East Of The Sun & West Of The Moon album review
via Aquarius Records, San Francisco
This is the first we’ve heard from this New Orleans psychedelic combo, even though this is their third record, but it’s as good a place to start as any, cuz it’s hard to imagine any of the other records competing with the sheer sonic scope of East Of The Sun & West Of The Moon, a sprawling double lp (which was supposedly trimmed down from a QUINTUPLE lp!!), literally years in the making, which finds the band touching on all sorts of different sounds, but all the various sonic strains held together by a thread of cosmic psychedelia that runs through the whole record.
The opener, “Narconaut”, should have space rock nerds losing their shit, totally druggy and drifty, the bass and drums locked tight into a loping groove, while the guitars fill the sky with wild tangles of FX heavy swirls and squiggles, clouds of swirling psychedelia, that drifts from heady and ethereal to churning and heavy. The record unwinds gradually, the second track, a smoldering bit of mathiness, rife with twang, and spidery minor key melodies, and laced with a bit of Appalachia, but building to a serious heavy crescendo before slipping into a brief bit of country, only to return to the mathiness of the opening few minutes. From there the band drift into weird woozy horn driven slowburn balladry, a washed out blues, wreathed in loads of echo and reverb, giving it a serious dub vibe, only to then slip into a brief bit of rhythmic churn, which quickly transitions into some drum driven, almost IDM sounding electronica, but that electronica is wedded to the band’s brooding drifting psychedelia, there’s even some sampled voices, which gives it a definite Boards Of Canada feel.
“Oxen Of The Sun” is one of the record’s two centerpieces, an 11+ minute jam that flits from sound to sound, beginning as a dense chunk of buzzing space rock, driven by low slung bass and wheezing organs, it soon gives way to a sort of blurred countryish drone/drift, which in turn becomes a haunting elegy of organ drone, before exploding into some seriously heavy super distorted psychrock, that itself shifts from dense driving pound, to spaced out abstract shuffle and back again. “Ganymede” is the other one, clocking in at more than 19 minutes, this one less all over the map, a lush organ/synth/keyboard dronescape, softly roiling, spacious and kosmische, gradually building to the occasional Sunroof! like ur-drone, only to slip right back into something much more serene and pastoral. It’s a fantastically heady chunk of droned out psych bliss for sure.
The rest of the record continues the group’s sonic explorations, more heavy psych space outs, bits of droned out minimal guitarscapery, woozy, slide guitar laced twang flecked drifts, pocked with slow build to explosive psychedelic squalls, dark strummed folk that gives way to some seriously dense and druggy psychedelia, and a final bit of spare steel string guitar, a little coda, surprisingly spare, considering how dense and sprawling and ambitious the rest of the record is.
WAY recommended, and pretty much essential listening for all you psychedelic space phreaks out there,
LIMITED TO 200 COPIES. Super elaborately packaged, in deluxe gatefold jackets, each one printed and hand numbered by the artist, the art a handmade woodblock print, includes a digital download.
Progressive-rockers Chef Menteur release new album East of the Sun, West of the Moon
by Alison Fensterstock, The Times-Picayune
The longstanding but infrequently performing local experimental outfit Chef Menteur celebrated the release of its first new album since 2007 this past week. The double LP “East of the Sun, West of the Moon,” pressed in a limited, hand-printed vinyl edition on the Backporch Revolution label, includes much of what you might expect from a band that once named an album for an obscure Thomas Pynchon plot point: it’s dense, layered, ambient psychedelic rock using guitar, Farfisa organ and plenty of found sounds.
Performed live to a hushed crowd at the release party last weekend, the new songs felt intensely cerebral and deliberate; full of restraint, tension, and repetition, but also melody and lightness. It’s like lying in a sunshiny meadow full of flowers while a gentle breeze ruffles the pages of your calculus textbook.
East of the Sun & West of the Moon album review
by humana, KFJC
What a refreshing surprise this is! The name of this New Orleans-based band may have “lying chief” as its meaning, but the music is the real thing as far as I’m concerned. Psychedelic fans are in for a bliss-out with this one–there are some epic-length numbers on here, as well as shorter bursts of goodness featuring guitars, drums, Farfisa organ, sounds of rain, thunder, subways, horns and flutes. This is predominantly psych-sounding, but there are occasional elements of country, space-out, and a sample or two. Dig in anywhere and prepare to be impressed.
East of the Sun & West of the Moon PREMIERE: Chef Menteur
Beat the Indie Drum
The lads of Chef Menteur are asking for your help in funding their latest album, East Of The Sun & West Of The Moon, on vinyl via Kickstarter. I’ve written about CM before and featured their songs on monthly mixtapes. I first stumbled across their music when I bought a giant lot of ‘indie’ cd’s on eBay years back and this stuck out of the pile so I decided to tackle a review of it and I never looked back. In my opinion CM are one of the most unheralded pioneers of ambience in the past 10 years. Bandmember/multi-instrumentalist, Alec Vance, is also the curator of Backporch Revolution, a label and collective of musicians in the NOLA area specializing in the occult of experimental/psychedelic/unexplainable sounds . I’ve had first glimpse of the new album and it’s a massive, genre-busting supernova of sound. Taken from their Kickstarter page:
:::We wanted to make sure that when trying to release a classic double album, in all its monstrous glory, there were still no excess or throwaway tracks: Just as much time was spent whittling songs down as it was building them up. At least as many songs didn’t make it on the record as those that did in the interest of providing the most conceptually pure experience. This is an epic aural journey, containing songs for lovers of classic psychedelia, space-odyssey synth drones, Warp-records style electronica, krautrock and kosmische, doom drone, hints of early metal, folk-, math-rock and prog-rock sneaking in from time to time as well. “A symphony of space rock” one might even call it..:::
Their funding drive ends in 3 days so please help out with whatever you can – you shan’t be disappointed. If ever there were music meant to be immortalized on wax, this is it. I chipped in a cool 50, which earns you the double LP plus a test pressing, compliments of the sick United Pressing promo. Check out a track and video from East below as well as a few bonus songs from their 2 (outstanding) previous LP’s.
The Answer’s In Forgetting album review
by Alex Rawls, Offbeat
It’s easy for space rock bands to fall in love with the technological rush that comes with making a big, ominous sound. But from the opening strummed acoustic guitar chords of “Trebuchet” on The Answer’s in Forgetting, Chef Menteur demonstrates warmth, beauty and perspective. “Trebuchet” may gain a couple of keyboards and a buzzing, e-bowed guitar over its duration, but it also picks up a lovely, melancholy melody. That sense of balance is the key to the album; it’s instrumental, but only two songs stretch out over six minutes, and the set-controls-for-the-heart-of-the-sun instrumentals flow into (or out of) songs built on a clear melody or mood.
Throughout, their attention to texture and movement is central. “Tonalli” features a slide guitar next to an upright piano and a synthesizer that hisses like winter winds. When that idea is played out, the drums become more insistent, an electric guitar starts scraping, and piano pounds harmonic and dissonant notes.
The two big pieces are appropriately cinematic, with the big, aggressive “1491” surging time and again, pushed by a low, fuzzy synthesizer part, and “Goodbye Callisto” is a drone that pulses, gaining and shedding sympathetic vibrations that temporarily take shape as parts before returning to the whrrrrr. Those two tracks loom large, but they don’t define the album. It’s the interplay between short tracks and grand pieces, between the electronic buzz and the melodic fragments that give The Answer’s in Forgetting its personality.
The Answer’s In Forgetting album review
by Alison Fensterstock, Gambit Weekly
The local ambient electronic act Chef Menteur seem to delight in subtle references to Thomas Pynchon (the title of the last release, We Await Silent Tristero’s Empire, and a track on this one — ‘Goodbye Callisto” — both appear to be nods to the cryptic cult novelist’s book The Crying of Lot 49). The band has something in common with the writer: As obtuse as the work seems to be, it’s also sneakily beautiful, almost mesmerizing in a quiet way. Chef Menteur is aces at subtle sonic infection. A coherent whole, the album creeps in with a shimmering acoustic guitar, building a dense wash of sound that practically masks digital as analog; the thrum of the mellotron and ebb and flow of synthesizers are as lovely and organic as a country sunrise. The robots don’t creep in till the third track, the interestingly titled ‘1491,” when beeps and tweets slip into the bucolic hum. By time the album crests and the full bag of electronic tricks upends itself, you’re captived.
The Answer’s in Forgetting album review– Antigravity
(FOUR STARS) In The Answer’s In Forgetting, local experimental and instrumental rock group Chef Menteur’s second full-length album, the band has trimmed the fat and come away with a beautiful statement that all New Orleanians should be proud of. Once again the band has produced a diverse group of songs that defy convention and labels. You’re as likely to hear the hum of an oscillator as you are an acoustic guitar, banjo, xylophone, synthesizer or theremin. “Tonalli” is a lighthearted, playful song full of wonder and searching and sounds reminiscent of a moodier Flaming Lips, huge drums and all. “1491” is majestically ominous, with an evil synthesizer riff that could’ve been stolen from the entrance of Emperor Ming in Flash Gordon. “Exit the Thief” is the most fun song on the album, as it teases and the listener never knows when the industrial, pulverizing riff/chorus will come back around and bite. The cornerstone of the album has to be “Goodbye Callisto,” whose twelve minutes begin with a slight, peaceful hum, the kind of sound that could greet a person at the gates of Heaven. Then noises of dissent start to seamlessly creep in and, before you know it, a bugle is fighting to signal the apocalypse as static grows louder. Since Chef Menteur was last seen playing live as a loud trio, it’s no surprise that new, hard-hitting drummer Dan Haugh has brought a more solid, cohesive, and cymbal-oriented noise wash to the album. In fact, the whole album is full of neat, inverted, cymbal effects and other production tricks. Forgetting sounds cleaner, more streamlined and grounded than the previous album, a result of not committing so much improvisation to tape, I’m sure. The songs act as journeys and escapes, and I suggest turning out the lights for full effect. We already knew Chef Menteur was gutsy, and with Forgetting we now know they have the patience to refine, refine and refine their ideas, with the result being that the band should get more national recognition and, hopefully, a little more local respect. Chef Menteur’s not just playing around with knobs—-they’re coming into their art and doing things no one else has. -Jason Songe
We Await Silent Tristero’s Empire Album Review, Terrascope’s Rumbles.
Hailing from New Orleans Chef Menteur play songs, psychedelic improvisations and lo-fi experiments on We Await Silent Tristero’s Empire, a collection of pieces recorded 2002-2004 before they became a full band. Opening piece “Europa” is a percussion led drone that slowly builds into a dark cloud of noise, the rhythms lost in the debris, before “Pointu” gets you dancing with it’s groovy Farfisa organ sound, although this is soon surrounded by swirling noise that ensures nothing is too comfortable. Track three “Paysans De La Mer” is pure psychedelia, a shimmering eastern delight, complete with real Sitar, whilst “Matiasma” is an improvised noise/drone that unsettles and delights at the same time. Further in, “W.A.S.T.E.” is a pulsing electronic piece that unexpectedly changes, full of street sounds and backward effects, and gaining a sun-drenched haze that slowly evaporates leaving the scratchy electronics and effects to slowly fade into nothing. The atmosphere is changed again when the slow motion space drone of “Caverns Of The White Widow” melts from your speakers, space made liquid, the sound of your soul leaving it’s body. (If memory serves me correctly White Widow is also the name of a particularly trippy brand of marijuana that once left me grinning like an idiot for several hours, but that’s another story). Final track “Io” is a vast expanse of medative sound, a pure drone that is like a heat haze, slowly changing yet remaining the same, a mirage for the ears that works perfectly, and is indicative of the quality and innovation that cuts across this album, offering an expansive palette of sounds that are blended together into a cornucopia of musical delights for the discerning listener. —Simon Lewis
We Await Silent Tristero’s Empire Album Review, The Wire magazine (#265).
Now established as a working quartet compromising Mike Mayfield, Chris Sule, Alec Vance and Jim Yonkus, these tracks predate the full-time arrival of Mayfield and Sule. The background beats and ambiences that Vance and Yonkus had collected on old-fashioned tape machines have since been dusted off and overdubbed for this release. These expansive instrumentals are typified by Yonkus’s surging, probing bass and the washes of synth both he and Vance favour. There’s a cool detachment to the sitar tinged “Paysans De La Mer”, and an epic rolling quality to the lithe “Europa”. The disc closes with two lengthier, freer and more experimental tracks. A roiling chaos of sound finds form and focus through its course in “Pointu II”, acting as an Ur-version of its earlier polished version. The shimmering, lush, synth wash of “10”, named after one of Jupiter’s moons, wears its wondrous space rock ambience on its sleeve. —Nick Southgate
March 15, 2006
We Await Silent Tristero’s Empire Album Review, Prefix online magazine.
This is a great spot at which to bring up the issue of reviewer neutrality. Spoiler alert: The following might be biased, because the six members of Chef Menteur have three things that endear their band to my heart. For one, they’re from New Orleans. Their name comes from a major Crescent City thoroughfare, and in the liner notes they thank college radio deejays whom yours truly used to work with. Second, the band recorded We Await Silent Tristero’s Empire in the waning days before Hurricane Katrina; any art with such an antediluvian pedigree is bound to be elevated to mythic status. And finally, any indie band that uses an obscure reference from a Thomas Pynchon novel must be smarter than your average major-label bear. (Although Thrice just did that, too, didn’t it?)
It’s hard to talk about separate tracks on We Await Silent Tristero’s Empire since as a whole it drones and throbs like one big continuous art piece – this is noise rock in the vein of Acid Mothers Temple or Kinski. The title track starts out robotically, sounding like a current Hot Chip track, but it then picks up a Caribbean vibe, not unlike something you’d expect from the Avalanches. “Paysanas de la Mer” stands out with its spicy sitar. And “Io,” seventeen-plus minutes of faintly glowing ambiance, ends the album in very Eno-esque fashion.
Oh, and one more thing: don’t ever antagonize the horn.
We Await Silent Tristero’s Empire Album Review, Aural Innovations online magazine.
From Aural Innovations #32 (November 2005)
Backporch Revolution is, or was, based in New Orleans, so we can just hope that they survived the hurricane and incompetence of the US government. Chef Menteur is an outfit (not sure how many people that is normally but in this case it is 5) who create all instrumental groovy soundscapes with cool catchy bass lines and strange sounds. They play a lot of regular musical instruments (or sample them) as well. Paysans de la Mer features a sitar. This is yet another one of those amazing sound creations that one just has to get into the right state of mind to take the journey. The CD encompasses the instrumental-space rock-soundscape-experimental music genre quite well. While not much of the CD would really be considered rock by anyone, the bass line, which is always very cool, keeps the tracks moving while the sound cacophony takes over your senses and leaves you in another place than you started. —Scott Heller
We Await Silent Tristero’s Empire Album Review, Foxy Digitalis online magazine.
[Rating 9 out of 10] I don’t wish to diminish this disc by simply tacking on a few significant reference points as if it were birthed by lesser beings (or a teenage garage band), but from the moment I started listening to it I kept thinking that it really should have been released by Strange Attractors Audio House. Unlike space flight dreamweapon contemporaries Landing and SubArachnoid Space however, Chef Menteur is essentially a duo. The core of the band is comprised of multi-instrumentalists Alec Vance & Jim Yonkus with a few other cats rounding out the sounds with post-improv synths and percussion (though it seems a solid line up is now in place). We Await… is an alluring collection of psych & space rock jams recorded over the period of two years cleaned and polished up for consumption. Given the relative uniformity and strength of the songs, there must have been a lot of tape to prowl through, coz there’s very little filler within the album’s 70+ minute run. So either these guys record everything and shake out the seeds and stems or they are musical geniuses or savants that hit the mark each time out. I hope there is more to come from these guys. But seeing that they and their label is based in New Orleans I’m guessing that a lot of gear is now gone. Here’s to hoping that all is good and more NOLA psych will be blastin’ out soon!!! — Chris Jacques
Await Silent Tristero’s Empire Album Review,
Almostcool online magazine
Chef Menteur is not the first and will also not be the last band to reference Thomas Pynchon’s literary classic The Crying Of Lot 49 in their music. For their second release (a full-length follow-up to their debut Vive La France! EP), the group has taken the statement from behind the secret organization within Pynchon’s novel and turned it into the title of their album. Pairing the mysterious statement with their psychedelic long-form space rock workouts is a marriage that actually works out quite well. Apparently, the group holed away in their own studio over the course of the past couple years for the creation of the twelve songs and well over seventy minutes of music on the release. Analog synths crash up against organ grooves, guitar workouts, a slew of middle eastern sounds (sitar, dulcimer, kalimba) and a mixture of live and programmed percussion. The result is a stew of sonic experimentation that at times touches on the work of the Shalabi Effect at at others drifts into territory haunted by spaced-out guitar groups like Yume Bitsu and Landing. “Europa” opens the release with unfolding sheets of guitar tones over a rhythm section that grows increasingly impatient before rising up and turning the end of the track into a kaleidoscopic freakout. “Pointu” locks into a more sustained groove with programmed and live drums combining to form a solid beat while dense layers of synths and guitar rumbles squeal over one another in a track that’s little more than one long crescendo, but works quite well regardless. The group goes even more overboard on “Charlie Don’t Surf,” as a blistering wall of sound mixes about 6 layers of guitars alongside a buzzy synth melody for a squalling treat. The album-titled (abbreviated) track of “W.A.S.T.E.” is probably the groups finest effort on the entire release, however, as they mix up styles successfully and throw a slew of different styles into an insanely catchy track that runs just about six minutes. After opening with some squelchy electronic loops, the track progresses into an airy, light piece that strums along with acoustic guitar, handclaps, and “whoot-whoot” vocals before dissolving into a third section that combines the first two just about perfectly. With two ten-minute plus tracks that close the release (and in a couple other places on the album), the group seems to let their home-studio jams get the best of them, but even when a piece sounds more like an outtake of a longer effort (as on “Pseudologia Fantastica”), they still manage to wring scads of atmosphere out and often cruise by on neat-sounding cinematic sounds alone. Despite a couple soft spots, this really is one of the better releases that I’ve heard in this genre in some time. If you enjoy any of the aforementioned artists or just good guitar-driven psych rock, Chef Menteur is a lesser-known band you should definitely hunt down.
25 July 2005
We Await Silent Tristero’s Empire Album Review, Stylus online magazine.
Maybe when you’re actually getting paid for it, you have to listen to whatever album the editor deigns to shove your way, but for those of us in the more free and easy terrain of the volunteer music writer, there’s still the problem of selection. Oh, sure, I can drive over to Stylus’ vast warehouse of promos and cherry-pick a few tempting ones to tide me over for a few weeks, but what is it that causes me to pick A and not B? The answer is painfully mundane but also, I think, overlooked: They are the exact same sort of often irrational, idiosyncratic reasons that lead the non-writing listener to give a particular album a shot. In Chef Menteur’s case, I obtained their first album/clearinghouse purely because of the abiding love I have for Thomas Pynchon’s novel The Crying Of Lot 49. Those who have read it probably already noticed that We Await Silent Tristero’s Empire’s title comes directly from the book, and although this “collection of songs, psychedelic improvisations and low-fi experiments” bears no real relation to the strange adventures of Oedipa Maas aside from the title, something eerie, silent and a little sinister lurks at the heart of both. In sound the New Orleans outfit often veers close to the extended, gorgeous formlessness of bands like Stars Of The Lid or | head | phone | over | tone |, with occasional dips into bursts of noise. They claim to prioritize “texture and mood instead of rhythm, harmonics over melody” on their website, and scattered among the longer pieces on this album are short tidbits that don’t do much beyond establishing a feeling before evaporating. They’re not bad, with the dusty Western guitar loop of “Maida Vale” and the brief, sitar-aided “Paysans De La Mer” in particular providing refreshing interludes, but mostly they’re just distractions from the big slabs of sound that compose most of We Await Silent Tristero’s Empire and leave the most telling impressions. “Europa” begins the album sounding like an out-take from Eluvium’s masterful Talk Amongst The Trees album, but soon some muted drumming comes in. Only some of these pieces were recorded after Chef Menteur became a full band (as opposed to Alex Vance and Jim Yonkus working as a duo), and “Europa” is one of the strongest indications that adding Mike Mayfield and Chris Sule on drums and percussion was a good choice. For most of its seven minutes “Europa” is dreamy motorik, but eventually it ends in a hollow explosion, jolting the listener back to full awareness. “Caverns Of The White Widow,” Hammer Horror title aside, is the gentlest track, small curls of feedback and tentative organ welcoming you into its confines. “Pointu II” and “Io” end the record with twenty-seven minutes of similarly epic proportions. The former pits a grinding feedback howl against persistent organs before the organ eventually sputters to a halt, exhausted. “Io,” meanwhile, bears some resemblance to Spacemen 3’s ambient “Ecstasy Symphony,” or maybe Canadian shoegazers SIANspheric’s “Where The Planets Revolve, I Wish I Was There” but is, if anything, even less hurried. The sound does ebb and flow during “Io,” but at the time it sounds seamless. Probably the most telling track is also the most incongruous; “W.A.S.T.E.” was made using only a computer and segues from deadpan beats into sunnily pastoral acoustics and handclaps, before fizzling out in static. With regards to composition, tools, sounds, and most other measures it should stick out like a sore thumb here but it doesn’t. It just sounds like Chef Menteur. Their willingness not only to throw caution to the wind to build an intelligible aesthetic but also to show us the places where that aesthetic spills out into interesting directions means that despite the one-size-fits-all nature of a collection like We Await Silent Tristero’s Empire it’s hard not to feel as if you’re in good hands with this band, and that their eventual first album proper won’t be one worth waiting for. — Ian Mathers
15 July 2005
We Await Silent Tristero’s Empire Album Review, Beat the Indie Drum online magazine
New Orleans’ Chef Menteur specialize in sprawling instrumental freakouts and ambience while tapping into the Kraut heroes of yesteryear and Brian Eno’s grab-bag of sonic tricks. The band assembled bits and pieces of found sounds over the last few years, beefing them up in the studio and have delicately sequenced them into what has become their debut LP. Backporch Revolution, a well-respected local record label dealing with all things musically progressive and analog, wisely released Tristero’s Empire in Feb 2005. There are standout tracks on the album but it would be an injustice to single them out. ‘Caverns of The White Widow’ is 7 minutes of creepy feedback, low-end percussion and sounds pretty much like what I imagine the bottom of the ocean to emanate, given I could descend that far and not be pulverized into tiny scraps of angler fish bait. The heavily Eno-esque “Pointu’ rumbles along on a deep bassline slowly building up tension and could have easily found its way onto the Lost In Translation soundtrack. Its sequel ‘Pointu II’ is basically an identical extension of the theme, if not a slight bit more strangled and adventurous. You can’t help but be intrigued by the wide variety of samples and instruments used to create We Await Silent Tristero’s Empire. Various synths squeak and squabble. Sitars clang all throughout ‘Paysans de la Mer’. Banjo, handclaps, hootin’, sparse acoustic guitar and field recordings of a nearby neighborhood drive the latter half of ‘W.A.S.T.E.’ (now the classic Pynchon references register) before it’s sealed up with a glitchy outro. The album is bookended by the aptly-titled ‘Europa’ and ‘Io’, two of Jupiter’s most significant moons or for you Bullfinch’s buffs, notable characters in Greek mythology. ‘Europa’ is a patient, yet glorious post-rock epic, not only serving as a proper introduction but grabbing the listener’s attention immediately and preparing them for the rest of the album. The closer ‘Io’ sprawls itself out over 17 minutes, utilizing a spacious, dirgey drone, not unlike the movie score for 2001: A Space Odyssey when Captain Bowman ascends to his final(?) destination. Some may consider this a bore but I most definitely feel life on this satellite. Stunning. Sometimes albums cut of this mold have a tendency to get lost on a listener. Artists get the urge to pile on the gloss or, inversely, oversimplify the themes and emotions they are trying to convey by employing staunch minimalism as a means to perhaps give their music a ‘complex’ feel. We Await successfully bridges the gap between these disparate ideals by leaving just the right amount of secrecy to their mission while at the same time expounding upon its obvious musical influences in a classy, not-totally-derivative manner. I can recount several moments during the album where I was literally surprised at how gracefully the band formed structure within a song without resorting to cacophonous noise or clashing time signatures. Fresh, hauntingly beautiful and truly therapeutic. Hit ‘repeat’. RIYL: Brian Eno, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Boredoms, Stereolab, Pink Floyd, Can
21 June 2005
We Await Silent Tristero’s Empire Album Review, Gambit Weekly magazine
In Thomas Pynchon’s novel The Crying of Lot 49, the word “WASTE,” written on seemingly innocent trash cans, was revealed to stand for the same phrase these prog-rockers used to title their first full-length studio recording. In the novel, the phrase was part of a complex conspiracy that was laboriously explored but never satisfactorily solved — in the traditional sense. Instead, suspicion, subtle paranoia and layers of possible meaning that floated through the plot were laid out for the reader, sometimes coming together to create small solutions to the larger puzzle, sometimes not. It was a confusing and unsatisfying book. What this has to do with the record is that Chef Menteur has created a sonic text here similar, in a lot of ways, to Pynchon’s literary one. Layers of sound — sculpted by as much traditional instrumentation as electronic effects — create a trancelike, ambient wash that’s often lovely, but not necessarily cohesive. The two core members of Chef Menteur, Alex [sic] Vance and Jim Yonkus, are known for being relentless tinkerers with their sound, and the album is, according to the liner notes, a collection of “psychedelic improvisations and lo-fi experiments.” The standout track, “W.A.S.T.E.,” nudges the listener out of a trance-drenched fog with staccato electronic beats that dissolve into a wash of acoustic guitar and dulcimer on top of what sounds like barely discernible human chatter. For those who like their space-rock lulling the whole way through, the album might fare better without the 17-minute closing track, “Io.” The dissonant, crashing experimental sound is a rude awakening after a long, pleasant psychedelic naptime. — Alison Fensterstock
We Await Silent Tristero’s Empire Album Review, Offbeat magazine.
All-instrumental locals Chef Menteur remind me of what the Flaming Lips or Radiohead would sound like if they silenced their plaintive lead singers, finally doing away with any pop preconceptions. It is tough to recommend a separate track on We Await Silent Tristero’s Empire, as the entire CD works as a singular performance. Chef Menteur’s brand of extended prog-rock jams will likely garner comparisons to Pink Floyd and King Crimson, but even those legendary bands’ albums famous for their lengthy excesses can’t hold a candle to the monolith that is We Await Silent Tristero’s Empire. Sure, half of the CD’s tracks are under five minutes, but they could be spliced together as longer pieces, as they tend to run into and complement each other. Of course, this says nothing about the music itself, which is at turns breathtaking, ominous, and downright harrowing. Most of it sounds like the score to an odd indie sci-fi film, especially the foreboding “Caverns of the White Widow” and “W.A.S.T.E.,” the best track and the only thing resembling a dance number here. Its alternation between sunshine-drenched acoustic guitars and minimalist, computerized beats sound like one of Brian Wilson’s nightmares. Some of the longer numbers, though, could have been either shortened or changed up to prevent monotony. This is especially true of the 17-minute closer “Io,” which mostly sounds like a symphony orchestra tuning up. Nevertheless, for the most part, this empire is one worth waiting for.—Jeremy J. Deibel
We Await Silent Tristero’s Empire Album Review, Six Ten Split magazine.
Next time I travel it will be ticket-less and with no known destination. When I am in an airplane, above the clouds, hovering in a baby blue sky and need my anxiety fed, I will reward myself with We Await Silent Tristero’s Empire in my headphones. This unpredictable, sprawling soundtrack tells my tales. It strays from convention and deceives all my pre-conceived notions. When I think I have this band pinned down–classified and defined, stocked in the right aisle of my local mega super-store CD retailer–Chef Menteur cunningly turns around and goes another way. It’s brimming with equal parts pins and needle tension and stoned space jams. Although for the most part the different tracks hold their own, this album is also a cohesive saga. It’s mood and atmosphere-based rather than melody-driven. The narrative only becomes understandable in the context of the whole album, but even then, it’s open for interpretation and defined by the listener’s own state of mind. I, for one, can’t decide if this album is filled with doom or hope. The album was created over the span of two years in Chef Menteur’s rehearsal space/recording studio. Founding members Alec Vance and Jim Yonkus play an impressive array of instruments including (but not limited to): sitar, dulcimer, guitar, kalimba, upright bass, and various analog keyboards and synthesizers, while Chris Sule and Mike Mayfield add drums and percussion. Despite the many ways Chef Menteur have chosen to capture their sounds on tape—4-track tape, analog and digital—the end result is seamless and big sounding, perhaps thanks to Piety Street Recording’s John Fischbach’s skilled mastering. If you want to treat your ears to a feast of interesting sounds and textures, of ebb and flow, and if you love daydreaming, you should run out and buy We Await Silent Tristero’s Empire today. — Victoria Larsson
Show Preview, Six Ten Split magazine.
WEDNESDAY • FEBRUARY
THE HOWLIN’ WOLF
Local sound sculptors Chef Menteur will be bringing their instrumental music extravaganza to a venue big enough to fit their expansive, sweeping soundscapes (not to mention all their equipment!). This band paints using carefully arranged vintage keyboards and synthesizers, suggestive drumming, and bold yet contemplative guitar playing. Although this band has been around since 1998 in various incarnations, any Chef Menteur live performance is a treat, since Alec Vance, Jim Yonkus, and company are more interested in recording than performing. The band can change direction on a whim and go off on some quite interesting tangents, for fans of moody, atmospheric rock/electronica hybrids and Brian Eno. Be sure to keep your eyes open, because the accompanying visuals will further enhance any brain-altering occurrence. The lyrics will be in YOUR head. — Victoria Larsson
http://www.sixtensplit.com/html/preview.html (scroll down)
Feature Interview, Antigravity magazine.
Alec and Jim talk with Noah Bonaparte Pais about politics, film and music.
13 February 2005
Radio Interview, WTUL.
Alec and Jim talk with Chris Crowley about politics, drugs and music.
“Amplified Guide to New Orleans”, FUSE-TV.
National cable music channel profiles New Orleans area
Circle Bar Show Review, 10 October 2004, Live New Orleans.
And that when they got super dreamy, listening to their music was similar to watching water reflect off of blue water. Also, their ominous and repetitive bass lines gave the more rockin’ songs some needed nastiness….
Samples, synthesizers (one being a Moog), e-bows—it was all there. The great thing about the music was that no matter how many layers there were, there was always a pulse. I tapped or stomped my foot most of their set. Nice grooves. The other cool thing was that they were organic, as well. A conga was used along with a drum kit to create polyrhythms that only added to the trance nature of the music.
The band had an attractive accessibility. Not too dark or light. Just subversive enough to get past the ears of a Republican. I enjoyed the video they played against the performance room’s back wall. Goldfish swam in a toilet, and I sped through a tunnel in the driver’s seat.
I think the band’s improvisational spirit made them push boundaries and find sounds other people would have passed up or not thought of putting together. These guys were talented and a good time. Long live Chef Menteur. —Jason Songe
http://liveneworleans.com/detail.php?id=390 (with photos)
“Vive La France!” EP (review), Where Y’at Magazine.
On the cusp of a new full length slated for the fall, the cleverest named band in the local scene (it’s more than just a strip of rent-by-the-hour motels) has re-issued Vive la France!, their francophile debut EP.
Originally released in June of 2003, Vive la France! weaves airy guitar melodies and staccato bass lines over layers of textural synth/guitar loops, creating forty minutes of lush, instrumental soundscapes reminiscent of a dreamier Labradford. Highlights include the dark, drony “empires sans frontieres” and the more college radio friendly “ecoutez et repetez”, which contains a catchy, sliding bass thump alongside samples of French people saying French stuff. Nuance is the name of the game with Chef Menteur, so depending on your mood and taste, Vive la France! will either drug you into a space rock trance or help tuck you into a pleasant nights sleep. And if you are still looking for a reason to vote this presidential election, check out the Bush MP3 on their website, in which our Prez denounces Chef Menteur as dirty, evil terrorists. Maybe the band name hits a little too close to home. — Bailey Finnegan
“MP FREE”, Antigravity Magazine.
Chef Menteur’s free mp3s downloads are featured.
17 Aug 2004
“Hot Seven” Pick, Gambit Weekly.
“Cooking up Art”, Times-Picayune
Chris Rose, local yokel, no-thrills celebrity watcher, and Times-Picayune hack (we mean that in the nicest way) wrote up a piece about a show we played at the Lucky 13 with Heather Weathers. Naturally he was too distracted by Heather’s meat bikinis to even figure out what a great opportunity he had to pun on our band’s name…
“Live Wires”, Gambit Weekly.
Chef Menteur is one of several New Orleans acts profiled in a cover story about the local electronic scene; other bands profiled include our pals Electrical Spectacle and Glorybee.