The film follows a jealous husband’s descent into paranoid delusions of violence, overrun by suspicions surrounding his wife’s faithfulness. It’s reflected wonderfully in the tone of the music. The use of keys and strings accompanies the brooding depth of the bass comfortably, while drums and powerful guitar work lead thoughtful layering that mirrors the titular character’s increasing intensity of thought.
The true magic in Féroces‘s sound lies in the finesse and forethought with which the speech samples are employed. Intertwined at the heart of the intense instrumentation, the marriage of dialogue and distortion is admirable. It adds to an overarching sense of melancholy and desperation in the music that runs like water throughout Paul. As such, it came as no surprise to learn from a native French friend of mine that the samples used (each entirely in French) suit their purpose perfectly. She divulged that opener “Je te pardonne tout” (‘I forgive you for everything’) takes lines from L’Enfer itself, hinting at the summary detailed above. Topics covered elsewhere include parenthood, hidden love courtesy of film Je l’aimais, and the revelation of a colleague’s suicide (which appears to have been recorded for the EP rather than taken from a film). All of these and more frequent the sizeable soundscapes crafted by Féroces, improving the texture of their complex tapestry.
“Même ça tu n’as pas le courage (stellr version)” (‘He doesn’t even have the courage to do that’) presents a slightly more chilled nature to the middle portion of the EP; as if offering a breather for the listener amidst the turmoil. Its relaxed tone is unusual, given that the dialogue chosen (from movie La seconde vérité) centres around two despairing secret lovers. One requests to be shot so as to cure her miserable longing, but the male seems incapable, hence the song’s title. It’s not a new composition for Paul, but a remix of a song originally featured on 2016’s Juliette. The narrative then weaves through a few more tracks – including a tasteful rework of Chris Isaak‘s “Wicked Game” – until we arrive at “Sometimes (Jamais on nous dit ces choses-là)” (‘We are never told those things’). This too is a cover, of the My Bloody Valentine original featured in classic film Lost in Translation. This time round, the dialogue deals with the difficulties we meet in life and how time often helps us understand what we truly want and what we have to do. Warm and endearing, it’s a strong closer that provides an uplifting tone to the final few of the 25 minutes on offer.
In truth, Paul may not have the longevity to fully quench many listeners’ thirsts for theatrically-infused soundscapes. Furthermore, the content of Paul leaves a little to be desired by those seeking all-new music. As hinted above, the EP is a compilation of remixes and covers, with only two of the included tracks being new, original songs. Such is the jumbled, perhaps lacklustre nature of this outing’s six-strong roster that existing fans may be left wanting. That being said; ignore it at your peril. I am a great believer that music must be experienced firsthand in order to form an honest and worthwhile opinion. It is worth noting that despite its shortcomings in content, Paul, somewhat surprisingly, can be downloaded in its entirety here for free, ‘because flowers are perishable and music unprofitable’. While perhaps not enough to completely satisfy existing fans, Féroces have at least been honest about Paul‘s nature – it is a record crafted simply for the love of the art, and is worth a listen in exchange for half an hour of your time.