Album Review: Meril Wubslin – Faire Ça : Bluesy drones, alt-rock crunch and a world of rhythms make this band unique.

The Breakdown

This is a band that work with different, more fluid ambitions and that’s what gives their music an unpredictable freshness.
Bongo Joe Records 8.9

Does Bongo Joe Records have a signature sound? Well listen through the bulging rosta of releases since the label first output way back in 2015 and the conclusion would probably be a resolute ‘No’. But it does have a mission to give a platform to the extraordinary and less conventional, whether from the Swiss underground or beyond, and whether from today or the more forgotten corners of music’s foundations. Founder Cyril Yeterian has let slip in interviews the benchmark for entry into the Bongo Joe world as sharing a “psychy-groovy -weirdy DNA”.

With this in mind, you can see why Brussels/Lausanne operators Meril Wubslin have found a home on the Geneva label. The trio of Christian Garcia-Gaucher (vocals, guitar and synths), Valérie Niederoest (vocals and guitar) and David Costenaro (drums) have stayed true to their lo-fi, rootsy, C86 inclinations for nearly a decade now, with a song-writing ear and quirky resolve to keep them lively. Yes Meril Wubslin can be filed under ‘psychy-groovy -weirdy’ but with their own twist on p-g-w magic. Their debut for Bongo Joe in 2021 saw them take a characteristically obtuse approach to making the step up. They ditched the drum kit, turned off the amps and busked it live and acoustic in the studio. ‘Alors Quoi’ was a rugged, blues-drone triumph with a hypnotic 75 Dollar Bill heft and dark folk atmospheres.

So where does ‘Faire Ça’, the fourth instalment from Meril Wubslin take us? No surprise that for this restless trio it’s not more of the same but importantly neither is the new album a complete ‘volte face’. A post punk, edgy restlessness still underpins ‘Faire Ça’, it’s key to their approach, but this time around the music was recorded away from base in London with musician/producer Kwake Bass (who’s worked with Sampha, Kae Tempest, Mica Levi and MF Doom). Crucially this change has been a collaborative one, the producer working with the band, tuning into their core and supporting their creative ambitions. That means the sound has expanded without losing Meril Wubslin’s essential rough edges.

Such expansion seeps out from the first buzzing oscillations of the towering Un Calme. It’s like an opening pan shot, scouring the soundscape until the Costenaro’s piston-engaged beats thrust the song into action. There’s an ominous Mezzanine-era Massive Attack momentum here, that takes an alt rock turn as the guitar riff flutters and Valérie Niederoest’s pristine vocal navigates the turbulence. “I’m going this way/ Come with me” she beckons and you know, from this point, following is the only option.

The gothic shades of Meril Wubslin’s new music rises again from Tout Est Curieux as the eastern toned guitar twangs, monastic hums and icy piano scales pick at the song’s surface. Garcia-Gaucher’s dead-pan vocal adds an additional friction as it slurs from spoken to disparaging ‘sung’ upturn at the end of each phrase. Like the great Denis Péan of Lo Jo there’s a weary depth to this atmospheric voice which softens when joined by Niederoest’s harmonies. The effect, which the band often draw on. adds a tingling friction to the songs, surprising Mark Lanegan/ Isobel Campbell moments.

On Tout Passe Garcia-Gaucher again takes the lead vocal, swathed in echoing drama over a steely guitar pattern, rising electronic waves and a rhythmic kick in with big beat intentions. Maybe pushing the rhythmic pulse of Meril Wubslin further forward comes from having Kwake Bass at the controls. The result doesn’t overpower the songs but seems to add a dynamic thrust and urgency that’s been burbling in the band’s underbelly all this time. Take the waltzing repetition of Pas La, a song of stasis while ‘everything passes by’, where a relentless shunting beat is deftly paired with resigned vocals and sombre woodwind tones.

On ‘Faire Ca’ the band also appear more comfortable with letting songs stretch out, allowing repetition and drive to make an impact. La Main uses a moody electronica pulse and patiently opens it out to a throbbing desert blues meditation. Closing track L‘eau Monte goes further, cranking it up to an almighty gnawa infused Dervish swirl. But perhaps it’s on Famille Phare that Meril Wubslin best show the newly assured grasp of their own dynamics. A galloping charge of a song with a pop-tinged feel for hooks, all coloured with vocal harmonies that ease between trad and dream wave, it almost defines this band’s uniqueness. A reference to Bow Wow Wow or JAMC could be drawn but really such comparisons get you nowhere when unpacking this trio’s approach.

The group maintain “taking risks – that’s what interests us” and this mutually agreed mantra continues to fuel the joy of Meril Wubslin’s music on ‘Faire Ca’. They can even blend the unvarnished beauty of the folk vignette Les Pensees (where Niederoest’s delicate vocal expression glistens) and make it unquestionably right place, right time. Where the next Meril Wubslin music will come from is anyone’s guess. Maybe they will consolidate or maybe not. This is a band that work with different, more fluid ambitions and that’s what gives their music an unpredictable freshness.

Get your copy of ‘Faire Ca’ by Meril Wubslin from your local record store or direct from Bongo Joe HERE

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