Published in Billboard Magazine
Five years have passed since Laurent Garnier’s last studio album, “Unreasonable Behaviour,” but the iconic French DJ/electronic music pioneer has not been idle.
“I did a lot of different projects before really sitting down to work on the new album,” Garnier tells Billboard. “I needed some time to digest the last one.”
The Paris-based artist entered the studio at the beginning of 2004 to record his fourth studio album, “The Cloud Making Machine.” His hands have been full since.
When not recording or DJ’ing, Garnier has juggled fatherhood and the attention required by his other “baby,” his online radio station PBB (pedrobroadcast.com).
And in recent months, Garnier has been handling day-to-day operational duties of his F Communications label, while his business partner/label co-founder Eric Morand has taken a sabbatical in Asia. Ten-year-old F Communications is a joint venture between Garnier and Morand and Belgium-based indie PIAS.
“The Cloud Making Machine” arrives Jan. 24 in the United Kingdom on F Communications/PIAS—and one week later throughout Europe. In the United States, Mute will issue the album Feb. 22.
Featuring collaborations with Scan X, Sangoma Everett, Philippe Nadaud and others, the album finds Garnier moving away from his earlier dancefloor-aimed recordings. It is a broad aural landscape, painted with touches of jazz here and rock there, primarily applied with stripped-back, minimalist strokes. Completely missing is the music that put Garnier on the map: techno.
“I was trying to go toward music that was more downtempo, moody and strong,” he explains. “When I started recording, I did some techno tracks and felt I was really repeating myself. So I said to myself: ‘Don’t force yourself. Just make music. Just make the stuff you feel like doing at the moment.’ ”
Fortunately, such sentiment is not lost on his labels.
“This is the album that Laurent really wanted to make, and as it always happens with such situations, we were quite puzzled because we did not know how to approach it,” says Michel Lambot, Brussels-based joint chief executive of PIAS. “This is not your average Garnier album, but he knew what he was doing, and it is up to us to adapt.”
Lambot says reactions from the media and retailers have been positive. This does not surprise New York-based Mute director of marketing Jeanne Klafin. “Those truly familiar with the breadth of Laurent’s career—his work as a producer, his unparalleled DJ sets, his unique live performances, his radio projects—will not think ‘The Cloud Making Machine’ is unlike his previous recordings,” she says.
Music Choice senior manager Seth Neiman, who has programmed tracks from previous Garnier albums on various Music Choice channels, adds, “His fans expect him to be musically adventurous . . . They want to be surprised.”
And Garnier’s fan base is solid, notes Steve Owen, dance and urban manager at British market-leading retailer HMV. “His last album did very well for us,” he says. “Based on that, we are relatively bullish on the prospects for the new one.”
Unlike Garnier’s three previous studio albums, “The Cloud Making Machine” will not be supported by a commercial single, PIAS international label manager Luk Paredis notes.
Instead, a two-track promotional CD will be delivered to radio and key retail buyers; it features album track “Barbiturik Blues” (with Belgian keyboardist Bugge Wesseltoft) and “The Cloud Making Machine—Resume Edit,” a megamix of all album tracks. The latter track is supported by a videoclip, shot by Garnier.
In the coming weeks, Garnier will embark on an international DJ tour, which will include a U.S. trek in March.
In the spring, Garnier will oversee a remix project of “The Cloud Making Machine,” with several established artists and producers retweaking various tracks. Additionally, Garnier will invite fans to also rework album cuts. Details will be unveiled at thecloudmakingmachine.com.
“Times are tough in the business, and I know that journalists would love to kill it, but people will always have the urge to dance,” Garnier says. “Maybe techno will disappear one day, but people will still want to dance.”