Guillaume Coutu Dumont has been unstoppable over the past three years. Since releasing his debut album, Face À L’Est, on Montreal’s Musique Risquée label in 2007, the Montreal-born Berliner has released a steady stream of EPs, remixes and compilation tracks for Circus Company, Musique Risquée, Oslo, Cocoon and many more.
He’s also kept up a nonstop touring schedule, wowing crowds the world over with a dynamic live show that never sounds the same twice. Throughout, he’s developed one of the most distinctive styles in contemporary house music—a deep, powerful and original fusion of Afro-Latin percussion, instrumental melodies, soulful vocals, and intricate rhythm programming. Now, with his new album Breaking the Fourth Wall, he takes another big step forward.
From dark-and-stormy basement jams to Ethiopian-tinged fantasias, from Afrobeat to ambient house, Breaking the Fourth Wall finds Guillaume venturing far beyond the limits of 4/4 boompty-boompty. He set himself the added challenge of making the album sound as much like the work of a live band as possible. To do so, he availed himself of a close community of musician friends, beginning with dOP, recording in their Paris studio. (In a sign of a true two-way collaboration, they’ll feature their own version of the resulting track, “Can’t Have Everything,” on their next album, re-titled “Assurance Vie.”) Dave Aju recorded the vocals for “On the Lips” in his San Francisco studio. Switzerland/Zaire’s Dynamike, whom Guillaume met at the Montreux Jazz Festival, brings an Afro-beat feel to “Radio Novela.” Guillaume’s longtime collaborators Marc-André Charbonneau, Sébastien-Arcand Tourigny and Nicolas Boucher all feature on various tracks, playing guitar, saxophone and Rhodes. Even Guillaume’s brother, the photographer and video artist Gabriel Coutu Dumont, turns up on guitar on “Discothèque.” Together, these and other ferociously talented musicians help translate Guillaume’s musical vision into a living, breathing, collective effort.
But it all holds together as a remarkably coherent listening experience, while remaining far more varied than your average 12? single. While the DJs will have plenty to keep them busy, between driving cuts like “Mindtrap,” “Can’t Have Everything,” “Helicoptère” and “Walking the Pattern,” the album takes many turns, slipping into a slow 6/8 shuffle on “Discothèque” and digging into a kind of dub-cumbia on “Radio Novela”; “Intermede” and “Unwelcomed” both explore murky atmospheres swirling with organ and sampled acoustic instruments.
It’s that acoustic element that gives Breaking the Fourth Wall such uncommon depth. Muted synthesizers and unobtrusive drum machines are the glue and staples holding together a panoramic collage of saxophones, congas, piano, Rhodes, Hammond organ, choral passages, preachers’ vocals, brushed drumming and more. (“Hélicoptère” is the lone exception, with its grinding techno arpeggios.) It’s all polished off with killer hooks and vocals you might call subliminal, they burrow so deep into your head.
The title Breaking the Fourth Wall refers to dissolving the imaginary boundary between actors and audience. That’s a concept Guillaume knows well: his live sets are all about demolishing the division between stage and dance floor, absorbing up everyone present into an all-encompassing funk organism. Now he takes the concept even further, blurring the lines between sampling and composition, between machines and acoustic instruments, between the nightclub and the living room. Put it on and witness a new musical world coming sharply into focus—no 3D glasses required.