REVIEW: Little People – ‘We Are But Hunks Of Wood’
Laurent Clerc, or as he’s known in the music world, Little People, is set to release his first album since 2006, We Are But Hunks of Wood. His first release, Mickey Mouse Operation, set a precedent for a sequel full of promise and intricate rhythms, and I am happy to say that the album does not disappoint.
“Marzipan Children” opens the album, and is full of everything a fan could expect from Little People. The song is a slow build into a funk-fuelled bass line. The instrumentation on this song exemplifies what sets Little People apart in the electronic world. The pairing of organic instruments such as piano and drums with electronic beats and melodies produces a refreshingly complex dichotomy of sounds within one song. “Marzipan Children” ends with an unexpected clip of a woman singing, “happy little people, friendly little people, happy little people you are”, setting up an optimistic mood for the rest of the album.
The second song, “Eminence Grise,” emphasizes Little People’s ability to produce stylistic variety from song to song while maintaining a similar feel throughout an album. Strings lay down an unconventional, mysterious sounding chord structure that is accompanied by a lead violin and a heavy bass. This song is overflowing with style changes and complicated, entrancing runs on piano, strings, and synthesizers. The juxtaposition accentuates Little People’s impressive ability to arrange a song.
“Cartouche” is centered around unique timing. The piano and bass play in unison to provide a filthy groove that persists throughout the song. “Cartouche” certainly has a dramatic feel to it, and I am very intrigued to know what inspired this powerfully heavy-hitting arrangement.
“Algate Patterns” is an all around beautiful track. A piano builds up energy in the intro, but instead of releasing that energy all at once, Little People releases it in a subtle, drawn out fashion. The song can best be characterized as possessing a great deal of calmness with just a tinge of uneasiness to it.
The first lyrics in We Are But Hunks of Wood are found on the album’s fifth track, “Wonderland”. January Thompson’s voice adds a necessary element to the song that rounds out the instrumentation smoothly. The lyrics fill time well without being too overbearing, and the ambient beat accentuates the mood portrayed in Thompson’s voice.
The sixth song on the album, “Make Me Better”, pushes right from the start. The structure of this song is more predictable than others, but the song is certainly just as memorable. The focus of this song is on the playful, electronic melody, but the relentless bass and drums unquestionably provide the drive that fuels it. A bass breakdown segues into the end of the song, creating a flurry of anticipation that is built upon but ultimately left to linger.
“Electrickery” is definitely an appropriate name for the seventh track. The song acts as a cat and mouse game between a very relaxed, almost dreamlike sequence and a simple but powerful hip-hop groove. Little People’s minimalist approach in “Electrickery” makes the effects of the stylistic changes that much more dramatic. A synthetic organ flickers in and out with more of a hip-hop feel to it, adding a mechanical, yet soulful element to the song. Despite the dramatic dichotomy, the two styles propel each other symbiotically to create a fulfilling song.
Despite the name of the track, “Offal Waffle” is anything but hard on the ears. Flowing, complex runs are done both on the piano and vibraphone synth, creating a type of cross-instrumental call and response. This song is a synopsis of Little People’s style and ability. He can create a complicated electronic beat and infuse it with a cascading piano line and make it fit.
“M.N.O.P.Q” transitions the mood from “Offal Waffle” instantaneously. A pulsing, resonating kick starts the song off and propels it all the way through. The song maintains a very low-key groove, projecting an impressive sense of control. Little People has the capacity to create a labyrinth of melodies, but “M.N.O.P.Q” shows that he also knows when to kick back into the pocket and let the groove do its thing.
“Farewell” has a very light opening, and it’s apparent that the piano is going to do the talking in this song. The groove runs hard, but it’s built around piano runs and accents. Towards the end of the song, an emotional speech is imposed over some lingering electronic tones, leaving the listener to reflect on their own thoughts. Right when the song seems to be coming to a quiet close, a voice comes on the track stating, “I guess this is goodbye”, only to have a fat drumbeat kick in to state a strong farewell.
The final song, “Underland”, finishes the album with a very open sound. This song melds together an electronic beat with organic instruments like piano and congas to give the song a unique industrial/earthy feel. “Underland” acts as one steady beat that builds upon itself. This song concludes the album in a strong but cool manner, acting as a perfect finish for the overall tone presented in We Are But Hunks of Wood.
Little People does not produce your garden-variety electronic music. His use of live instrumentation paired with electronic beats and melodies add a sort of old school feel with a modern twist that constantly claims my attention. I’ll admit, I’m not that keen on electronic jams, but Laurent Clerc has certainly done his part to pique my interest.