FRANCE: Newcomer - Llorca
Updated: Dec 5, 2020
The French DJ's debut album mixes in soul, jazz, bossa nova, and funk alongside electronica and house, and a sonic journey into his own musical origins
The French house musician Ludovic Llorca got his start releasing records in 1997 on a small record label based in the north of France named PEEK-A-BOO, and slowly began to make a name for himself in Lille and the surrounding areas, including in Belgium. His genre is usually classified as house, but it is evident that he counts soul, jazz and funk as his formative musical influences – all of those genres are found within his debut 2001 album, Newcomer. This dichotomy of influences and musical directions could well be the driving force behing Llorca’s decision to have two musical projects on the go at the same time. Llorca is also known as Art of Tones, releasing more experimental electronic music, unlike what he releases under his own name of Llorca. Whatever the reason behind that decision may be, Llorca is an adept musician. This is a moniker he rejects for himself, however, according to his entry on electronic music website residentadvisor.net. There he is quoted as having said that he is “not a jazzman, neither a soulman, barely a musician: just someone making his own music with a computer - and every kind of music, if possible". Whether or not this is really the case, I believe it sums up Llorca’s attitude to the album. Despite using house music as his medium, the album does not lean more towards one genre or the other, instead wildly grabbing around at all the music he loves and collages it in one soundscape. Whether you’re a house music fan or a soul music fan, there is an equal amount of enjoyment to be had.
“Llorca is not beholden to the music of the past, rather he is reinventing it in his own image.”
One thing is for sure, and that is that Llorca has an ear for a danceable track. The album is first and foremost music for dancing and having fun. That pleasant, joyful edge to the music if ever-present throughout the album’s nine tracks and 59-minute-long runtime. Easily comprehensible as a contiguous whole, a collection of singles, or as club bangers, it works every way I examined it. On its own terms, it sets out what it means to do, and all the while including many genre throwbacks to the music of the 1960s and 1970s. But does it stand up to closer scrutiny? I would say overall yes. Llorca appears to be an intelligent enough musician to know that if he’s going to invoke the music of some of the most beloved and successful musicians of all time, he should do something new with it, and that’s exactly what he does. I’m not able to discern whether he is using mostly samples, or if these are original riffs and sounds, but either way, his lack of use of recognisable samples is what I found most interesting. In doing so, he avoids an easy way to make a good house song, simply by remixing or sampling a beloved classic, and instead aims to go for the feel of those soul and funk classics that we all love. It’s a less well-worn path, but it allows the album to be its own thing. Llorca is not beholden to the music of the past, rather he is reinventing it in his own image.
The huge variety of the album is also another aspect I greatly appreciated. Indigo Blues has musical themes similar to bossa nova, Lights Behind Windows and I Cry are both jazz-inspired tracks, Any How is the most straightforwardly electronic and house-like of the bunch, and the final track, The End, is a glorious tribute to funk music. It is also my favourite song on the album. It’s just wonderfully funky and at points sounds like it could have been a hit by The Isley Brothers or Sly & The Family Stone. On an album like this, the music runs the risk of becoming boring, especially on an album that is nearly one hour long, and these stylistic flourishes keep it vital and lively. In this regard, and in the one discussed in the previous paragraph, the album succeeds at being interesting music as well as fun music, which is high praise indeed.