He’s a mystery and that’s how he likes it, but now, nine months after he first teased us with his music, Jean Rouch has released his debut album.
The story of Jean Rouch appears to begin at the start of the year, when the phrase “If you seek, you will find” was distributed (without any explanation) amongst popular music figures within the Stoke-on-Trent music scene. It was confusing, but it didn’t take much time for everyone to jump on the bandwagon, some without really knowing what they were sharing it for.
This in itself seems to fit into Jean Rouch’s character and the themes of his album, but more on that later.
Since then, Rouch has released two singles: ‘Racketeer’, an instrumental track complete with plodding drums that seem as though they’re signalling the start of a battle and ‘Privacy Is Sin’ featuring Cal Locker and Ant Holland, a track that seems to twist and turn into something terrifying and nightmare-like. Both have very different yet very significant accompanying videos, both leave you with unanswered questions and they both make you feel just that little bit uncomfortable.
‘Glory To He Who Brings Dispute’, his debut album, is not an easy listen. It isn’t something you’d put on after a stressful day at work, nor is it something I’d recommend you press your ear to if you’re struggling with hard times. It isn’t an album to listen to in one sitting either, unless you’re looking for seven reasons to start a revolution.
Opening with a short burst of dialogue and the haunting whispers of the album’s title, ‘Glory To He Who Brings Dispute’ starts as it means to go on. There are no vocals, other than the exchange of words at the beginning; only a dark and brooding guitar part that says more than enough to paint a picture in your mind.
The album continues in this way with ‘You’re Not Alone’ (featuring a guest appearance from The Red Kites frontman James Biddulph Junior), feeding into your own personal nightmare. James Biddulph Junior’s vocals sound like nothing I’ve ever heard from him before, especially as the song picks up pace and JBJ’s recognisable psychedelic style transforms into a beastly roar.
It’s worth noting that Jean Rouch himself appears never to sing, only acting as a narrator to the chaos he whips up around himself. He lights a fire with his words and the music does the rest, making this collection of songs extremely remarkable and a little bit mind-blowing.
Listening to ‘Laid To Rest’ makes you feel like you’re falling through heaven backwards, the ethereal ghostly harmonies of Natalie Webb and Jack Wood lifting this track up above the rest. ‘Racketeer’ follows, with ‘Media Is Pain’ falling in behind and Emily Law’s soft vocals heavily contrasting against the wailing guitars. Rouch returns here too, repeating the words “…seeing… hearing… lying… cheating…” over the music until eventually dying out in the final seconds.
‘Media Is Pain’ is the most “pop” track off the album, although using that term to describe any of these songs would be clutching at straws. What this track does do however, is offer a reason as to why Rouch began his life by distributing a phrase via social media. The ease at which it spread, much like a virus, falls effortlessly into the premise of this track and even if it wasn’t planned in that way, it makes for a very fitting example of the power of the media.
Rouch’s first single release ‘Privacy Is Sin’ follows on, before you reach the concluding track ‘Le Dernier Chapitre’ or “the last chapter” for those who were wondering. All of the guitars in the album seem to be based around a similar pattern, making this feel more like a concept album than anything else. ‘Le Dernier Chapitre’ opens with this guitar pattern, as Rouch pours his dark poetry all over it. He speaks as though he’s looking down on the world, speaking to and for the people, as he says “love each other and forget how to hate… make memories to last forever, not money to last one solemn hour…”.
It’s oddly positive and empowering, providing a kind of beacon of light amongst a crumbling world. ‘Le Dernier Chapitre’ is the song you’d expect to hear at the end of a film, right before the world falls in on itself and yet, it’s my favourite of them all.
Jean Rouch is eccentric, unique and yes, still very mysterious. His inspiration and musical themes are heavy, but he speaks for the ones without a voice. The music is cinematic, the quality is crystal clear and the album as a whole is unlike anything else. Is ‘Glory To He Who Brings Dispute’ going to be your next favourite album? Probably not, but Jean Rouch is a person you’re going to want to follow and his music is definitely something you’re going to want to hear.