Pain Perdu showed up out of nowhere last year on Chiptunes = WIN Volume 5, surprising everyone with their expert knowledge of LSDJ and their capability to pull amazing, seemingly impossible sounds out of a single Gameboy. Comprised of two Frenchmen—Maxime Roulleaux and ChipWIN’s own Paul Aupetitgendre—this duo lives in Paris and is pushing the French chipscene forward, giving it a fresh face. They have been instrumental in the recent spat of updates that LSDJ has undergone, helping to shape the instrument they’re taking the time to dissect and master. In their debut EP, ‘Nouvelle Lune’, released on Cheapbeats, Pain Perdu demonstrates just what they’re capable of. After a month off, I’m excited to get back to showing you all the best that chiptune has to offer.
Building upon tracks that they have been working on for over a year, this EP’s four tracks and three remixes dazzle and delight at every turn. I’ll be focusing solely on the original tracks for my review, but you should definitely check out the remixes as they showcase some amazing talent.
Pain Perdu’s sound can be described by a sort of smooth, intense, contained feeling of levity. They exude mastery of both music theory and technical skill in everything they create. The track that best exemplifies this is ‘Nuage de Lait’ (previously titled ‘Stars Ascending’). The title translates to ‘A Drop of Milk’, which I think deftly encapsulates Pain Perdu’s style. Background instruments flit around and mesh together behind an entrancing WAV melody in the intro which leads wonderfully into a smooth buildup. When the drum and bass really kicks in, that barely contained intensity really shines. A nearly shrill pulse lead sings out a wonderfully melancholic tune while fading in an out, echoing against itself and the glittering backing and pulsing bass and percussion. The song is like a single drop of milk falling through the air: pure and white, gaining energy and speed, but small, restrained and careful. When it hits the ground, it explodes into smaller, even more porcelain parts that reveal how well put together that initial drop was.
The problem is that the “drop of milk” analogy reveals two things I find fault with in this album. First, most of the songs feel very timid. Either as a result of how the tracks were programmed in LSDJ (Pain Perdu follows the methodology Trey Frey and many others have popularized of “quieter is better on LSDJ”) or how this album was mixed and mastered, each song feels like it is missing some of the oomph that would have elevated this release to the level of Trey Frey’s ‘Refresh’ or Nanode’s ‘Void’. Every song is catchy in its own right, but they feel just a little too small to adequately convey the feelings Paul and Max want to get across. A song that exemplifies this shortcoming is ‘Tournesol’. Though the instrumentation is quite lush, with panning arps, a wonderfully sidechained bass, and percussion that sounds at home in a DAW, the song itself feels like it’s holding back from properly expressing itself. The heavy sidechaining seems to be the culprit here as it often hushes the melody in subtle ways that feel oppressive to the listener. Here this technique hampers what could otherwise have been a beautifully flowing song.
Second, in three of the four original songs, Pain Perdu seem to have trouble properly transitioning between sections. Electronic music is supposed to be flexible enough to quickly change between many sounds and styles within a single song, but in ‘Duvet’, the duo seems to jump from idea to idea too rapidly. There’s little to no warning between shifts and many sounds that don’t mesh with what they’re connected to. Each section is well written, and, with the exception of the intro which is allowed to stretch out its delicate limbs, each part of the song sounds like an assemblage of similar songs thrown together. This is a baffling trend given that ‘Artefact’ off of Volume 5 was so well produced and structured. The ideas presented in the song are, by themselves, very well executed, but within the context of ‘Duvet’ seem to be a bit slapdash.
Fortunately, the album pulls itself together in the final original song, ‘Balsamique’. It showcases everything that made ‘Artefact’ great while simultaneously presenting a view of their future sound. With Pain Perdu’s signature long intro, the two musicians exquisitely lay the groundwork for the hard and fast break-in to punch through the ornamentation of the buildup. With perfectly layered bass and percussion, and sparse pulse melodies, this song truly takes the listener on a well-constructed joyride. The amen break fills and small additions to each repetition of the breakdown and main melodies really add that intricacy that Pain Perdu is known for. Rarely could you find any sort of true repetition in this album. Each phrase in this song is distinct from the previous iteration, requiring multiple listens to truly hear all that these arists crammed into four channels.
This album is nearly perfect in execution, and I don’t think its shortcomings significantly diminish the magnificent quality of what Pain Perdu produced. This album is one of the best showcases of what can be achieved in LSDJ, and what is truly impressive is that its been made by a duo that has only been producing in this medium for a short while. Keep your eyes peeled for more of Paul’s tutorials and teardowns of LSDJ features and Max’s insane demonstrations of what is possible in this “limited” format. Whatever future releases this talented duo puts out I’m sure are going to cause as much of a stir in the scene as this EP has.
ઈ(@̴̨̊̋̐̃̀̽̽ͅ❦@̴̨̊̋̐̃̀̽̽ͅ)ૐ \Keep Chip City w e i r d/ (๑ ऀืົཽ₍₍ළ₎₎ ऀืົཽ)✧