Music Review: 'St. Germain,' St. Germain

Oct 15, 2015
Originally published on October 15, 2015 6:42 pm
Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

This is what made Ludovic Navarre famous 15 years ago.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ROSE ROUGE")

MARLENA SHAW: (Singing) I want you to get together. I want you to get together.

CORNISH: The French DJ is better known as St Germain. His blend of jazz vocal samples and house rhythms was unique when he released that debut album, "Tourist." Since then, his field has exploded. Heavily sampled beats are used all the time, and DJs are superstars. Now St Germain is reemerging with a new self-titled album. Interviewer Tom Moon says it's a surprisingly creative return.

TOM MOON, BYLINE: At first, it sounds like St Germain is doing pretty much the same pastiche thing that worked eons ago. He's just switching up the source material, using blues samples instead of jazz.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "REAL BLUES")

LIGHTNIN' HOPKINS: (Singing, Unintelligible) - caused my heart to weep and come back home.

MOON: That's the voice of the legendary Lightnin' Hopkins and mingling digital keyboards with the African mallet instrument called the Balafon.

(SOUNDBITE OF ST GERMAIN SONG, "REAL BLUES")

MOON: But this isn't your typical globetrotting cut-and-paste. Where most DJs organize their work around static loops, St Germain seeks a less scripted, more improvisational atmosphere. To build these tracks, he collaborated with musicians from Paris's large Malian community and a Brazilian percussionist. You can hear them in the foreground and the background, intensifying the grooves.

(SOUNDBITE OF ST GERMAIN SONG, "HANKY-PANKY")

MOON: One of these Malian musicians is guitarist Guimba Kouyate. He's a fearless improviser and a storyteller in the African griot tradition. He's got a sneaky, low-key way of willing the music into a higher gear.

(SOUNDBITE OF ST GERMAIN SONG, "HANKY-PANKY")

MOON: There's a lot of musical conversation going on here. St Germain went deep into West African music and discovered that to capture its nuances, he had to ditch some of his DJ tricks and open things way up.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SITTIN' HERE")

NAHAWA DOUMBIA: (Singing in foreign language).

MOON: The result - a timeless African sound...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SITTIN' HERE")

DOUMBIA: (Singing) Yeah.

MOON: ...Reconfigured ever so slightly for the electronic age.

(SOUNDBITE OF ST GERMAIN SONG, "SITTIN' HERE")

CORNISH: The latest from St Germain is simply titled "St Germain." Our reviewer is Tom Moon. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.