Pierre-Alexandre Busson, AKA the French electronic musician Yuksek, has been up to quite a bit since his 2009 salvo of 'Tonight' and 'Extraball' took the world by storm. He’s toured the world, scored a typically French incest drama on 2015’s Marguerite & Julien and collaborated with a dizzying array of artists, ranging from Yaya from Hermann Dune to ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet from the International Space Station. He arranged the music for an Arte TV Ingmar Bergman adaptation Une Histoire D'âme, Ludovic Lagarde’s adaptation of L’Avare (The Miser) and countless other plays, documentaries and fashion shows across his home country.
But have you heard, or even heard of, any of these projects? Of course not. If you’re anything like me then the last you heard of Yuksek was ‘On A Train’, the ode to homeless freighthopping and the only truly excellent cut off his sophomore effort ‘Living Close To The Edge Of Time’. In this (apparently prolific) fallow period those of us who reside outside of the Gallosphere have completely erased him from our memories to make room for every single Todd Terje remix that the internet can muster.
Its creator’s decent into international obscurity actually works in ‘Nous Horizon’s favour. Having most likely forgotten everything but the chorus to ‘Tonight’, the listener is able to discover Yuksek all over again. From the moment ‘Golden Hands’’ lush arpeggios slide in over the squeakiest of beats, it is audibly clear that Busson’s songwriting ability has blossomed away from the international limelight. Where the 2009 Yuksek would have employed sledgehammer drops and rollercoaster crescendos, 2017’s Yuksek opts for subtle progression and nuanced layering. This is perfectly demonstrated during ‘We Love (Nous Horizon)’s euphoric middle-eighth, where Yuksek expertly strips and slows the song down simultaneously before deftly leaping back into the pounding Latin-beat throb of the chorus.
On his first two albums there was always a nagging sense that Yuksek was chasing success by hanging onto the long, fashionable coattails of Busy P's Ed Banger Records. Although he was never affiliated with the label, Busson seemed to tap into the same creative fountain as Parisian disco heavies such as Cassius, Breakbot and Justice without bringing enough of his own personality to the table to truly carve out an individual place in French musical history.
‘Nous Horizon’ doesn't necessarily break this mould. There are moments during its run-time when you might find yourself checking whether there's been any progress on SebastiAn's sophomore release (there hasn't, sorry) and in places it becomes far too reminiscent of the aforementioned Todd Terje for comfort. But what it does succeed in is diversifying his sound and spreading the influences at play around far more evenly. The riveting 'Keep Looking In My Eyes' layers elements of The Knife and Vangelis on top of a sweet acid house base while 'Sunrise' resides in that silky smooth space between Caribou, Air and Empire Of The Sun.
The album also boasts an impressive emotional range for a dance album. On the one hand there is 'Make It Easy's ridiculous laser drops and butchered English (thank you vocalist Monika for helping me imagine what a collaboration between Kate Bush and Diplo would sound like), on the other there's the wonderfully blue dancing-with-tears-in-your-eyes anthem 'Live Alone'.
Had there been more hype surrounding the album's imminent arrival it's possible that it would have seemed a little underwhelming, and given Busson's undimmed reputation in his home country it might come as a bit of a disappointment to any French readers out there. But for those of us who haven't been regularly taking the pulse of French theatre music, 'Nous Horizon' is a charming and addictive shot of euphoric Parisian disco that stands out in a less over-saturated scene in a way its predecessors never could.
Words: Josh Gray
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