The second cut off Twice Around the Sun, the latest album from Montreal’s Guillaume Coutu Dumont, opens with the clearing of a throat. Then, a spoken-word vocal passage kicks in—and that voice is immediately recognizable as belonging to Barry White. “I was a dedicated member to my gang,” the soul man explains over a solid house groove and chiming minor-key, Eastern-tinged melody, in a snippet lifted from a 1988 interview. “I did everything that teenagers do who are in that environment.… I went to jail, I burglarized, stole cars, I fought, I had gang fights. All of the things that it takes to either make you or break you.… And I’m only a product of my environment.” Later, the same track samples from Jesse Jackson’s speech at 1988 Democratic National Convention: “Don’t submerge your dreams.… Face reality, yes, but don’t stop with the way things are; dream of things as they ought to be.”
Is Dumont going for a kind of “follow your heart and overcome life’s roadblocks” theme? It’s probably not that simple. The title track quotes the judge in 12 Angry Men: “Your verdict must be unanimous. You are faced with a grave responsibility.” The lyrics of “Solar Flare,” floating over a Mr. Fingers–style bassline, ask, “Can’t you feel it in the air, rising heat like solar flares?” And “Time Outta Joint” includes a bit from what sounds like a science-class film: “We learn that everything on earth, including ourselves, is formed from the chemical elements of some unknown distant stars.” These words may all amount to nothing, which certainly wouldn’t be unusual in the electronic-music world. But Dumont might have something more in mind; combined with the album’s music—flirting with a kind of cosmic mysticism that’s draped over rhythms that range from sensual lope to dervish drive—he seems to be making a vague statement about spiritual hedonism.
Or maybe not. Perhaps it’s best to enjoy Twice Around the Sun for what it most clearly is: a collection of great-sounding electronic-house cuts from an extremely talented producer. On “Discotic Space Capsule,” dOP’s Jo Illel gently purrs lyrics like “Run, baby, run, your heart is a city” over bubbling synths and an understated tribal chug. “Man, Woman And Soul” is a dreamy take on the kind of low-slung groove-house that the Murk guys used to produce in the ’90s, the reverie interrupted by otherworldly sirens that would sound amazing over a big sound system. Spaghetti Western guitars abut a subdued and smoky sax lead, an arpeggiated synth and raga-style melodic elements on “Constellation”; while “Ten Thousand Feet” works magic as a beautiful outer-space-soul shuffler. Statement or not, this a richly produced, vaguely surreal and immaculately produced album, and that’s plenty.
Guillaume & The Coutu Dumonts plays the Blkmarket Membership party Sunday, September 2.