Ludovic Navarre’s albums under the name St. Germain (2000’s Tourist was the big one,1995’s Boulevard was of course better) were sublime. Until you heard them too many times – and the whole industry built up around them, and compilations from Café Del Mar, Buddha Bar and other vacuous entities hoping only to cash in on a faux-movement flimsily titled “Café Culture”, a soft-focus blend of acid-jazz remnants and dancefloor leftovers – was too much to take. Far too much. And as that imploded, right around the time that people were able to stop relying on record stores as the only destination – and could therefore find (and choose) all of the music they ever needed anywhere they realised they never – at all – needed all of this shiny, see-through shite.
Tourist’s caffeinated flute loops became very hard to take. That little percolating rumble of blues guitar…all so slick so as to quickly make you sick…
Well, bugger me with a fishfork, as I think the expression goes…here is a new (self-titled) album by St. Germain arriving so far after the boat sailed. And shit it’s good. Like, seriously, very, very good. What’s weirder than that is that it is completely and utterly – instantly – recognisable as the work of the same guy. This is Boulevard (particularly) and Tourist (to a degree) two decades on.
And, yeah, sure, the ‘genre’ to support such nonsense no longer exists – and it’s all been done so many times since…bands and brands and DJ/Producer-guys-hiding- behind-masks-and/or-monikers have had full discographies done and dusted and their Ibiza holiday-homes foreclosed on. And now we get some new St. Germain?
Perhaps it’s that baffling part of all this – why bother? Why now? – that has me intrigued and the guard is down. I don’t know. But I like this. A familiar waft – but none of the former stench. The bubble of blues guitar and the music of Mali caught in the drift. And it’s lovely.
It’ll probably last just a summer – but I’m so pleasantly surprised by this – and I’ve had it on repeat over the last couple of weeks and the eight songs (all somewhere between 5 and 8 minutes) just do their thing in the background, a nice upbeat African groove to start (Real Blues), a very gentle tide-lapping final track (Forget Me Not). In between we get the playful Afro-beat funk of Sittin’ Here, the noodling African guitar splatter across trendy-nightclub-jazz-vamps of Hanky-Panky, something to strut to with Family Tree and some throwback acid-jazz with Mary L. Hey, look, it might just be filler, something to replace the BBQ-reggae for your outdoor cooking this time of year, but I’ll take it.
There’s some hypnotic bass grooves here. And there’s something that seemed instantly missing on Tourist: some heart, some soul, an energy.