24 marks something of a milestone in the evolution of Minuit Machine; the embattled French darkwave duo have been slowly reinventing themselves since reuniting after a few years on hiatus, paring the minimal synth adjacent style of their earlier recordings down to a sound both lithe and hard-hitting. The LP is a culmination of the evolution apparent on 2020 and 2021’s EPs Don’t Run From the Fire and Basic Needs in form and function, with impactful dancefloor ready drums and sharp programming pushed to the fore. This fully realized incarnation of Minuit Machine runs less on moody melancholia than on restless, livewire anxiety.
At just over half an hour in length, the record makes the absolute most of the time it has without completely sacrificing the space and texture that have always characterized their work. Pre-release single “Lion in a Cage” conjures the tension suggested by its title; the propulsive force of its rubbery synth bass and thudding kick accompanied by echoing synthlines and vocalist Amandine Stioui’s disassociated delivery, growing ever tighter but never fully letting go of its grip. “Pressure” and “Follower” operate similarly, led by throbbing bass that subconsciously commands movement – either to dance or just to pace off some of the pervasive unease they conjure – even as Stioui leans into increasingly desperate chorus deliveries, like she’s just barely keeping her head above water. Both songs, and indeed the whole record are set in a vast space defined by reverb and delay, their insular and lonely worlds given scale by the cavernous and unknown area that surrounds them.
Minuit Machine also do a good job of following-through on the body music sounds they’ve been flirting with for the past two years. “Contradictions” works a burbling 16th note bassline to the bone, ever held in check by a tight envelope and filter so that it seems strained and ready to snap through the long reverb tails of the synths that drape around it. The appropriately titled “So Hard” harnesses a snarling rhythm programming to great effect, snapping the track back into lockstep even as it threatens to succumb to the exhaustion its lyrics suggest; “Why is it so hard to last through the night?” sings Stioui before being shaken from reverie by the whipcrack snare.
Given the openness with which the duo have addressed their recent adversity, not the least of which have been producer and programmer Hélène De Thoury’s horrifying long-Covid symptoms, it’s no mystery where the angst and disquiet of 24 are coming from. That they could could spin all of that adversity into a record that provides release even as it closes in around the listener is no small feat of rapport; one can’t help but feel like they’ve been through the ringer with De Thoury and Stioui, bowed but still standing. Don’t be surprised if your first urge upon hearing the sad piano of the defeated closing track “Unsent” fade away is to jump right back into the record for another round. Recommended.