Ryan Chartrand

Quite possibly the most underrated album of the year, O.Lamm’s third full-length, “Monolith,” is a juggernaut equal in might to any release by the other French notables of 2007. Whereas Ed Banger strongmen Justice and Sebastian slam the listener into a rock-solid wall, O.Lamm topples it over, leaving you no choice but to dig yourself out of the rubble.

O.Lamm is Oliver Lamm, a Parisian outsider in the electronic world who has, until recently, only released albums on the small French label Active Suspension.

While most French electronic artists and DJs follow in the lines of Daft Punk, O.Lamm ventures into unfamiliar territory, deconstructing pop songs with systematic precision. “Genius Boy,” the second track on the album, begins with a build-up that lasts well over two minutes. The anticipation is immense. But rather than getting to what would normally be the “meat” of a classic J-pop song, O.Lamm decides to dissect, examine and re-examine the lead-up (which is usually overlooked).

The other songs on the album follow the same methodology. The typical verse-chorus-verse structure is abandoned, and in its place are pop sensibilities being sampled and sequenced through a sort of stream-of-consciousness song-making process. The results are brief pop moments whose edges are magnified and brought into focus.

What makes these experiments in pop music so successful is the beautiful production of the album. While these songs are not hipster club jams, the bass hits with just as much thump. The steady, low-end swing that pushes “Return of the Night Goat” is offset by another layer of high-frequency clicks and cuts, which makes the sonic palette of the song both diverse and balanced. Every discrete sound element that makes up each song is given its proper recognition in the mix. While listening to tracks like “The Macguffin,” it’s as if each individual sound rests in its own bubble and could be picked out with one’s fingers. Everything is crystal-clear, and at no point, despite the complexity of the songs, is the mix muddy. Each track sparkles as every frequency is exploited with the utmost clarity.

“Monolith,” in its focused approach to experimentation, brings new life to the tired and worn-out pop song. While the idea of restraining a pop song to minimal parts is not new, O.Lamm’s careful sonic deconstruction of those parts is unique. The real pleasure of this album comes from listening to the details. The kaleidoscope of sound and space that “Monolith” studies gives a structure of the part in order to better understand the whole.

Paul Cambon is an architecture junior and music director for KCPR, San Luis Obispo, 91.3 FM. He’s also completely full of it.

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