A free-wheeling, fun-loving, genre-bending electronica outfit whose records are just as likely to recall improvisatory 1920s Parisian jazz blow-outs as 21st century electro-house or (so-called) "minimal" techno, Nôze comprises the duo of stepbrothers Nicolas Sfintescu and Ezechiel Pailhès. Pailhès is a classically trained pianist who studied at the Academy of Music in Paris, while Sfintescu, who also performs under the name DJ Freak, is a founding member of Circus Company, a techno label that's home to like-minded artists Ark (a frequent Nôze collaborator), Mossa, and Dave Aju, among others. Following several 12"s, Nôze's full-length CD debut for Circus, Craft Sounds and Voices -- an eclectic blend of free jazz and vocal-heavy techno featuring guest musicians from Paris' improv, jazz, and experimental music scenes -- appeared in 2005. In live performance -- the duo's favorite medium -- their combination of electronic and live instrumental elements carries over into sweaty, rambunctious shows that have won over audiences worldwide, most notably in a career-making set at 2005's Sonar festival in Barcelona. A flurry of 12" activity continued into the next year, both on Circus and other labels (most notably the quirky, semi-narrative "Kitchen," which appeared on Trapez in 2005), with 2006's How to Dance CD compiling most of their vinyl releases to date and highlighting their infectiously goofy vocal and instrumental approach along with a more propulsive, dancefloor-oriented flavor than their debut. In 2007 their tracks were selected by both Hot Chip and Booka Shade for inclusion in their respective volumes in the DJ-Kicks series. ~ K. Ross Hoffman
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Dance - Released April 1, 2011 | Get Physical Music
The incorrigibly flamboyant, unpredictably freewheeling jazz-techno-cabaret twosome Nôze would probably come off as smirking, wryly irreverent misfits in just about any context, but the Paris-based Circus Company (which is co-run by the duo's Nicolas Sfintescu, and which released their first two long-players) at least seemed like an appropriate match. Since they jumped ship to join the big boys at Berlin's more classically house-oriented Get Physical, the group's musical output has grown ever more gleefully Frenchy and circus-like, while its relationship to conventional electronic dance forms has grown increasingly tenuous. Hence, Dring, their second effort for the label (and fourth overall) seems in some ways utterly out of place -- probably just the way they like it -- even though it's also by some measure the smoothest, straightest, and most broadly appealing full-length statement they've made yet. It could also be guardedly described as their most "mature," keeping in mind that it's not without its share of characteristically nutty, salty bathroom humor (i.e. the warped, low-key masturbation blues of closer "Willi Willi," which comes complete with toilet flushing sounds), often delivered in Sfintescu's earthy, Beefheart-ian growl. But while hardly lacking in personality or playfulness, Dring largely tones down the overt goofiness (vocal and otherwise) in favor of a rich, polyglot musicality that draws fluidly and fluently from klezmer, Dixieland, Balkan brass music, cocktail piano balladry, chanson, and musette, Broadway show tunes, reggae, samba, cinematic scores, West coast cool jazz, and even, on occasion, house music (the slinky, Latin-tinged "Nubian Beauty," which includes perhaps Sfintescu's most unhinged, lecherous, Serge Gainsbourg-by-way-of-Tom Waits yammering on the record, also works in a submerged synth bassline that seems to wink at label buddies Booka Shade and M.A.N.D.Y. via their 2005 smash "Body Language.") It's a broad, far-reaching, but well-integrated palette that could lend itself equally well to a hearty multi-cultural dance party or a sophisticated (but never stodgy) coffeeshop soundtrack, and Dring would work admirably in either setting. Anyone seeking more of the quirky disco-house of earlier singles like "Remember Love" and "Love Affair" is liable to be disappointed here; indeed, Dring works so well as a big, lavish whole that few of its tracks are quite as effective when taken out of context (though bouncy, brassy opener "C'era Una Volta," with its infectious, curiously loping 3/4 groove, serves as an ideal tone-setter and calling card, notwithstanding its liberal "borrowing" of saxophone figures from Moondog's "Bird's Lament") -- but it's hard to imagine anybody not getting swept up in the album's Bacchanalian outpouring of buoyant brass, sinuously smokey reeds, exuberantly nonsensical scatting and wordless choral chants; sometimes more moody than body-moving, but always tethered to a generous groove. ~ K. Ross Hoffman
Dance - Released April 25, 2008 | Get Physical Music
For all the contributions the French have made to electronic dance music in the past ten years, from Daft Punk's era-defining filter-house to the more recent bangers of Justice et al., it's striking how little of it has been overtly, recognizably French in attitude or musical aesthetic. Parisian duo Nôze go a fair distance toward amending that discrepancy, displaying a (stereo)typically Gallic ability to maintain an air of sophistication and vague superciliousness while indulging an utterly bizarre and often vulgar sense of humor, à la the paradigmatically Frenchy Serge Gainsbourg. Songs on the Rocks, their third full-length and highest-profile release to date, appears on the German imprint Get Physical, which is hardly inappropriate, given a rhythmic drive that's closer to that label's teutonic tech-house than French Touch neu-disco, and following Booka Shade's inclusion of "Slum Girl" in their DJ Kicks volume. Nevertheless, it's easily their Frenchiest outing to date, featuring prominent vocals, either in French or heavily-accented English, on every track save one (the luscious, jazzy flute and percussion workout "Ethiopo") and making explicit their connection to the long-running chanson tradition, the classic pop likes of Gainsbourg, and more recent inheritors like Arthur H. Essentially, they've made good on the promise of "songs" -- as suggested by the album title and foreshadowed by the popular singles "Kitchen" and "Remember Love" -- while mostly jettisoning the rangier experiments of their earlier releases, thereby making this also their most accessible album yet. It's still a far cry from conventional though, especially when Nicolas Sfintescu unleashes the full power of his distinctively, er, froggy voice, an absurd and sometimes frightening growl that can range from comical to unbearable, depending on your tolerance for unhinged Tom Waits-isms and vichyssoise-thick shtick. On the album's pair of demented quasi-epics -- "Childhood Blues" and the "cinematic" "Slum Girl" -- that voice is just obnoxiously overbearing, dripping with (respectively) caricatured anguish and spy movie sleaze, and likely a deal-breaker for many listeners, but it's a good deal easier to take in clipped, chipper bursts, and in conjunction with other voices, on twitchy, light-on-their-feet groovers like opener "L'Inconnu du Placard" and the aptly named "You Have to Dance," and the cabaret-style stomp "Little Bug." Meanwhile, Sfintescu is nowhere to be heard on the slinky charmer (and first single) "Danse Avec Moi," a smoldering duet between go-to microhouse chanteuse Dani Siciliano (an American, though you wouldn't know it) and French singer David Lafore. And then there's "Remember Love," one of the absolute highlights of 2007 when it was first issued as a single, and the undeniable standout here, built around a simple but maddeningly effective Chicago house piano figure and an effortlessly funky skip-step groove, with lyrics that touch on barroom infidelity, talking zebras, and the universality of love. That track's simplicity and classicism (musically, at least) might have led fans to expect even more of a departure from Nôze on this album, but while it does trend in a more broadly palatable direction, Songs on the Rocks is more of a progression than a wholesale change from their typical oddball antics. Still, listeners drawn in by "Remember Love" (which would be worth the price of admission on its own) may well find the rest of the album nearly as enjoyable, in its own quirky way. Particularly if they have a taste for Époisses de Bourgogne. ~ K. Ross Hoffman
House - Released May 25, 2006 | Circus company
Parisian techno knuckleheads Nôze serve up a barrage of outlandish but propulsive dancefloor workouts on their second long-player, injected throughout with a playful bizarreness and irreverent humor reminiscent of the German duo Modeselektor. Consisting of tracks culled from assorted vinyl releases, How to Dance (not to be confused with the EP of the same title) offers at best a somewhat unconventional outlook on its titular concern. Its herky-jerky, mechanistic grooves -- slightly demented strains of what might broadly be termed minimal electro and microhouse, though they seem unlikely to concern themselves with subgenre niceties -- are just nervously funky enough for the floor, but they're unlikely to assuage the tentative. More engagingly, every track here incorporates vocals of some sort, though not necessarily at the center of the action. Sometimes they're effectively unintelligible: skritchy vocoded scatting on the kitchen-sink two-step "Outomimonclic"; layered barbershop beat-boxing on the marching band funk of "Tuba"; discomfiting, wordless operatic flailing on the truly eccentric "Albert," which also features tinkling alarm clocks and savage, skronking saxophones. "Lovin All People" recalls Matthew Dear with its layered monotone vocals and blippy, insistent micro pulse, while the gruff, muppet-like sprechtstimme of "Tulip Schnaps" and "Kitchen" is in a class, though in the latter case the goofy kitchen-seduction narrative and inane refrain are merely the jumping-off point for some psychotic overdriven synth and inside-the-piano mayhem. Truth be told, Nôze is just as charmingly jovial in their instrumental passages, as demonstrated by this collection's opener, the deliciously poppy disco shuffle "Love Affair." Sure, its repeated, quasi-melodic refrain (one of the duo brightly remarking on how good it feels to brush his teeth and clean his nose) is memorable and hooky, but it's only taken in conjunction with the quirky interstitial elements -- wonky synthesizer burbles, percussive clatter, funky chicken-scratch guitar work -- from which the track gleans its ample, effortless appeal. Charismatic compositional craftsmen as well as jokesters then, How to Dance goes to show: Nôze knows how to have a good time, and they'd be only too happy to teach you. ~ K. Ross Hoffman
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