October 5, 2022

Julien Neto – Le Fumeur de Ciel (Type)

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter

xxxxxxx xxx(John Keats – Ode on a Grecian Urn [1819])

M.Neto is something of a man of mystery. A native Parisian, he has been around a while, with releases on various labels under various monikers (it says here, mysteriously, on the press release), which makes his minimal ‘net footprint all the more intriguing. His website is an enigma wrapped in a riddle, and, by way of background, the best my pathetic research skills have been able to come up with is to speculate that he’s got some connection with Romania, and most recently appeared on the excellent Cottage Industries 4 : Meadow compilation on the prodigious Lee Norris’ (Nacht Plank, Norken, Metamatics) Neo Ouija label. Oh, and he collaborates with label mates Keith Kenniff and Ryan Teague, who have both made outstanding debut releases on Type in the last few months.

Who he is, where he came from, and what preceded Le Fumeur de Ciel is, actually, mere tittle-tattle compared with the overwhelmingly tangible actuality of this most singular musical event: a debut album of quite marvellous authority that merits all the hyperbole heaped upon it, not that I’m about to add to that (or is that hyperbole? it’s so existentially demanding, sometimes, this critic business).

In the sense that the sub-division of an album into a number of separately-named tracks is sometimes a rather pointless exercise motivated more by habit than necessity, Le Fumeur de Ciel resembles something like Fennesz’ Venice – more a through-composed musical entity than a collection of separate ‘songs’. And, by continuing analogy, if Fennesz’ template for his album was watery, so Julien Neto’s for his is smoky, both artists evoking the unpredictable and often mesmerising swirliness of the vortices and eddies that occur in these similar but essentially different ways of combining hydrogen and oxygen with ambient electronica.

Make of this what you will: track 1 is titled I (one), track 3, VI, track four, IV, (are you still with me?), track 7, V, and track 9, III. The in-between tracks have names: sketch, musicbox, Questionable Things, etc. And some tracks are sub-titled: track 3 is VI (Featuring Keith Kenniff), track 4 is IV (Keats), and track 7 is V (Rivers). Your guess is as good as mine as to whether there’s any method in any of this madness or whether it’s all just the result of the catastrophic collapse of someone’s filing system, but, again, really, it’s of no consequence: this is an album for exclusive right-hemisphere application – if you can read whilst you’re listening to it, you’ve missed the point. But if instead, whilst listening, you just meditate on that totally apposite title (gets my vote for best album title of the year so far), that’s all you’ll need by way of sleeve notes, since, as the Keats so evidently admired by Julien Neto more famously proposed, ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty, that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.’