Emperor Norton

And then a band like Velma comes along and quells my hatred for Emperor Norton records, just on the basis of their self-absorbed and insular aesthetic. Christophe Jacquet sounds exactly like a girl, particularly like Latetia from Stereolab without the affected boredom, which is very promising. “Vitamine” is all about Jacquet’s breathy sing/speak, accompanied by electronic percussion and random buzzing with the occasional chiming guitar line, and capped off by a sampled piano line and a woman’s scream. It was “Orange” that forever stole my cold heart, though. It’s almost maddening in its repetition, with Jacquet singing one short (unrecognizable) line over and over again, accompanied by a Beat Happening-esque guitar strum and odd shuddery percussion. About three minutes in, the track is momentarily shredded by noise squalls and a deeper bass line falls into place. “Orange” ends with Jacquet’s bandmates pissing themselves laughing at him, but he’s still singing that one single line. Did I say fucking brilliant twenty times yet? “55’291” shares some sort of spiritual kinship with “Here Comes the Warm Jets.” And would you hate me if I said that “Tricycle” is like an edgier Yello? Oh, you would, I’m sure of it. “Ping Pong” is, going in, limitless squalls of violent feedback and whispered vocals, then becomes the equivalent of a maddening playground singalong, going on and on and on. What the hell, I’ll rate “Maquerade” as a fractured classic as well, with modern musique concrete fading into a laconic jam, and we’ve got ourselves a near-perfect debut. Cyclique radiates a very healthy disdain of the constraints of pop songwriting, without being too precious, yet still utterly catchy (for aliens).

Emperor Norton Records, 102 Robinson St., Los Angeles, CA 90026;

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