There are barely any opportunities to dance during Laurent Garnier’s The Cloud Making Machine. That might not be much of a groundbreaking statement elsewhere, but it speaks volumes here, considering Garnier is known for his masterful techno, his oft-cited deejay sets, his online radio station and his record label, F Communications. He is not known, however, for veering away from house music. The Cloud Making Machine is a twisted and introspective work, sometimes devoid of beats altogether and almost entirely devoid of what has made Garnier’s name well known.
There are few permanent entries in deejay history books across the globe, but France-based Laurent Garnier, who got started in late 1980s and was instrumental in the Madchester scene, gets his own slot for his undeniable impact on techno culture. But on The Cloud Making Machine, he doesn’t much focus on what the dance floor wants. The ten tracks are the result of Garnier’s last four years writing and recording at the Kub, his Paris studio. Collaborations with various musicians, such as sax player Philippe Nadaud and keyboardist Marc Chalosse, unfold in cosmic atmospherics and headphone-ready weirdness.
Memorable instances on Cloud are in Garnier’s daring artistry, where he allows several moments of beatless melancholia mature into a symphonic string-laden coda, such as the colorful “Act 1 Minautore Ex.” There are many of these intricately pieced compositions on the record, which is only occasionally disappointing – usually because other elements get in the way of Garnier’s magic (like the voiceover rant on “First Reaction (V2)”).
These road bumps are rare, though, and don’t disrupt the flow of Cloud too noticeably. Often it can be an embarrassing mistake for artists to explore alleyways quite different from what their catalogs have offered. This is not one of those moments. Laurent Garnier has done wonders here, in both this sizable risk and its satisfying final product.