I admit that I'm not the most up-to-date person when it comes to keeping up with all the hottest and latest bands, but I had literally not read a single word about the group Le Loup before hearing their insanely-titled debut The Throne Of The Third Heaven Of The Nations' Millennium General Assembly. Wow. Just reading the title again makes my pretentious meter start spiking, but listening to this lovely little release sends it dropping pretty quickly. Inspired by both Dante's Inferno and the outsider artist James Hampton (the album title is named after a piece of folk art that the artist created over the course of fifteen years that consisted of 177 individual pieces assembled from every day objects), the eleven song, forty minute album is part abstract folk, part electronic pop, and alternately joyous and introspective.
As one would expect, lyrically it's abstract and a bit obtuse, but the group does a good job incorporating the words into their music in a way that doesn't really sound pretentious. If anything, it's nice to hear pop music that isn't afraid to step outside the boundaries and take on some left field themes without hindering their sound. Musically, it sounds like a hodgepodge of several different groups, without sounding completely like anyone. Opening track "Canto I" builds from simple banjo melodies and a 4/4 beat as found-sound samples drift in the background while little flourishes of hand percussion and soft choirs help lift it in places. With some slightly glitchy effects, it's something like a slightly more filled-out version of a track by The Books, and it's a great opener.
"Planes Like Vultures" opens with a filtered vocal passage and builds nicely as guitars, synth, horns, and overlapping, round-like multi-part vocals all give it a soft crest that pays off without being too obvious. Being subtle is mostly the name of the game with Le Loup, as there aren't any real big blowouts on the short release. Despite the exclamation-point title, "Outside Of This Car, The End Of The World!" is more patient than one would expect, moving with an urgent, but subdued electronic pop feel that's punctuated with little instrumental crashes and more syncopated vocals.
It's not all smooth sailing, though, and in a few places the group seems to fall prey to their conceptual themes a bit too much. "(Storm)" is exactly what the title states, a two minute cut-up of glitched-out thunderstorm field recording that feels out-of-place on the release, while "Canto XXXVI" revisits the banjo theme of the opening track and again pulls the digital deconstruction on it, created an unneeded detour before the powerful closing track. At other times, the group resembles a slightly more straightforward version of Animal Collective (the hand-clapping and vocal-laden "We Are Gods! We Are Wolves!") or even Sufjan Stevens ("Look To The West") a bit. Lyrically ambitious (and certainly somewhat ambiguous), The Throne Of The Third Heaven Of The Nations' Millennium General Assembly is nonetheless an excellent debut, and has me much excited about further output from the group.