Unpredictability is always a double-edged sword in the dance world. On the one hand, it’s great to be caught off guard by something great, but sometimes a producer hits such a great groove that it’s frustrating when they give it up and start doing something else entirely. It feeds into a wider discussion on DJing style too: many DJs use dance tracks as functional tools to build a dance, and like a producer to deliver similar, high-calibre material. Others are always looking to surprise listeners, giving dancers the frequent rush of the new. But it’s not just producers that can be un/predictable. Labels, key curators in the glut of contemporary music, are also often guilty of getting a little too cosy with a sound and remaining a little unadventurous.
One label which spectacularly avoids this pitfall is French imprint Antinote, which has quietly become buy-on-sight over the last few years. Label-head Zaltan switches between releasing lost grooves, such as the deep meditations of Iueke or vintage Italian synth noodles, and modern output such as the ace future-funk of D-K. An eccentric range of sound and high quality control have become Antinote’s hallmarks rather than a fixed style, and so it was with anticipation rather than trepidation that we first listened to the label’s poppiest offering yet, Domenique Dumont’s debut album Comme Ça.
We know little more than the producer of these intoxicating tunes hails from Riga, but the shadows cast over their identity do nothing to darken the music. This is a pure summer sound, skilfully stirring dub, synth pop and more meditative electronica into a colourful, bustling whole.
The LP starts in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, the title track’s first moments opening onto a yawning synthscape which promises a slow meditative groove, abruptly cut short by a rhythm of lively claps and pops, sunny steel pan melodies and the vocals of a breathless Nouvelle Vague heroine cut out of her own time. The A-side continues in a similar style, as La Basse et les Shakers guides the listener a bustling trip into the jungle, all syncopated rhythms and jangling melodies. The cooing French vocalist returns on album highlight L’Esprit de l’Escalier, her vocals treated so heavily they’re barely distinguishable as the track eschews traditional pop structure by moving from chorus-verse-chorus to a glorious never-ending bridge which occupies the song’s second half.
These aren’t really tracks or cuts, they’re songs, addictive and hummable, but with a fine producer at the helm, who has a light touch but never lets things get too sugary. The album’s B-side keeps the tone but changes the mood, with three meandering slices of electronica that evoke a sunny haze. Un Jour Avec Yusef is almost too stoned to move, a lazy tropical guitar line drifting over slo-mo clicks and pops. La Bataille de Neige is a nostalgic carnival ride, but it’s on Le Château de Corail that Dumont really nails this slower style, a majestic calypso-closer with regal steel pans that march on, proud and wistful. It closes a curious and winning package from yet another great Antinote discovery, as if they needed another feather in their cap.