It’s not often an album comes along that I have absolutely no idea how to define. Not that I mind, personally, about genre definitions, but when you’re trying to explain to someone what the music is like (or when I need to select a genre or two for this site), it becomes difficult.
But I’ll admit I have a soft spot for artists that do something new or unexpected, and that is exactly what Matti Laine, with his project La Yne, has done with this album. Indeed, on his Facebook pages, he simply says “You could call it Urban Worldmusic, but it’s more than that”, and on his official website he doesn’t even try to describe it at all.
A little while ago, Lady Obscure asked me if I would be interested in reviewing La Yne’s album, La Grande Illusion, which came out in 2004, and she linked me to its youtube teaser (at the bottom of this review). Half-way through, I had already decided that yes, I was interested. My exact words were “A bit bonkers, very groovy, great down-tempo vibe.” A month or two on, after repeated listens immersing myself in the full album, and really that initial instinct still sums up my thoughts pretty perfectly.
What’s really wonderful about La Grande Illusion is the way Laine has created a fantastic vibe that permeates all through the album, despite drawing in a huge array of styles and influences from folk, world music, electronica, jazz and even prog. His interests clearly know no genre boundaries, and somehow he has been able to translate this seamlessly into his music so that the listener feels the same way. To have created something coherent out such varied muses is a huge achievement.
As a result, it’s actually quite difficult to pick standout tracks. The beauty of the experience derives from the journey that you’re taken on, and the atmosphere that the music evokes. That said, there are some elements that I particularly enjoy – the unusual rhythms and vocal stylings in Par Avion; the relaxed jazz in Stigmata and The First Snowfall; the beautiful piano themes in La porte de l’enfer; and last but certainly not least the funky groove in Meiko and Unexpeted. This disparate range of standout qualities really demonstrates the variety on this album. Which isn’t to say that I find the album perfect – some of the individual ideas drag on slightly, or simply don’t grab me very much.
But that is a fairly minor complaint – as I have said, this album is about the experience, about immersing yourself in the atmosphere that it creates and letting yourself be swept along on the journey. And in that, it surely succeeds.