Debut album for the French quartet.
“Mysore Pak” is the extraordinary result of 20 years of hard work.
Sometimes the road to an album release can be really long and winding if the first pieces of the puzzle don’t immediately fall into place. In 1992, in Paris, Rose-Laure Daniel (bass and vocals), Isabelle Vigier (guitar) and Marine Laclavère (drums) started the project One Arm, named after a story by the American playwright and poet Tennessee Williams. The three girls were a constant part of the Parisian and French post-punk and no-wave music scene until 1996. In these four years the three “hysterical minimalists”, as they liked to call themselves, shared the stages of half of Europe with bands such as The Ex, Pram, Moonshake, Dog Faced Hermans and Pond (an American band that recorded for Sub Pop, not the current Australian indie-rockers), finding the time to self-produce a 9-track cassette, a single (recently re-released only digitally by Atypeek Music and available on their Bandcamp) and to appear in numerous compilations before finally disbanding in 1997.
But all was not lost. A year later, having digested Vigier’s departure, the band’s rhythm section decided to restart the project with two new companions. This was apparently a crazy idea, as the newcomers were also members of the rhythm section of a recently disbanded group, La Mâchoire. The addition of Dilip Magnifique’s drums and Rico Herry’s bass created a hybrid and symmetrical quartet: two women, two men, two basses and two drums. The four of them started to create totally new songs, borrowing from the old repertoire only ‘Hitch-Raping’ and ‘Space Is The Place’, which was part of their side project called Mysore Pak. After a few gigs (including a memorable one at the Elysées-Montmartre in Paris in 2000 supporting Sonic Youth) and a demo, the album was finally about to be released by a Belgian label, FBWL. But fate had once again decided to turn its back on them. The label went bankrupt, no other label came forward and the band members said goodbye and were again geographically distant. It would take another 15 years for something to happen on the One Arm front again. First an attempt with another label failed for logistical reasons, then the interest of Atypeek Music that led the band to take the old demos, enrich them, remix them and transform them into the final version that we find in their first long-distance release, finally published at the beginning of 2021, which takes its name from their old alternative project.
As mentioned in the long preamble, the tracks on Mysore Pak were composed and recorded over a long period of time, a concentration of styles and writing that is absolutely surprising in terms of quality and specific weight, and which is incredibly cohesive despite the time difference. Two basses, two drums, samples, field recordings that shake British post-rock from the 90s (that wonderful sound aesthetics that belonged to the Too Pure label), funk, krautrock, new wave and industrial music in a feverish cauldron of great effect. The start is with a bang, since the dragging “Real” and “ESG” immediately push the foot on the accelerator, but the diabolical four find a way to immediately slow down the rhythms first with the beautiful and wavy “Space Is The Place” (the only song where there is a guitar) where Little Annie’s cameo peeps out, then with the reflections of mirrors and echoes of the sinuous “Figure”, while the voices that seem to come from a distant mosque of “Fiddle” glide on a sort of slow and dark jig. The enthralling “City” gets back to releasing nerves and muscles, and what sounds like a guitar puffing and rearing up are none other than Rico’s effects and pedals in one of their best disguises; the voices and sounds in our ears make the instrumentals “B.O.” and “Change” eerie. The vocals and sounds that come into our ears make the instrumentals “B.O.” and “Change” disquieting and captivating at the same time, the super dub bass of “Hitch-Raping” makes us hang our heads before the percussions feverishly accelerate the rhythm to take us directly into the enthralling world of “Top Tone”, the longest track of the lot, almost 8 superlative minutes where Laure’s voice, samples, tribal rhythms, bass, Middle Eastern echoes and dub, intertwine in a layered emotional microcosm. In all probability the best track on a superlative album. The album closes with “Step 3”, which alternates seductive pauses with oscillations of sounds and voices and the wave propulsion of the instrumental “Virgule”.
It took the French band a long time to release their sound manifesto, but I can say without fear of contradiction that it was not a vain wait. The four musicians have put together an album of sure suggestion, capable of striking with complex rhythmic plots that are constantly pierced by the inspired insertions of effects and by the broadsides of wonderfully organised sounds. Moonshake’s Dave Callahan himself had proudly declared that The Sound Your Eyes Can Follow was a “guaranteed guitar-free” record, and One Arm, who shared the stage with Callahan and his bandmates many times in the 90s, were able to refresh and revive that brave sound in an absolutely perfect way. All that’s left now is to listen to the record again and hope they don’t make us wait another 20 years for a follow-up.
1. Real 3:44
2. ESG 3:36
3. Space Is The Place 3:52
4. Figure 3:42
5. Fiddle 3:42
6. City 4:19
7. BO 3:29
8. Change 4:25
9. Hitch 4:20
10. Top Tone 7:48
11. Step 3 3:34
12. Virgule 5:06