Weighing in at a relatively short eight tracks, Vieux Loup represents the return of The Acorn after five years. In the interim since their last release, No Ghost, front man Rolf Klausener has started up the Arboretum Festival in Ottawa, and formed Silkken Laumann with drummer Pat Johnson and Adam Saikaley. They have brought some of the sounds on Not Forever Enough back over to The Acorn, but for a far different effect. While their work as Silkken Laumann is largely beat driven (which makes sense for their goal of making dance music), Vieux Loup drifts, with the added haze of electronics providing atmosphere.
Vieux Loup doesn't create a mood so much as reinforce it. Some chill music has the ability to calm you down, but for this record you have to already be there. Otherwise, it's all too easy to just zone it out, or move on to something else moving more at your speed. However, when you are in the right place, Vieux Loup is highly enjoyable. There is a careful beauty to these tracks, which are actually the first collection of two that represent three years of writing. The second half will be released in the fall as Palm d'Or. Compared to the band's previous releases, there is an added layer of fuzz in the mix. Klausener's voice has always carried a sort of sureness that balanced out the soft sweetness of their sound. That quality is buried on Vieux Loup, creating something more blended.
To get into a bit more detail on the tracks themselves, opener "Rapids" comes through in shuffling loops that suitably fit with the line "are you caught up in a memory, or a path to the future?" with their slightly hypnotic quality. Next up is more psych rocky "Palm Springs," where the heavy reverb fills in the space between the steady drum beats and the rest of the instrumentation. "In Silence" is gorgeously simple, more in line with some of The Acorn's older work. By contrast, first single "Influence" probably steps the furthest away from their previously established sound. It hits closer to Silkken Laumann with its soft wubs and dancey beats. The whole first half follows a pattern of softer, slower track followed by a poppier, more upbeat one, a flow that helps keep the listener engaged. That interplay breaks away a bit in the second half, instead relying on shifting texture. "Cumin" is meant to be a meditation on desire, reflected in the music video by Mike Dubue (of Hilotrons):
By contrast, title track "Vieux Loup" has the feel of a solemnly sweet waltz in it's ¾ meter and dreamy, drifting piano lines. "Dominion" brings back the band's folk influence, with Klausener's vocals balanced beautifully by Evening Hymn's Sylvie Smith. If there was a track on Vieux Loup we could do without, it's "Artefacts." There's nothing overtly wrong with it, but it's not quite low key enough to fade gracefully out, and not quite high energy enough to finish out strong either. In short, it just doesn't really add anything to the album as its closer.
In all, Vieux Loup is a beautifully dreamy listen, one that's not so much soothing as contemplative. You can listen to the album in full on Soundcloud, or find it in digital form in all the usual places. If you're hankering for a physical copy, head over to Paper Bag Records. It's certainly a pretty vinyl, fitting for the music on it.