Imagine sitting in a bar and engaging with a tan, weathered stranger who starts showing you photographs of places you are never likely to visit; some vibrant, some serene, a group of faces here, a glorious sunset, buildings, oceans. Well, this ambitious project is the aural equivalent, covering fifty tracks in sixty-seven minutes and the improbably names McCloud Zicmuse is our guide.
Spending much time in Europe, itinerant and travelling, has enabled Zicmuse to return to his home country and see it with a fresh perspective. The songs are an extraordinary smorgasbord of styles and textures, a pan-European melting pot of languages and experience. It sounds overwhelming, but due to the charm and in some cases the brevity of the tracks, nothing is allowed to outstay its welcome. There is no particular style to the album, everything in the western tradition and a few things in the eastern are open to McCloud’s wide-eyed scrutiny and magpie-like enthusiasm. Those songs that have words are sung in English or French and even a smattering of Spanish, but over half are instrumental and can range from three or four minutes to twenty seconds and make wonderful segues and amusing diversions.The transitions in styles are perfectly judged from the pastoral psychedelia of “Holy Dirt” through the marching drum, French-influenced garage pop of “Space Needle” to a brief harpsichord interlude in a matter of minutes, making it a whirling joy. Elsewhere, the overdriven guitar drama of “Mexican Cantina” breezes into a pastoral horn-driven instrumental which in turn effortlessly opens into the organ-based soul jazz of ‘Class War”. This latter song showcases McCloud’s sweetly soulful voice, light yet resonant with enough of an air of playfulness. The prevalence of bassoon and saxophones lends a mystical melancholy air to some of the proceedings and the use of the harpsichord is a delightfully recherché touch. It is almost natural for twenty seconds of post-rock to meet an experimental soundscape followed by jerky bassoon wigout. At times, I am reminded of Nick Bantock‘s Griffine And Sabine trilogy, a series of mystical, mysterious correspondence between two people who never meet but are stranded at times in obscure places, it is all poste restante and magical postcards At other points, it could almost be the soundtrack to a modern remake of To Have And Have Not, harbour-side bars and transient hotels; a distant mystery pervades the album, all steamy and wild.
McCloud has drawn from years of travel and the love and experience of friends to produce this dizzying, eclectic miasma of sound. It threatens to overwhelm, but another gentle thirty-second baroque snapshot takes you off guard and a burst of jazz settles you back down again. Passé Composé Futur Conditionnel is well worth investigation if you have that thirst for musical boundary-pushing.