Daniel Ouellette – El Salon

Posted: 27 July 2022 in Albums
Tags: , , , , ,

7th July 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Well, this is a lot to take in: the pitch alone is a back and forth slap around the face of information overload as I struggle to absorb the idea of a ‘post-punk, synth-pop, new wave concept album that sings of the pleasures and difficulties of life within a haunted house’ which is ‘also multi-lingual’ whereby ‘Daniel will sing to you in Spanish about a werewolf, in English about a Ouija board, in Portuguese about a haunted house and in French about bats at Christmas time’.

Is anyone equipped to deal with this in our tiny-mind, hyper-anxietised, attention-short culture? I don’t really know if I am, and rather suspect I’m not, or even if I want this, and ‘m not sure I do, but there’s really only one way to know for certain, and that isn’t to ask someone who’s heard it.

According to the accompanying notes, ‘The title of the album, El Salón has multiple meanings. In Spanish it can reference a classroom, an art studio, a living room and of course, a salon. Daniel Ouellette says, “The best place I have learned to speak is in living rooms with loved ones who speak Spanish and this the title is in honor of my mates, my loved ones to whom I speak Spanish.”

As such, it’s a polylingual cocktail that draws on pan-cultural sources and a host of genres. This doesn’t make it any easier to assimilate, and the resulting product is a mixed bag to be polite, something I’m not always given to being. What do you get if you throw together Rammstein, Young Marble Giants, and Flying Lizards? The absolute toss of ‘A Planchette’. Pretentious, precocious, corny theatricals… it’s hard to swallow. It has novelty value, and I can accommodate that, but it just feels so painfully self-absorbed.

‘Duérmete’ is more palatable, 80s synth pop with a dash of Cure in the mix, and ‘O Lindo Sonâmbulo’ is a tidy slice of vintage electropop with a crisp and dominant snare. ‘The Kitchen Witch Who Stayed.’ is more bleepy, bouncy, and it’s wincey. It sits somewhere between Erasure and St Michel Front, but has the panache or aplomb of neither. St Michael Front demonstrate a winking knowingness, whereas Daniel Ouellette lacks that same sense of self-awareness, resulting in a clunky, awkward delivery made without a nod or a wank – and Ouellette is no Throbbing Gristle either. As a consequence, El Salon is a mixed bag and a shade patchy: at its best, it’s dark, stark, brooding and theatrical electropop: at its worst, it’s pretty cringy. In favour of El Salon, the best is proportionally better represented than the far from best, which is simply grating and cheesy. With its shifting forms, it’s hard to digest. Or maybe I’m just not ready to take it in all at once.

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