In 2012 Mika Vainio & Franck Vigroux performed live at Le Générateur in Paris. This event was supposedly the starting point for their debut release together, Peau Froide, Léger Soleil, which emerged on Repitch’s noisey sister-label Cosmo Rhythmic earlier this month. It’s difficult not to be intrigued by this LP even prior to listening. If the idea of Sähko founder Mika Vainio and French experimentalist Franck Vigroux working together weren’t enough, the album’s cover features three deers lounging next to a drinks machine by a shop window. Have Coca-Cola jumped on the bandwagon sponsoring reclusive nob-twiddlers or is there something more considered at work here? Aside from anything else, the artwork suggests an unsettling balance between the natural and the synthetic, something which typifies both their work.
One of the other defining ideas explored in the LP is the contrast in volume and temper. Many of the tracks here begin with rather timid soundscapes before the tranquility is broken by deafening waves of distortion which can hit at any point with little warning, keeping the listener in a constant state of tension. Opener ‘Deux’ defines this from the outset - gloomy phone-line ambience suddenly giving way to a power-drill assault of noise-caked beats. Then, just as quickly as the duo’s explosion of noise begins it cuts back to the brooding, ice-palace soundscapes of ‘Memoire’ - haunting chimes, glacial swells and plodding static crawling brokenly.
‘Souffles’ maintains an equally remote, arctic feel, feeling as if you were staring up to a glowing sun from the bottom of a crevasse. A break from isolation comes in the tracks closing moments, inaudible alien voices entering the mix inquiringly alongside crystalline drones. These Warbling vocoders make repeat appearances throughout the LP, in manipulations similar to those found in Franck Vigroux’s 2010 album, Camera Police.
There is also a highly cinematic quality to the LP; it’s the sort of soundtrack you might expect if Gaspar Noe had directed the first Matrix film. Take the radioactive-electro reductions of ‘Mutant’, or the tremoring mix of grating synths and ultra-simple, Joy Division reminiscent drum patterns through ‘Parabole’ - there is something incredibly visual about Vainio & Vigroux’s soundscapes. Characteristically morbid, ‘Le Souterrain’ is another case in point - creeping bleeps and blips are dulled as if heard underground - clearing to reveal pensive blues guitar embellishments in the track’s closing section.
Vainio & Vigroux are somewhat masters of snarling, devilish noise excursions, however it is the use of these aforementioned cinematic textures that make these moments all the more gratifying when they do come. Take ‘Ravages’ for example, its half-step, off-kilter rhythms are permeated by plummeting circular-saw bass drones. These occupy the headspace so fully, Vainio & Vigroux’s cuts to Autechre style glitch percussion are all the more effective. The LP’s closer ‘Le crane tambour’ in part at least, also makes a typical example of the overbearing static percussion well-worn by Pan Sonic, however there is also an unexpected degree of funk to the track - pointed synth melodies making an interesting juxtaposition against the pair’s frostbitten rhythmic reductions.
Listening back to the Le Générateur performance after an initial listen of the LP, it is already clear that the pair have come some way in perfecting this combination in their work together. Needless to say, bringing two artists so well established together is a rather impressive footing for Cosmo Rhythmatic, setting them up for some interesting further movements.