Deuxième Bureau is the musical equivalent of a chronically shy individual. It takes work, but the self-effacing exterior hides a wealth of interest. Jumpel is a suitably anonymous musician based in Cologne, and this is his second release for the Australian imprint Hidden Shoal.
The twelve tracks share a quiet, low-tempo sensibility, but there is an immense amount of variety on offer. Reference marks would include Brian Eno, Nightmares on Wax and the sort of ambient interludes that are used to break up what are otherwise much bolder and harsher dance/electronic albums. Instrumentation includes electric piano, guitar, atmospheric synths, subtle strings, organ, gamelan and beats that range from almost inaudible micro-clicks, to relaxed breakbeats and brushed snares.
At times, it seems like everything is hiding behind everything else. This reaches an extreme on “Joe Couldn’t Make It Here Tonight” a wispy, beatless piece whose instrumentation is nearly as absent as Joe himself. All dozen tunes have something to recommend them. Highlights included opener “Leaves”, a contemplative cousin of Massive Attack’s “Protection”. “Considering the Kicker Knows It” has a subtle jazz feel about it. “Matter of Time” has echoes (sic) of Pink Floyd, whilst the gently unfolding strings of “Dense Dust” bear a remarkable similarity to the first movement of Jóhann Jóhannsson’s IBM 1401. Best of all is the album’s climax, “The Sea / Friends”. The first part sounds like something off Eno’s Another Green World, before it closes with a flute-like coda redolent of Boards of Canada.
There is definitely an air of the familiar made smaller about this record. It pays close attention without ever demanding it. A subtle joy, it’s one of the best downtempo releases I’ve heard in years.
Considering the Kicker Knows 4:14
Things Are Different 4:15
Knasper 6 2:55
Over About 3:06
Joe Couldn’t Make It Tonight 3:55
Quicken Beats 3:34
Clay State 4:58
Matter of Time 4:04
Rag Magnetic Flag 3:42
Dense Dust 4:18
The Sea / Friends 5:03