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Album Review : Montaigne, 'making it'


making it! (Sony)

NOT MUSICALLY, BUT VIBRANTLY, viscerally, you might get classic decadent rock star vibes through making it!. There’s an energy in Montaigne’s album that careers through its 10 tracks like the effects of a pre-show vitamin b injection in a celebrity arse, and makes its relatively brief stay – not much over 30 minutes – feel even quicker.

Along the way this renders the exclamation mark in the title superfluous while convincing you that the determinedly lowercase song titles are probably all in caps.

Stepping comfortably into somewhat new territory for the-artist-also-known-as Jess Cerro, leaning more to a kind of burbling, low impact electronica intersecting with shiny floor pop that doesn’t so much sprinkle the sugar as spray it liberally (in other words, a kind of hyperpop), these songs have the kind of in-built momentum that make actual tempos secondary.

Take for example, jc ultra, which cruises in for its first 40 seconds like a white labcoat lecturer lining up the samples, before springing into a bright-eyed series of vaults that just keep rolling on the bounce of brightly stabbing keyboards and two-finger rhythm playing. All the while, Cerro sounds like a beaming cheerleader calling moves, even as the lyrics actually keep sticking surreptitious needles into the bluster of some slick mover and shaker prone to saying things like “You’re going to mean everything to teens/The sweetest of impressionable beans” and “The world, it needs your magic/The world, it needs your message”.

I could swear this song gets faster and faster, though it doesn’t, but I can confirm I do. How did they do that? Two songs later, sickcrydie – fuelled by a regularly tweaked voice and a toy organ squelch – always seems on the verge of either collapsing on itself or making a dash for the door.

The melody is a step-climber, and with the background glossy there’s a sensation of sliding through, almost as if were not meant to notice that Cerro is telling us a tale of emotional moves with repercussions that are much like recurring concussions. “Suddenly I feel like I got stuck at the wrong station/Demons from my past rear their heads from the tracks/And suddenly I’m paralysed by my traumatic past.”

If sickcrydie sounds like a tough route for Cerro though, telling the other person in the relationship that “I love you yeah you know I do/I just got a little loose screw” before confessing that “First I’m feeling sick/Then I want to cry/Then I get the strongest feeling that I wanna die”, the energy flow retains an almost nagging element of optimism. And that becomes even clearer, the actual import positive, in the next song, the trilling, occasionally slurring upwards make me feel so, where Cerro and Dadi Freyr exchange confessions of oddities and the ordinary that are allowed and no more or less noticeable than anything else. “You make me feel so normal/I’m a freak but I feel normal/You make me feel so adorable.”

It is at this point in the album, as we approach track eight, that the slowly absorbed message may finally begin to dawn on listeners as it had on Cerro: “ordinary” can encompass a hell of a lot; and joy, reflection and widening experience can emerge from the prosaic and the seemingly inconsequential without having to give up the weird.

The next two tracks, both with David Byrne, who has always made a career out of interlacing the very weird and the very regular, revel in that. always be you, a skittering bundle of rhythms that emphasise rather than take away from the overlaid prettiness, says simply we are not going to get this right all the time but I want to keep trying with you.

It’s even starker in gravity, which addresses us like a Philip Glass hymn – narrow-range repetition; their combined voices between common and choral; Cerro’s voice reaching for the apse – while Cerro and Byrne observe the quotidian and the natural wonders with equal awe.

Somehow, after this, it feels natural for the album, which had begun with such vivid restlessness and open vigour, to ease away with something that seems about as far away from hyperpop as possible. comet death almost trembles in its plain garments of a circular bottom hand rhythm on the piano, an unadorned lead voice and a breathy keyboard. The song itself feels like breathing.

But with singer/producer Maika Loubte, Cerro actually develops a momentum within this atmosphere that sings of an ending (“Hold me all my loved ones/Sorry that we didn’t talk that much”), that tallies results (“We tried to love/We hurt, we hate/We made mistakes”) and closes a circle (“And all of it/It always meant so much”), but doesn’t ever finish.

That energy is different, diffused, lower case even, but it’s not lost.


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