Jérôme Chassagnard
Hymen Records

Even if you weren’t aware of the concept behind Jérôme Chassagnard’s new released Sea, the splashing samples that start the record should clue you in right away. Literal as they are, the sounds of waves that permeate each track on the release serve an important purpose, ushering the listener into the record’s playful, atmospheric take on the aquatic.

Even minus the samples, Chassagnard’s sound design suggests water, and specifically being submerged. The short release’s title track opens with the sound of a diver entering the water, and follows it with the sound of a SCUBA breathing apparatus. Even once a gentle electronic melody starts to repeat and the track starts to abstract itself, the deep modulating pads carry the song forward inevitably, like a current. The song “See” does a similar thing in reverse, starting with deep drones with little to no discernible shape or boundary, suggesting the isolated and alien nature of the deep ocean. A simple comforting keyboard line emerges from those depths, occasionally bending under pressure but ultimately carrying the song upwards towards the surface.

The middle of the record plays much more like trad IDM, embellishing the drippy, liquid soundscapes with glitchy percussion and tweaky synthlines. The familiarity of this approach ends up playing against the songs a bit, losing some of the alien soundscape quality so apparent in the release’s bookends. The intricately arranged samples and melodies of “Octopus” have a bit of aquatic flair to them, and reversed sounds that accentuate “Morning Sun” sound like a peaceful lapping tide but they ultimately feel like standard technoid numbers, well executed for that but not as immersive or suggestive as what comes before and after them.

Concept records are the bread and butter of abstract electronic musicians, although there’s frequently little to connect a release to the ideas that inspire it beyond song titles. Sea doesn’t make any bones about what it’s supposed to be about, successfully getting across the beauty, danger and pure wonder of the ocean as interpreted through tasteful electronic composition. With care and even a little whimsy, Jérôme Chassagnard thoughtfully provides the listener with an audio tour through his own fascination with the sea.

Buy it.