The cover of Laurent Garnier's new album The Cloud Making Machine looks like sort of an update of Fritz Lang's Metropolis, as a giant chugging factory rises out of the top of a mountain while hands cradle it and an oversized female robot walks alongside. Described as some as his cinematic album, it certainly is another step forward in terms of his sound output, and a far cry from his earlier works like 30, which mainly worked a techno theme (with occasionally brilliant results).
Although he hasn't released a true album in almost five years, Garnier has been busy doing monthly resident DJ gigs at the Rex club in Paris, releasing remixes and 12" records, as well as dropping the massive Excessive Luggage mix, a 5CD behemoth that pulled together DJ sets from as many locations and showed off his truly varied musical collection and tastes. If that megamix was a true overview of his different musical likes and influences, then this newest album is finally the release that tries to pull all of those different styles together under the guise of an actual album.
Stylistically, The Cloud Making Machine is easily the most varied Garnier album I've heard. While his previous Unreasonable Behaviour album hinted at things, this 10 track release takes the next step, mixing everything from off kilter jazzbo to fairly standard house to gritty electro rock. In fact, the album opens with a bit of severe noodling on "The Cloud Making Machine Part 1" as it opens with squiggled voice samples before moving into a semi-wanky keyboard solo section that plays out over sweeping synth strings and filtered crackles. "9:01-9:06" picks things up a good deal, slipping into a robo-funk track that cracks with crisp beats and dense layers of juicy synths while teetering on the cusp of noisy outbursts.
On separate sides of things, "Barbiturk Blues" lays down some trunk-rattling rhythms that fit and start as some jazzy rhodes keyboard while "Huis Clos" veers dangerously close to new age world music as middle-eastern instrumentation mingles with reverbed piano and tribal-sounding vocals. The styles just keep on changing as "(I Wanna Be) Waiting For My Plane" jacks up the volume with fuzzy guitars, live percussion, and semi-snarly sounding punk rock style vocals that make the track feel like something that could have come off the last Two Lone Swordsmen album. While it's the most dancey track on the album (and one of the more catchy given the funky bassline), "Controlling The House Pt 2" simply doesn't offer up much of anything that Garnier hasn't done better before in terms of techno music. Containing some of his better tracks today, as well as a couple clunkers, The Cloud Making Machine is a varied and interesting album that is also a bit hit-or-miss.