The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Live Album Jared Dix , March 14th, 2024 09:37

A noisey French trio of flute, drums, and harp pushed well into the red (with occasional guest spots from Mats Gustafsson) prove a breath of fresh air for Jared Dix

The first thing to note about French trio Nout is their unusual line up of flute, harp and drums. Although perhaps more pertinent might be the parenthetical ‘and electronics’ through which they push their delicate instruments beyond their comfort zone. Live Album features solidly structured arrangements contrasting pastoral sweetness with ragged noise. There are certainly moments where mellifluous flute flows around the harp’s sparkling pizzicato but they mostly intersperse chunks of pedal board glitch ‘n’ squall.

‘La Mare aux Canards’ maps out the territory, leading us along a bright folk/jazz/prog path for a few minutes before the electro-noise crashes wildly out of the hedgerow, chasing the harp along the water’s edge. Feisty noise rock bursts play off African rhythms on ‘Inondation’, accelerating in circles to its end. ‘Gros Canard’ twists blunt blasts of raw electric sound into an iron man electro doom groove, Delphine Joussein’s flute voicing a squealing heavy metal guitar as readily as it did jazz sax on ‘La Mare aux Canards’.

Nout is more than an experiment in making ugly noise with beautiful instruments. The dreamy ‘Miskine’ unfolds for five lovely minutes before being split by a snare crack and accelerating up the mountain into the thunder. Free of both distortion and percussion ‘Slow’ ripples like a sleepy, sun-dappled stream.

As the album’s title makes plain, these are live recordings. They’re taken from multiple sources, presumably for the best takes, but there seems no impulse to conjure the feel of a single performance. Rather there is space around the tracks, allowing each to assert its individuality.

Whether the track list matches a usual set I couldn’t say, but the lengthy ‘Nuit de Sabbat’ at the midway point might be where I choose to visit the bar. Bringing some horror atmospherics and the vocalising of Benat Achiary, it is alternately absorbing and infuriating with an insane final section. The playful ‘Gadget City’ and joyous dancefloor banger ‘Sauvages’ are much more in my arrondissement, so to speak.

If you were still thinking they were some kind of avant novelty act, the album’s final quarter comes rubber-stamped by free improv giant Mats Gustafsson, joining them for three numbers from an Italian show. The baritone sax is a rough beast and naturally it alters the dynamic but their playing meshes well – particularly on the wonderful ‘Ça Sent Le Brûlé’. From the drear shores of Tory Britain, their effervescent playing flashes briefly like a ball of ascending light, rising above this greasy stagnant pond, radiating imagination, wit, continental refinement, hope. The music on Nout’s Live Album is full of life, and like life it is tangled and contradictory, both serious and mischievous.