Feels Like Coming Home: St. Germain Returns After 15 years

15 years after his last album, the acid jazz innovator returns with his new, self-titled album out via Primary Society (Warner Music).
By    October 19, 2015

Chris Daly dropped 10 racks on tickets for 
The Force Awakens

It’s been 15 years since St. Germain (aka Ludovic Navarre) dropped Tourist, so you’ll be forgiven if you weren’t sitting around awaiting his latest. As numerous bards have admonished throughout the years, if you’re planning on a prolonged absence, the least you can do is leave a dope beat or strong rhyme for the masses to step to. If you are going to take that kind of sabbatical, you better come back strong  to impress modern 30 second soundbite culture. While SG took the path less traveled by today’s more active DJs/producers, it’s clear those travels were well worth our wait as evidenced by his new, eponymous release.

On his latest opus, Navarre proves the increasingly limiting label of “beat music” has become as ubiquitous as “alt-rock” was in the ’90s. Where his previous masterwork largely blended house and jazz grooves to new levels of success, here he turns to the music of Mali and more of a world beat groove for inspiration. St. G continues to harbor a perfect ear for production. It remains a St. Germain album in name, but West African guitarist Guimba Kouyate, with his spastic, jangly outbursts, steals the show more often than not, and Navarre is smart enough to let the man do his thing. The vocal contributions are stellar, and there are enough instruments here that you’ve probably never even heard of (Mamadou Cherif Soumano on the kora, Kouyate adding the n’goni to his duties, and Jorge Bezerra adding all sorts of Brazillian percussion flourishes) to keep even the snobbiest of music nerds intrigued.

The album starts on familiar territory, utilizing a Lightnin’ Hopkins vocal loop on opener “Real Blues” to much the same effect as he did with John Lee Hooker on “Sure Thing.” However, the Malian effect is felt almost immediately and remains the blueprint for most of what follows. “Sittin’ Here” is an African vocal exercise complimented by percussive twists and turns. “Hanky-Panky” arguably is the standout track here, Kouyate giving a PhD class in African guitar stylings. “How Dare You” seems to split the difference between Mali and the Mississippi Delta, Navarre utilizing both Malian chants and old blues samples to show how one style so obviously progressed from the other. “Mary L” is probably the closest this album comes to a “beat track,” and it’s still light years away, but the percussion and keys are there, and it helps to send the album off into the warm night air.

If you don’t want to stream it, and would rather buy it, here ya go

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