There are a handful of musicians in this country that push the boundaries of sound and style, take a refreshing step away from conformity and make us question what really constitutes a song. They make us ask whether we can draw a line between ‘sound’ and ‘music’. Napoleon IIIrd is one of those musicians. He’s also a genius, as sophomore album Christiania proves.
Yorkshire born James Mabbett doesn’t let his experimentalism interrupt his penchant for writing brilliant pop songs. Neither does he pay heed to the silent rules and regulations of conventional standard. Unique and appropriated gems filter through the static fuzz that compliments the majority of Christiania: opener ‘The Unknown Unknown’ is as aggressive and brute as it is inspired and captivating. Following track ‘Leaving Copenhagen’ uses a vocal delivery a-kin to Ian Curtis and matches it with harassing percussion, only to slash both over a contrarily serene birdcall; ‘Rough Music’ wanders blissfully between reverb and clarity.
The songs mentioned above are inarguably ‘music’ – the ‘sound’ aspect of the album comes into play during songs like ‘Guys Just Wanna Have Sun’, ‘MTSU’ and ‘This Town’, the latter of which blends the drone of a meandering keyboard with drum samples and a single, prophetic line of verse. This kind of interlude could have removed the listener from the talent found on the album’s more traditional tracks; in this case it only adds to the lo-fi aesthetic and layered experience Christiania delivers. Mabbett holds the extraordinary ability to make challenging music unchallenging, whilst retaining the sense of creative freedom his album thrives on.
Christiania maximises on Napoleon IIIrd’s love for psychotic chanting and delirious moments of profanity, and creates an intense and bewildering mass of energy in its wake. On first listen it makes little sense, but before long the wires and plugs go into overdrive to draw out an infectious fever that’s impossible to shake. This is the sound of an uncontrollable mass of noise being controlled. Christiania is faultless.