Chef Menteur | We Await Silent Tristero's Empire

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We Await Silent Tristero's Empire

by Chef Menteur

Psychedelic, electro-acoustic instrumentals--filmic soudscapes, uptempo organ grooves, eastern-tinged melodies, heavy guitars, ambient pastorals and more than a few dark moments amidst the dense drones--with nods to trip-hop, post rock, and minimalism.
Genre: Electronic: Ambient
Release Date: 

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1. Europa
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2. Pointu
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3. Paysans de la Mer
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4. Matiasma
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5. Charlie Don't Surf
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6. W.A.S.T.E.
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7. Pseudologia Fantastica
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8. Maida Vale
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9. Caverns of the White Widow
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10. Ad Astra Per Despera
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11. Pointu II
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12. Io
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ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
WE AWAIT SILENT TRISTERO'S EMPIRE

New Orleans band Chef Menteur's epic debut full-length album is over 70 minutes of ambient soundscapes, noise, drones, and hidden secrets. It has received overwhelmingly positive reviews from Terrascope to the Wire (UK), and has been called a psychedelic masterpiece from beginning to end. (See reviews below).

Bryan Killingsworth: Pro-1 synth, banjo
Alec Vance: guitars, organ, sitar, dulcimers, synths, vocals
Jim Yonkus: bass, synthesizers
with Chris Sule (drums), Mike Mayfield (drums)

Recorded & Mixed by Chef Menteur in New Orleans.
Engineered: Alec Vance & Bryan Killingsworth.
Mixed & Produced by Alec Vance & Jim Yonkus.
Mastered by John Fischbach at Piety Street Recording, New Orleans.

More information here: http://www.backporchrevolution.com/release.php?id=13

Look for the new album in late 2007, with Dan Haugh on drums and keyboards.


Reviews


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Victoria Larsson (Six Ten Split)

Treat your ears to a feast of interesting sounds and textures.
Next time I travel it will be ticket-less and with no known destination. When I am in an airplane, above the clouds, hovering in a baby blue sky and need my anxiety fed, I will reward myself with We Await Silent Tristero's Empire in my headphones.

This unpredictable, sprawling soundtrack tells my tales. It strays from convention and deceives all my pre-conceived notions. When I think I have this band pinned down—classified and defined, stocked in the right aisle of my local mega super-store CD retailer—Chef Menteur cunningly turns around and goes another way.

It's brimming with equal parts pins and needle tension and stoned space jams. Although for the most part the different tracks hold their own, this album is also a cohesive saga. It's mood and atmosphere-based rather than melody-driven. The narrative only becomes understandable in the context of the whole album, but even then, it's open for interpretation and defined by the listener's own state of mind. I, for one, can't decide if this album is filled with doom or hope.

The album was created over the span of two years in Chef Menteur's rehearsal space/recording studio. Founding members Alec Vance and Jim Yonkus play an impressive array of instruments including (but not limited to): sitar, dulcimer, guitar, kalimba, upright bass, and various analog keyboards and synthesizers, while Chris Sule and Mike Mayfield add drums and percussion.

Despite the many ways Chef Menteur have chosen to capture their sounds on tape—4-track tape, analog and digital—the end result is seamless and big sounding, perhaps thanks to Piety Street Recording's John Fischbach's skilled mastering.

If you want to treat your ears to a feast of interesting sounds and textures, of ebb and flow, and if you love daydreaming, you should run out and buy We Await Silent Tristero's Empire today.

Jeremy J. Deibel, Offbeat magazine

An Empire Worth Waiting For
All-instrumental locals Chef Menteur remind me of what the Flaming Lips or Radiohead would sound like if they silenced their plaintive lead singers, finally doing away with any pop preconceptions. It is tough to recommend a separate track on We Await Silent Tristero’s Empire, as the entire CD works as a singular performance. Chef Menteur’s brand of extended prog-rock jams will likely garner comparisons to Pink Floyd and King Crimson, but even those legendary bands’ albums famous for their lengthy excesses can’t hold a candle to the monolith that is We Await Silent Tristero’s Empire. Sure, half of the CD’s tracks are under five minutes, but they could be spliced together as longer pieces, as they tend to run into and complement each other. Of course, this says nothing about the music itself, which is at turns breathtaking, ominous, and downright harrowing. Most of it sounds like the score to an odd indie sci-fi film, especially the foreboding “Caverns of the White Widow” and “W.A.S.T.E.,” the best track and the only thing resembling a dance number here. Its alternation between sunshine-drenched acoustic guitars and minimalist, computerized beats sound like one of Brian Wilson’s nightmares. Some of the longer numbers, though, could have been either shortened or changed up to prevent monotony. This is especially true of the 17-minute closer “Io,” which mostly sounds like a symphony orchestra tuning up. Nevertheless, for the most part, this empire is one worth waiting for.

Stylus Magazine


...In Chef Menteur’s case, I obtained their first album/clearinghouse purely because of the abiding love I have for Thomas Pynchon’s novel The Crying Of Lot 49. Those who have read it probably already noticed that We Await Silent Tristero's Empire’s title comes directly from the book, and although this “collection of songs, psychedelic improvisations and low-fi experiments” bears no real relation to the strange adventures of Oedipa Maas aside from the title, something eerie, silent and a little sinister lurks at the heart of both.

In sound the New Orleans outfit often veers close to the extended, gorgeous formlessness of bands like Stars Of The Lid or | head | phone | over | tone |, with occasional dips into bursts of noise. They claim to prioritize “texture and mood instead of rhythm, harmonics over melody” on their website, and scattered among the longer pieces on this album are short tidbits that don’t do much beyond establishing a feeling before evaporating. They’re not bad, with the dusty Western guitar loop of “Maida Vale” and the brief, sitar-aided “Paysans De La Mer” in particular providing refreshing interludes, but mostly they’re just distractions from the big slabs of sound that compose most of We Await Silent Tristero's Empire and leave the most telling impressions.

“Europa” begins the album sounding like an out-take from Eluvium’s masterful Talk Amongst The Trees album, but soon some muted drumming comes in. Only some of these pieces were recorded after Chef Menteur became a full band (as opposed to Alex Vance and Jim Yonkus working as a duo), and “Europa” is one of the strongest indications that adding Mike Mayfield and Chris Sule on drums and percussion was a good choice. For most of its seven minutes “Europa” is dreamy motorik, but eventually it ends in a hollow explosion, jolting the listener back to full awareness. “Caverns Of The White Widow,” Hammer Horror title aside, is the gentlest track, small curls of feedback and tentative organ welcoming you into its confines.

“Pointu II” and “Io” end the record with twenty-seven minutes of similarly epic proportions. The former pits a grinding feedback howl against persistent organs before the organ eventually sputters to a halt, exhausted. “Io,” meanwhile, bears some resemblance to Spacemen 3’s ambient “Ecstasy Symphony,” or maybe Canadian shoegazers SIANspheric’s “Where The Planets Revolve, I Wish I Was There” but is, if anything, even less hurried. The sound does ebb and flow during “Io,” but at the time it sounds seamless.

Probably the most telling track is also the most incongruous; “W.A.S.T.E.” was made using only a computer and segues from deadpan beats into sunnily pastoral acoustics and handclaps, before fizzling out in static. With regards to composition, tools, sounds, and most other measures it should stick out like a sore thumb here but it doesn’t. It just sounds like Chef Menteur. Their willingness not only to throw caution to the wind to build an intelligible aesthetic but also to show us the places where that aesthetic spills out into interesting directions means that despite the one-size-fits-all nature of a collection like We Await Silent Tristero's Empire it’s hard not to feel as if you’re in good hands with this band, and that their eventual first album proper won’t be one worth waiting for. --Ian Mathers

Beat The Indie Drum Dot Com

Fresh, hauntingly beautiful and truly therapeutic. Hit 'repeat'.
New Orleans' Chef Menteur specialize in sprawling instrumental freakouts and ambience while tapping into the Kraut heroes of yesteryear and Brian Eno's grab-bag of sonic tricks. The band assembled bits and pieces of found sounds over the last few years, beefing them up in the studio and have delicately sequenced them into what has become their debut LP. Backporch Revolution, a well-respected local record label dealing with all things musically progressive and analog, wisely released Tristero's Empire in Feb 2005.

There are standout tracks on the album but it would be an injustice to single them out. 'Caverns of The White Widow' is 7 minutes of creepy feedback, low-end percussion and sounds pretty much like what I imagine the bottom of the ocean to emanate, given I could descend that far and not be pulverized into tiny scraps of angler fish bait. The heavily Eno-esque "Pointu' rumbles along on a deep bassline slowly building up tension and could have easily found its way onto the Lost In Translation soundtrack. Its sequel 'Pointu II' is basically an identical extension of the theme, if not a slight bit more strangled and adventurous.

You can't help but be intrigued by the wide variety of samples and instruments used to create We Await Silent Tristero's Empire. Various synths squeak and squabble. Sitars clang all throughout 'Paysans de la Mer'. Banjo, handclaps, hootin', sparse acoustic guitar and field recordings of a nearby neighborhood drive the latter half of 'W.A.S.T.E.' (now the classic Pynchon references register) before it's sealed up with a glitchy outro. The album is bookended by the aptly-titled 'Europa' and 'Io', two of Jupiter's most significant moons or for you Bullfinch's buffs, notable characters in Greek mythology. 'Europa' is a patient, yet glorious post-rock epic, not only serving as a proper introduction but grabbing the listener's attention immediately and preparing them for the rest of the album. The closer 'Io' sprawls itself out over 17 minutes, utilizing a spacious, dirgey drone, not unlike the movie score for 2001: A Space Odyssey when Captain Bowman ascends to his final(?) destination. Some may consider this a bore but I most definitely feel life on this satellite. Stunning.

Sometimes albums cut of this mold have a tendency to get lost on a listener. Artists get the urge to pile on the gloss or, inversely, oversimplify the themes and emotions they are trying to convey by employing staunch minimalism as a means to perhaps give their music a 'complex' feel. We Await successfully bridges the gap between these disparate ideals by leaving just the right amount of secrecy to their mission while at the same time expounding upon its obvious musical influences in a classy, not-totally-derivative manner. I can recount several moments during the album where I was literally surprised at how gracefully the band formed structure within a song without resorting to cacophonous noise or clashing time signatures. Fresh, hauntingly beautiful and truly therapeutic. Hit 'repeat'.

RIYL: Brian Eno, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Boredoms, Stereolab, Pink Floyd, Can.

almostcool

Scads of Atmosphere... one of the better releases that I've heard in this genre
Chef Menteur is not the first and will also not be the last band to reference Thomas Pynchon's literary classic The Crying Of Lot 49 in their music. For their second release (a full-length follow-up to their debut Vive La France! EP), the group has taken the statement from behind the secret organization within Pynchon's novel and turned it into the title of their album. Pairing the mysterious statement with their psychedelic long-form space rock workouts is a marriage that actually works out quite well.

Apparently, the group holed away in their own studio over the course of the past couple years for the creation of the twelve songs and well over seventy minutes of music on the release. Analog synths crash up against organ grooves, guitar workouts, a slew of middle eastern sounds (sitar, dulcimer, kalimba) and a mixture of live and programmed percussion. The result is a stew of sonic experimentation that at times touches on the work of the Shalabi Effect at at others drifts into territory haunted by spaced-out guitar groups like Yume Bitsu and Landing.

"Europa" opens the release with unfolding sheets of guitar tones over a rhythm section that grows increasingly impatient before rising up and turning the end of the track into a kaleidoscopic freakout. "Pointu" locks into a more sustained groove with programmed and live drums combining to form a solid beat while dense layers of synths and guitar rumbles squeal over one another in a track that's little more than one long crescendo, but works quite well regardless. The group goes even more overboard on "Charlie Don't Surf," as a blistering wall of sound mixes about 6 layers of guitars alongside a buzzy synth melody for a squalling treat.

The album-titled (abbreviated) track of "W.A.S.T.E." is probably the groups finest effort on the entire release, however, as they mix up styles successfully and throw a slew of different styles into an insanely catchy track that runs just about six minutes. After opening with some squelchy electronic loops, the track progresses into an airy, light piece that strums along with acoustic guitar, handclaps, and "whoot-whoot" vocals before dissolving into a third section that combines the first two just about perfectly.

With two ten-minute plus tracks that close the release (and in a couple other places on the album), the group seems to let their home-studio jams get the best of them, but even when a piece sounds more like an outtake of a longer effort (as on "Pseudologia Fantastica"), they still manage to wring scads of atmosphere out and often cruise by on neat-sounding cinematic sounds alone. Despite a couple soft spots, this really is one of the better releases that I've heard in this genre in some time. If you enjoy any of the aforementioned artists or just good guitar-driven psych rock, Chef Menteur is a lesser-known band you should definitely hunt down.

almostcool

Scads of Atmosphere... one of the better releases that I've heard in this genre
Chef Menteur is not the first and will also not be the last band to reference Thomas Pynchon's literary classic The Crying Of Lot 49 in their music. For their second release (a full-length follow-up to their debut Vive La France! EP), the group has taken the statement from behind the secret organization within Pynchon's novel and turned it into the title of their album. Pairing the mysterious statement with their psychedelic long-form space rock workouts is a marriage that actually works out quite well.

Apparently, the group holed away in their own studio over the course of the past couple years for the creation of the twelve songs and well over seventy minutes of music on the release. Analog synths crash up against organ grooves, guitar workouts, a slew of middle eastern sounds (sitar, dulcimer, kalimba) and a mixture of live and programmed percussion. The result is a stew of sonic experimentation that at times touches on the work of the Shalabi Effect at at others drifts into territory haunted by spaced-out guitar groups like Yume Bitsu and Landing.

"Europa" opens the release with unfolding sheets of guitar tones over a rhythm section that grows increasingly impatient before rising up and turning the end of the track into a kaleidoscopic freakout. "Pointu" locks into a more sustained groove with programmed and live drums combining to form a solid beat while dense layers of synths and guitar rumbles squeal over one another in a track that's little more than one long crescendo, but works quite well regardless. The group goes even more overboard on "Charlie Don't Surf," as a blistering wall of sound mixes about 6 layers of guitars alongside a buzzy synth melody for a squalling treat.

The album-titled (abbreviated) track of "W.A.S.T.E." is probably the groups finest effort on the entire release, however, as they mix up styles successfully and throw a slew of different styles into an insanely catchy track that runs just about six minutes. After opening with some squelchy electronic loops, the track progresses into an airy, light piece that strums along with acoustic guitar, handclaps, and "whoot-whoot" vocals before dissolving into a third section that combines the first two just about perfectly.

With two ten-minute plus tracks that close the release (and in a couple other places on the album), the group seems to let their home-studio jams get the best of them, but even when a piece sounds more like an outtake of a longer effort (as on "Pseudologia Fantastica"), they still manage to wring scads of atmosphere out and often cruise by on neat-sounding cinematic sounds alone. Despite a couple soft spots, this really is one of the better releases that I've heard in this genre in some time. If you enjoy any of the aforementioned artists or just good guitar-driven psych rock, Chef Menteur is a lesser-known band you should definitely hunt down.

foxy digitalis online

"An Alluring Collection of Psych & Space Rock..."
I don't wish to diminish this disc by simply tacking on a few significant reference points as if it were birthed by lesser beings (or a teenage garage band), but from the moment I started listening to it I kept thinking that it really should have been released by Strange Attractors Audio House. Unlike space flight dreamweapon contemporaries Landing and SubArachnoid Space however, Chef Menteur is essentially a duo. The core of the band is comprised of multi-instrumentalists Alec Vance & Jim Yonkus with a few other cats rounding out the sounds with post-improv synths and percussion (though it seems a solid line up is now in place). We Await… is an alluring collection of psych & space rock jams recorded over the period of two years cleaned and polished up for consumption. Given the relative uniformity and strength of the songs, there must have been a lot of tape to prowl through, coz there's very little filler within the album's 70+ minute run. So either these guys record everything and shake out the seeds and stems or they are musical geniuses or savants that hit the mark each time out. I hope there is more to come from these guys. But seeing that they and their label is based in New Orleans I'm guessing that a lot of gear is now gone. Here's to hoping that all is good and more NOLA psych will be blastin' out soon!!!- Chris Jacques

KZSU Zookeeper Online

Stanford college radio station DJ review
Instrumental ambient/space-rock, experimental soundscapes. "Low-fi" in that its recorded in a home studio usinga roomful of various much loved sound sources, but it doesn’t scream out “low fi” really at all. Trippy heady stuff, most songs long, meandering. Pass the bong. For fans of Biota, Flying Saucer Attack, Bethany Curve, Bowery Electric, 7% Solution, American Analog Set, early Stereolab.

1) slow to develop space rock, upbeat, ambient prettiness and layers of trippiness, Flying Saucer Attack comes to mind,
2) slower more chill, early Stereolab comes to mind
3) a nice idea but meanders around a sparse melody and doesnt do anything
4) ambience
5) strummy piece
6) mix of electronics, some electro acoustics and found sound field records, rhythmic
7) mellow, loopy dark, cool
8) simple theme, melody, looped and echoed, low fi
9) very ambient, guitar based, almost Eno'esque for first 4-5 minutes then builds, develops more amplitude, density
10) lush soundscapes, multi-Instrumental, dramatic
11) trippy intro leads into simple mindful beat with organ, layers of noise and space, pretty cool if you don’t mind that it doesn’t really go anywhere (but must we always go “somewhere”?)
12) really beautiful lush orchestral drone, very long (17min), hypnotic, careful very long fade out, with a good 45-60 seconds of dead air at end (caution!)

Disquiet

New Orleans band displaced, haunted by the ghost of Ernie K-Doe
Email arrived this morning from another New Orleans act, the group Chef Menteur, named for a highway that leads east out of New Orleans. The email wasn't automated; it brought welcome news that the band's members were far from New Orleans themselves, beyond the reach of Hurricane Katrina, dispersed across the country.

I first saw Chef Menteur play when it was a duo, Jim Yonkus and Alec Vance, two gear-enabled noodlers making psychedelic noise. Chef Menteur has since expanded, and its first proper album, We Await Silent Tristero's Empire, arrived earlier this year on the Backporch Revolution label. Now a quintet, including Bryan Killingsworth, Chris Sule and Mike Mayfield, they still make studio-enabled psychedelia, but its richer, thicker and more self-assured, as evidenced for the downloading public by four full MP3s on the band's website, chefmenteur.org. There's Fourth World folk music, laced with sitar, on "Paysans de la Mer" (MP3), and a slowly grooving retro-campy vamp, "Pointu" (MP3), that suggests the ghost of Ernie K-Doe was nearby during its recording. The longest of the batch, "Europa" (MP3), escalates suddenly toward its end, capping the extended opaque ambience with voluminous dissonance, before a final fade. Perhaps the best track, "W.A.S.T.E." (MP3), maintains a slow, lo-fi beat and affixes to it all manner of sampled and performed material, hand claps, plucking, field recordings, yelps and more. Additional info at backporchrevolution.com. ... And now go visit the Red Cross, and help clean up after Katrina: redcross.org.

Nick Southgate, THE WIRE (UK)

shimmering, lush... wondrous space rock ambience
Now established as a working quartet compromising Mike Mayfield, Chris Sule, Alec Vance and Jim Yonkus, these tracks predate the full-time arrival of Mayfield and Sule. The background beats and ambiences that Vance and Yonkus had collected on old-fashioned tape machines have since been dusted off and overdubbed for this release. These expansive instrumentals are typified by Yonkus's surging, probing bass and the washes of synth both he and Vance favour. There's a cool detachment to the sitar tinged "Paysans De La Mer", and an epic rolling quality to the lithe "Europa". The disc closes with two lengthier, freer and more experimental tracks. A roiling chaos of sound finds form and focus through its course in "Pointu II", acting as an Ur-version of its earlier polished version. The shimmering, lush, synth wash of "10", named after one of Jupiter's moons, wears its wondrous space rock ambience on its sleeve.