L’Epee – Diabolique (A Recordings)

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L’Epee (which is French for “The Sword”) is a new band, but you may already be familiar with its members. Singer Emmanuelle Seigner has been acting in art films since the mid-’80s (including a few directed by husband Roman Polanski), and has also released albums as both Ultra Orange and Emmanuelle. Guitarist Anton Newcombe is, of course, the guy behind The Brian Jonestown Massacre, and the rhythm section of Lionel and Marie Liminana have a half-dozen albums under their belt as The Liminanas. If you’re familiar with the people behind L’Epee’s discographies, then you won’t be terribly surprised with what you hear on their debut album, Diabolique, which is basically the sum of its parts. That’s perfectly OK though because Diabolique mixes the effervescent sound of ’60s French ye-ye pop with a beehive of droning psychedelic rock in a way that’s always engaging, and often downright thrilling. The key element of L’Epee’s sound is Marie Liminana’s minimalistic drumming, which stays just about one small step beyond a drum machine in terms of complexity and fluidity. Normally that wouldn’t be fulfilling, but here it forms the perfect hard-driving bedrock for Seigner’s vocals and a bevy of vintage guitar and keyboard sounds to float over. Picture Francoise Hardy or Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier fronting The Jesus and Mary Chain and you get a pretty good idea of what L’Epee are up to. The opening duo of “Une Lune Etrange” and “Lou” launch the band straight into a dark and psychotic corner of psych-rock; not terribly unlike Brian Jonestown Massacre-affiliated bands Dead Skeletons or The Black Angels. The album’s first single, “Dreams” is the closest L’Epee get to classic ye-ye, but with Anton firing off more guitar fuzz and tremolo than anyone could have imagined back in the ’60s. The band hops on a boat over to Morocco for “On Dansait Avec Elle,” with Seigner and Newcombe duetting over a Middle-eastern beat and a Jonestown-esque melody. It’s an interesting detour, and one the band return to a few songs later for the chant-like “Grande.” Diabolique ends on a high with an energetic proto-punk 4/4 stomper “Last Picture Show,” where Sagnier name-checks both The New York Dolls and Get Carter. You won’t find a mis-step anywhere on these ten songs, and as of mid-September I’m hard-pressed to think of a better debut album in 2019.