Recording Artist / Filmmaker
The Moon Pierrot Republic, 2019 (USA)
June 17, 2020
On May 31, 2019, LA-based experimental rock guitarist, singer, composer Arthur Mountaniol has released his new triple album entitled Steampunk Extravaganza Trilogy or S.E.T.
Nowadays, it's not so easy to come across music that goes beyond boring, trite cliché. Fortunately, it still happens once in a blue moon. In this review, I am very pleased to present to the public the album which I believe, is a truly artistic work that stands out of the crowd.
Let's start with the basics: S.E.T. includes 3 volumes, and each volume has 5 rather sweeping compositions with a strong visual element and a unique concept. Very creative work with an extensive thematic scope and an original performing style. By the way, the musician is also a producer here.
According to Mountaniol, this music was composed with the help of modern guitar processors such as a lopper, synthesizer, and other devices, and recorded onto an old tape recorder found in the trash of the renowned Hollywood film studio Paramount Pictures. An analog warm sound of the tape combined with modern digital post-production, create a machine of illusions on which you make a retro-futuristic journey into the strange world of the artist.
At first, what strikes you as unusual is that this music has no rhythm section. It’s entirely based on short looped guitar riffs. However, a musical progression is achieved with multiple layers of other guitar parts, structures, and solos with unconventional phrasings and scales. Mountaniol's guitar sound palette has a lot of colors and shades. Anything from transparent harmonies and fat fuzz, to Hammond organ, accordion, industrial noises, and so on.
I would call it “chamber rock”, since it doesn’t blast you with drums & bass, but offers a rather delicate listening experience instead. It’s a kind of music you want to enjoy in private, taking your mind off things and letting your imagination flow. However, some mainstream folks might get lost in a criss-cross of elaborate arrangements, let alone the peculiar vibe.
On the other hand, the absence of a rhythm section, for others, would appear to be a drawback. However, I believe that the musician made such a choice not accidentally. If you listen to the album in its entirety, you may understand why it was done like that.
Now, as for Mountaniol's vocals, they are as impressive as his guitar. He often changes his vocal style and intonation according to the character of each song. Sometimes he even goes over the top, giving his voice a grotesque edge. But from time to time, you can also hear his natural voice that possesses a beautiful timbre, strength, and impressive range.
Speaking of the songs themselves, they are experimental by nature. Just judge by the names: Degenerates, Doppelganger, Raga of Eternal Bliss, Vampires, Fantomas, Metropolis, and Hollyweed.
Beautiful, mystical, and super weird, they all create the feeling that you watch some surreal movie. The overall sound, however, has a rock and roll feel with elements of retro, lo-fi, jazz, psych/prog rock, and avant-garde.
Sometimes all that gets overlapped with occasional disturbances of digital glitches and soundscapes that add more "steam" and visualize movements of some fantastic mechanisms and gears.
Arthur also uses his trademark "digeridoo-like" throat singing on Shaman's Call and Desert Moan Canyon, whereas on Fantomas, you'll hear the whole bunch of robotic freaks blabbering incoherent amorous rants in French. As you keep listening, you come to think that perhaps, all this sounds like Steampunk indeed.
Despite the eclecticism of this music, it's not abstruse at all. It has a rare balance between the emotional and the inventive and is based on strong songwriting as well. No vanity and overused standards of commercial pop and rock music here, while the author's artistic freedom and vision shine throughout the album.
As I finish my review, I would like to point out that the main driving force behind Arthur Mountaniol's music, as it seems to me, is his vivid cinematic vision, while his brilliant musicianship, serves only as a means of expression rather than a direct show-off. And perhaps, that's what makes his work so extraordinary.
MPR – New Releases – 2019/2020 - Hugo Dinkum, Los Angeles, CA