While he has a musical background as a guitarist, French electronic producer Franck Vigroux has spent the last 15 years developing a reputation for dark, fuzzed up synthscapes of the industrial-tinged variety, his prolific workrate resulting in an impressively large backcatalogue that’s seen him collaborate with the likes of Zeena Parkins and the late Mika Vainio.
Its eight tracks apparently crafted by Vigroux backstage whilst he was on tour, this latest album ‘Barricades’ takes its inspiration for the social inequality, urban decay and overpopulation Vigroux experienced firsthand whilst travelling the globe. There’s also a noticeable undercurrent of Ballard-esque dystopia present just beneath the surface of these electronics-dominated tracks, with track titles such as ‘Concrete Island’ providing a more directly explicit reference. ‘Countdown’ locks things straight down into snapping angular beats and juddering bass synths, before thick swells of distorted drones rise up like a faulty powerline, carving their way against eerie metallic harmonics and sheeny coldwave pads.
Perhaps the closest kinship to be found here is to dark, electro-industrial along the lines of Front Line Assembly and Haujobb, albeit coated in the sorts of noisey layers you’d associate with Techno Animal. ‘Concrete Island’ comes across just as oppressive as its title suggests as surging synth buzzes writhe against sparse, hiphop-edged beats and a background roar of layered drones, the relentlessly cycling whine of the synths calling to mind some huge lumbering machine as the electronics get steadily more overdriven and stalking bass tones flit through the mix like shadows.
Elsewhere, ‘Steel’ rolls like a clenched fist as snapping metallic beats trace a path against dark buzzing bass sweeps and pitch-shifted blasts of synthetic noise, the creeping sense of tension suggesting one of NIN’s more introspective segues given a dark bass injection as eerie filtered whistling tones trail in the foreground, only to be swept up in the toxic layers of fuzz. In truth though, some of the most intriguing moments here happen when Vigroux drops the beats entirely in favour of immersive unsettling ambience.
‘La Chair’ sends a core of slightly abrasive treated textures fluttering against vast church-like organ swells, the rattling thrum that cycles throughout suggesting an erratic motor lifting an airship into the sky as the rush of wind begins to play at the edges of the mix, before ‘H+’ gets more minimalist and atmospheric as sparse bass tones meander against frequency modulated harmonics and ghostly vocoders add a wash of inhuman tones, in an offering that reminded me of recent Eno output more than anything else.
While the emphasis on dark distorted synths throughout occasionally feels a bit repetitious, on the whole ‘Barricades’ is an impressive album that’s likely to appeal to fans of Tympanik Audio and Ad Noiseam.