Luniculaire. It sounds French, but it is in fact a word invented by White Hinterland, taking parts of French words “lunaire” (lunar) and “funiculaire” (funicular, as in railway) to form the title of their second release. This EP is a highly ambitious recording containing five songs all sung in French, and it expands upon the wide palette of musical ideas heard on White Hinterland’s debut, Phylatctery Factory. Featuring two original songs, plus covers of songs made famous by Serge Gainsbourg, Brigitte Fontaine and Francoise Hardy, White Hinterland feels right at home amid the musical tradition laid out by these legends.
From the opening groove of “Requiem Pour Un Con,” it is obvious that White Hinterland is exploring a plethora of musical ideas on Luniculaire. The funky rhythms and scorching guitar of the Gainsbourg classic captures the spirit of the original, but it’s Casey Dienel’s vocals that make this so special. Hearing Dienel sing in French is a revelation – without the distraction of English words you hear what a powerful instrument her voice is. White Hinterland’s “Chant de Grillon” explores a wider range of sonic textures, many created by the layered guitar work of Alexis Gideon, while the spooky and atmospheric “Mon Ami La Rose” (originally made popular by Hardy) is subtle and beautiful. The original version of “J’ai 26 Ans” was performed by Brigitte Fontaine with the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and here Dienel plays the role of Fontaine while her band toys with flourishes of African rhythms and Eastern drones. Throughout Luniculaire, and especially on “J’ai 26 Ans” and “Requiem Pour Un Con,” Matt Meyer’s percussion work is sublime – he layers an array of strange sounds and noises, while maintaining the heavy groove throughout. The EP’s closer, “Lunirascible” has Dienel’s voice at the center, and like Julie Tippetts, Elizabeth Fraser or contemporary Scott Walker, Dienel offers vocals meant not to deliver words, but simply tones, melody and texture.
Like some groovy, strange and psychedelic artifact clamored about by crate-digging record collectors, Luniculaire is more than just an EP. It is a testament to White Hinterland’s deep musical vision and a taste of the greatness to come.