Chef Menteur is not the first and will also not be the last band to reference Thomas Pynchon's literary classic The Crying Of Lot 49 in their music. For their second release (a full-length follow-up to their debut Vive La France! EP), the group has taken the statement from behind the secret organization within Pynchon's novel and turned it into the title of their album. Pairing the mysterious statement with their psychedelic long-form space rock workouts is a marriage that actually works out quite well.
Apparently, the group holed away in their own studio over the course of the past couple years for the creation of the twelve songs and well over seventy minutes of music on the release. Analog synths crash up against organ grooves, guitar workouts, a slew of middle eastern sounds (sitar, dulcimer, kalimba) and a mixture of live and programmed percussion. The result is a stew of sonic experimentation that at times touches on the work of the Shalabi Effect at at others drifts into territory haunted by spaced-out guitar groups like Yume Bitsu and Landing.
"Europa" opens the release with unfolding sheets of guitar tones over a rhythm section that grows increasingly impatient before rising up and turning the end of the track into a kaleidoscopic freakout. "Pointu" locks into a more sustained groove with programmed and live drums combining to form a solid beat while dense layers of synths and guitar rumbles squeal over one another in a track that's little more than one long crescendo, but works quite well regardless. The group goes even more overboard on "Charlie Don't Surf," as a blistering wall of sound mixes about 6 layers of guitars alongside a buzzy synth melody for a squalling treat.
The album-titled (abbreviated) track of "W.A.S.T.E." is probably the groups finest effort on the entire release, however, as they mix up styles successfully and throw a slew of different styles into an insanely catchy track that runs just about six minutes. After opening with some squelchy electronic loops, the track progresses into an airy, light piece that strums along with acoustic guitar, handclaps, and "whoot-whoot" vocals before dissolving into a third section that combines the first two just about perfectly.
With two ten-minute plus tracks that close the release (and in a couple other places on the album), the group seems to let their home-studio jams get the best of them, but even when a piece sounds more like an outtake of a longer effort (as on "Pseudologia Fantastica"), they still manage to wring scads of atmosphere out and often cruise by on neat-sounding cinematic sounds alone. Despite a couple soft spots, this really is one of the better releases that I've heard in this genre in some time. If you enjoy any of the aforementioned artists or just good guitar-driven psych rock, Chef Menteur is a lesser-known band you should definitely hunt down.