Marie Davidson & L’Œil Nu – ‘Renegade Breakdown’ review: genre-hopping arena anthems from techno titan

The producer's new band veer between classic pop, rock, electro and jazz on a thrilling record where no two tracks sound the same

Your pointless opinion, I couldn’t care less/How do you come up with such meaninglessness?/Your cheap headlines, your lazy writing,” snipes techno workaholic Marie Davidson on ‘Renegade Breakdown’, the typically sharp-tongued critic-silencing title track and lead single of her new band’s classic rock and pop inspired debut album.

It’s a record born out of Davidson’s disenchantment with the club and festival lifestyle, having experienced intense loneliness while touring the world as a solo artist, often being booked to play on overwhelmingly male DJ-only line-ups. Here the French-Canadian producer, singer and writer combines the barbed put-downs of 2018’s breakthrough fourth record ‘Working Class Woman’ with the instrumental/production talents of husband Pierre Guerineau and friend Asaël R. Robitaille.

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As Marie Davidson & L’Œil Nu (‘the naked eye’ in English), the trio have created an endearingly varied genre-hopping debut with storytelling at its heart and where no two tracks sound the same. Thanks to the piano-led handclaps and infectious Justice-style acid bassline of ‘Worst Comes To Worst’, it’s easy to picture Marie confidently strutting down a stadium runway and owning her frontwoman role.

On ‘Back To Rock’, however, she’s solemnly reflective about her old three-countries-in-one-weekend lifestyle. “I keep my fingers crossed, as the plane is taking off/I’m feeling kind of lost,” she recalls, her thoughts overcome by Pierre and Asaël’s pounding drums and epic guitar solos.

Sonically softer and less in-your-face moments arrive later, where instruments are stripped back to showcase Marie’s previously unexplored singing voice. ‘Center Of The World (Kotti Blues)’ recalls interactions with friends over gentle almost folksy guitars while romantic wedding song ‘La Ronde’ overlays Marie’s soft French vocal over gently-plucked strings and organ keys that swirl under church bells and the sunlit ‘My Love’ is an infatuated near-ballad.

The biggest surprise arrives with the cinematic sophistication of ‘Just In My Head’ as Marie transports the listener to a classy jazz lounge, effortlessly channelling classic singers over light cymbal taps. “I’ve met so many faces, but it just made me want you even more,” she sings, soothingly.

However the smoothness is quickly shattered: sung entirely in French and carrying a more ominous atmosphere, a dark and eerie environment pervades ‘Lead Sister’. Here distorted synths rumble under tinkling piano keys, gong-like chimes and crashing synths, all swirling combatively towards a darker finale.

With each song so different to the last, ‘Renegade Breakdown’ is one of those rare records that will have listeners discovering new intricacies on each listen. But more than anything, its creation has enabled Marie to rediscover her purpose as an artist. It seems retiring from the club scene was just the reset Marie Davidson needed.

Details

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  • Record label: Ninja Tune
  • Release date: September 25
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