There are many reasons for successful artists to go into exile. But for Ludovic Navarre, the DJ and producer whose albums as St. Germain were crucial to setting the parameters of electronic music for the 21st century, the 15-year gap leading up to new LP St. Germain was the result neither of creative block nor overindulgence in the trappings of fame. Navarre took a break because, after selling three million copies of his 2000 album Tourist; pioneering the “French Touch” movement with contemporaries like Daft Punk; and going on a relentless world tour that included appearances with Herbie Hancock and performances at Glastonbury and Coachella, he felt the need to create something completely new. So, he embarked on an extended period of research and reflection, delving into the music of West Africa and spending more than six years constructing his new album from individual pieces in the studio.
Recorded with Malian musicians who live in Paris, St. Germain is a subtle mixture of machine and human elements that start with a bedrock of electronic loops and mingle traditional Malian instruments like the kora, the balafon, and the n’goni with pianos, saxophones, and electric guitars. Featured prominently on the album is Guimba Kouyate, once praised by Brian Eno as one of the best guitarists in the world, whose nuanced and graceful playing serves as the album’s unifying force. Grooving tracks like “Real Blues,” “Hanky-Panky,” and “Voilà” are organic, uplifting, expressive, and hypnotically beautiful.
“Nothing here feels heavy or labored… Everyone involved is seeking… those sounds that lift the music into the higher spirit realms. For years, a standing criticism of loop-based music has been that its repetitions rarely elevate, much less soar. That’s not the case here.” – NPR
“St Germain hasn’t blunted his cutting edge… He extends his reach with a tasteful blend of dexterous musicianship and smooth syncopated beats… plus an African-flavored fusion.” – The Independent
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