Dale Cooper Quartet and the Dictaphones - Paroles de Navarre

10 songs
71:14 minutes
***** ***


Prefixing their jazz with the words dark, doom and funeral, it should be obvious from the start that this quartet from Brest in France is delving into the deepest depths of gloom and despair on their debut album Paroles de Navarre which was originally released already three years ago on Diesel Combustible Records and is now getting another go on CD and different coloured double vinyls on Denovali Records.

My first impression was the Frenchmen’s closeness to German dark jazz inventors Bohren und der Club of Gore, but repeated listening made me realist that there is ultimately more to this band than just being copycats. While I guess that the four musicians make up the Dale Cooper Quartet, the Dictaphones are probably the machines (samplers, effects, sequencers) they use to enhance their compositions which all come with grammatically painfully incorrect French titles, but I doubt that the musicians are unaware of that.

The songs alternate between shorter pieces that rarely go beneath four minutes and longer epic elaborations on which the quartet is showing its full range. Three of the ten cuts even make it over ten minutes. Une cellier for instance is dominated by a slow repetitive rhythm that could come from a toned down doom metal band, and features a saxophone solo making it throughout the song, usurping the usual role of a singer and creating an atmosphere straight from a smoky subbasement jazz cellar. Mon Bibliotheque continues in this doomy vein, but adds distorted guitars and wailing vocals that even enhance the preponderant darkness. The album’s final and longest track, the twelve and a half minute long Lui Hall, is another enchantingly experimental piece that once again proves that it takes some time getting into the haunted sonic universe of the Dale Cooper Quartet and the Dictaphones.

Not every track is a revelation, with some of the shorter pieces working more as bridges between the longer and more fleshed out ones, but in the context of the album, they still work. You definitely need a taste for the peculiar to even consider listening to this album, but once you have gathered up your courage, you will be rewarded by strangely compelling music which manages to be original in these times where so few artists have to guts to do their own thing.

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