‘House of Melancholy’ is the second full-length album from Parisian duo Andrew Claristidge & Richard d’Alpert, and has been produced by Joakim. The Frenchman’s presence is an important one as ‘House of Melancholy’ hasn’t just been cobbled together with some sample packs from Demonoid. No no no, that would be incongruous to the whole album’s concept, it’s an album in the traditional sense. It’s clear that it has been laboured over for a long time, like and album should be.
The opening salvo pretty much gives you an entire snap shot of the album’s contents in one 4 minute track. It has everything from bleak sci-fi undertones to melodies that could have easily been lifted out of Kraftwerk’s ‘Robots’, as duo they ramp up the excitement with waves and waves of ‘werkian synths over wigged-out drum solos for a near perfect start to the album.
‘Fire N Rain’ is a perfect counter to such a gun-ho start; it’s a neon-clad funk number, backed by a really solid vocal. For us, where ‘House of Melancholy’ really succeeds is when it manages to find the balance between light and dark, and while tracks like ‘Golem’s Dance’ are uplifting, there’s always that sense there are darker undertones at play. At its heart ‘House of Melancholy’ is probably a lot darker than your average electronic album. But arguably that’s where it shines brightest for the most part. One of many breathe taking moments comes from ‘Prince Aid’; it’s like a alternate theme song for War of The Worlds. It’s so powerful it’s like you’re listening to Skynet jamming out on a synthesiser, with the resulting song sounding like a missing track from Sasha’s ‘Airdrawndagger’ – it’s that good.
By the halfway mark ‘House of Melacholy’ has made quite an impression, though, it’s not finished yet. Naturally you’re going to need a counter to this futuristic bleakness. And unfortunately that’s where ‘House of Melancholy’ kinda falls away in places. At its lowest point there’s ‘Gasoline’; a weird synth-based folk song with a male vocal that never really sits. The album tries its best to recover and over the remainder the album it’s business as usual: dark, twisted melodies, fidgety percussion, and general sense of unease. And that’s it’s problem, it arguably type-casts itself too early, leading to a sense that it isn’t going to surprise you anymore.
If you give ‘House of Melancholy’ a chance, you’ll learn to love it but it’s likely going to take a few listens, but when you get there you soon realise there are moments of sheer genius, you just have to find them.
HBF Rating 4/5
Out July 29 UK & July 31 worldwide.
Naturally after such a successful second album we were desperate to speak to Andrew and Richard and pick there brains about their new album, working with Joakim, and what the pressure is like to be signed to such an auspicious label as Record Makers.
HBF: Explain the name Acid Washed, were you big fans of acid house?
Richard d’Alpert: Not really. And the name was much more a tribute to the Acid Washed jeans from the 80’s. There, you see? Here we are: I’m much more of a redneck, than a hipster.
Andrew Claristidge: Yes I am a big fan of acid house. Acid Washed reminds us the 80’s with its creativity.
HBF: Explain the album’s title: do you think melancholy is an underused tool for electronic musicians?
Richard d’Alpert: No, I don’t think so. Not if you look at the entire German electronic scene from Kraftwerk & Klaus Schulze til Kompakt, the minimal wave early 2000’s, then the UK scene from Cabaret Voltaire, Pere Ubu & Joy Division til Border Community! Or in France Sébastien Tellier, Kavinsky, or the Daft! Actually melancholy is part of the DNA of each artist I think, whatever the field. It’s actually overused! Let’s be happy now, guys!
Andrew Claristidge: House Of Melancholy is a kind of combination which can be understood in different ways. House for “house music” & melancholy like “techno”. Then it is all yours to understand it like you want. I come from Grenoble where we all had this fascination for melancholic techno coming from Detroit: I am paying my tribute to those 2 cities.
HBF: Now that the album is almost out worldwide what are your overriding emotions?
Richard d’Alpert: Released. Couldn’t say it better. And proud of the common work, with our fellow musicians, our label, my partner Andrew.
Andrew Claristidge: Release and excited… Happy to restart a world tour.
HBF: You’re signed to Record Makers the home of Tellier and Kavinsky, does that put even more pressure on you?
Richard d’Alpert: They should feel the pressure. It’s the other way around! No, seriously no, we love what they’re both doing, and that’s it.
Andrew Claristidge: No pressure at all; we follow our way, at our own rythm… And it is great to have such label mates. It shows us the way… Tellier is our Guru.
HBF: Joakim produced the album, what did he bring to the album that you felt you could do yourselves?
Richard d’Alpert: Coherence. Bones where sometimes there were only pure flesh.
Andrew Claristidge: He brought the cement between the bricks… Fantastic job he made (shit I am speaking like master Yoda). He opened & enhanced our compositions.
HBF: What you’ve got planned for the rest of the year, any plans to tour the album as a live show?
Richard d’Alpert: Touring all over, as we usually do as dj’s, but more live this year, and the year after that.
Andrew Claristidge: Rich just said everything you need to know.
HBF: Tell us about the collaborations on the album with Miss Kittin, Turzi, Yan Wagner and Hypnolove’s Henning Specht – how did they come about?
Richard d’Alpert: Through friendship, and admiration.
Andrew Claristidge: We opened our house (of Melancholy) to all our friends… Some came by and helped us to make the magic happening one more time. We all know each other. It was a true friendship experience.
HBF: How long did it take you guys to make the album, and what was the main concept behind it?
Richard d’Alpert: 2 years. No concept. Just loads of souvenirs, emotions, filtered through the souls of our lovely machines.
Andrew Claristidge: Thanks Rich, there’s nothing to add (this is why I let him talk first…)
HBF: How do you think it compares to you first album?
Richard d’Alpert: I really don’t know. I don’t think that way. I just do albums. You tell me.
Andrew Claristidge: Less technical struggles. A real pleasure to compose without limits!
HBF If your studio was on fire and you could go back and save one thing what would it be and why?
Richard d’Alpert: My partner Andrew!
Andrew Claristidge: My partner Richard! But gear wise I would save my Korg Monopoly (the first synth I ever bought).
HBF: Paris or Berlin?
Richard d’Alpert: PSG, Paris Saint-Germain!
Andrew Claristidge: Berlin for the quality of life, Paris for the pressure and perpetual “push it to the limits”.