Album Of The Week: Club Cheval - 'Discipline'

Written By Sam Murphy on 03/08/2016


A supergroup of producers is almost unheard of. It's age old advice that too many cooks spoil the broth and often this analogy crosses into music, particularly when you're dealing with producers that separately have different musical outputs. The French, however, never spoil anything in the kitchen and as such, Club Cheval have cooked-up something spectacular, served as their debut album Discipline.

Discipline is the result of four years of collective work from French producers Sam Tiba, Panteros 666, Myd and Canblaster. Throughout that time, they have released remixes, mixes and originals but their sonic vision only really came to fruition last year when they released the howling title track of this album Discipline. Fellow French acts Justice, Daft Punk and Breakbot have always traded in electronica with tinges of funk but Club Cheval aren't giving us that. Instead, they're looking across the pond to the R&B of the US and twisting the formula by infusing it with beats found it French clubs.

While there may be plenty of influences circling Discipline, it's an entirely different sound to most electronica going around at the moment. From opener Debut we're presented, off-kilter, bubbling beats. There's something that doesn't sound quite right about it but at the same time it's thrilling - a heart raiser that missiles us straight into the inspiring keys of Young Rich And Radical. The singer that we hear on most of the record is Rudy, a session singer for the likes of The Weeknd and Jason Derulo who was more than happy to lend his vocals without being credited alongside the track. That's allowed Club Cheval the freedom to use his voice as an instrument rather than the leading force of the record. It's manipulated and twisted at many times, leading the melody but sitting within the beat rather than atop. The vocal on the title track, for example, is excellent but the star of the track is those howling synths that transport us straight to 3am on the dancefloor. Instead Rudy compliments them by adding liquor-fuelled, woozy lyrics to elevate an already drunk synth.

The first we got from the album was the deep house-influenced From The Basement To The Roof. It suggested this was a record for the clubs, and it is, but there are so many more dimensions to it. There's a reason why producers often put off dropping a full-length record. Songs made for the club are mixed among others songs, marvelled at in the moment and forgotten only minutes later. It's difficult to make a record that people can listen to at home and not feel as if they'd rather be dunking drinks in a club with the record simply an audible accompaniment to the night.

On Discipline, Club Cheval cleverly pull us back from ever feeling that way. From start to finish, it's a genuinely intriguing record. We get to hear all four of the producers separate influences on well-placed individual interludes, and at time we're led into the most triumphant moments with intros or interludes that make each song feel like an event. It takes a 1 minute 40 haunting intro to get to album highlight Legends but once we get there you already feel as if it's going to be a hallmark. As the synths swell, they're creating an album climax rather than just focussing on climaxes individually in each song. "I'm going all the way tonight," Rudy sings as Legends bursts into a chorus of children-like vocals. It's every-bit the heart-swelling moment it was designed to be - completely over-the-top but gloriously so.

15 uplifting songs would've become tiresome but appropriately there's actually not that many full songs on here. The big moments like Nothing Can Stop Us Now or Legends are book-ended by sonic detours bereft of lyrics. Instead, it plays as a proper LP rather than just a collection of songs. Although intricate and interesting, the instrumental moments of the album aren't the highlights but it doesn't seem like they were ever designed to be.

Not all the vocal tracks are triumphant, big-sounding opus' though. Other Guy brings a The Weeknd-inspired darkness to the table and Scream channels turn-of-the-millenium Michael Jackson choosing groovy bass over pulsating beats. These are the moments that stop it from being a club record and make it something that's easy to listen to in any environment.

Following the giddy heights of Discipline, Club Cheval bring us back down to earth with the sobering Dream On. Given that they have recorded a number of live videos in an airplane hanger, it seems appropriate to think of the project a little like a plane journey. Dream On brings us back down to earth gently. It's nostalgic and hopeful, leaving us with the memories but also letting us down easy. While Discipline is no concept album, it reads perfectly as a sonic narrative with the beginning, middle and end plotted out for maximum effect.

Club Cheval are part of our Future Class Of 2016. Read why here.