It has been five long years since Cape Noire unconspicuously released her “Ad Nauseam” debut on an unsuspecting world. We had just about given up on ever hearing something from the enigmatic Paris, France electro/triphop diva again until “Javel” (French for ‘bleach’) quite unexpectedly turned up in our social media feed. A lot can (and will) happen in five years and just when we thought Cape Noire had retired her cape to the vestiaire she strikes back with “Javel”. Just like its illustrious predecessor “Javel” is 5 tracks or about 15 minutes of smooth, catchy triphop with a pulsating electro bend. One French newspaper dubbed her “gothic electronic” in 2015 and that is perhaps the most accurate way of describing what Cape Noire sounds like in lieu of actually hearing her yourself. There are worse ways of spending 15 minutes than in company of Parisian fashion icon Cape Noire.
For the last couple of years we feared that the curtain had fallen over Cape Noire. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. The mysterious blackcaped musician returns with “Javel” after a 5-year exile. Just like on “Ad Nauseam” the question on everybody’s mind is, “who is Cape Noire?” and the answer is obvious and evident to those in the know. What is certain is that Cape Noire is a versatile and experienced performer who has been a mainstay in the French pop – and rock world at least since the early 2000s. As a musician Cape Noire has tried her hand at a multitude of genres before taking on her current alter ego. That Cape Noire even extended beyond the initial “Ad Nauseam” EP is cause for celebration in and of itself. “Javel” builds upon the aura of mystique of the debut and cements that Cape Noire is one of the most fascinating new voices in the world of electro, industrial, and triphop. Cape Noire is the sound of the future…
In case there’s any doubt “Javel” sounds like an illicit lovechild between “Pretty Hate Machine” Nine Inch Nails, Kosheen circa “Resist” with bluesy vocals à la KT Tunstall. It’s amazing just how close to Sian Evans that Cape Noire sounds. Now even moreso than on “Ad Nauseam”. Instantly laying waste to any doubts opening track ‘The Prey’ has a bouncing beat and reassures that “Javel” is a continuation from the first EP. ‘Till It’s Over’ borrows not only part of the title but also a chorus line from Lenny Kravitz’ ‘It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over’. ‘Geometric Love’ opens with a romantic piano sure to make you think Cape Noire is going to get her Vanessa Carlton or Tori Amos on. ‘Kiss Of the Virgin’ strays the widest from anything Cape Noire has done previously. Only after almost 2 minutes of just piano and vocals the drum machine kicks in. It’s the closest thing to an actual ballad you’re likely to hear from Cape Noire. Just like “Ad Nauseam” before it “Javel” is catchy, soulful, and danceable. There are the occassional darker moments and melodies, but things never get as harrowing, dissonant, and ungentle as, say, Chu Ishikawa but neither does “Javel” ever succumb to forcing itself into any subdued pop hooks present just below the surface .
So far Cape Noire has persisted with the EP format but we’d love to hear what she could come up with the ebbs and flow within the context of a full album. At the quarter of an hour “Javel” is over before you know it. If we were to split hairs it could be noted that the piano doesn’t feature quite as prominently as it did on the first EP. The vocals on the last two tracks are somewhat more nasally than in the first three. The production is virtually identical to that of “Ad Nauseam” but everything is a little fuller and warmer sounding. If “Javel” is testament to anything, it’s that Cape Noire is more comfortable in her niche. “Javel” possesses a great focus and the hooks are catchier than ever before. For those who keep track of such things, the artwork of both EPs is identical – except that the dominant color on “Ad Nauseam” was black whereas here it is white. We wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Cape Noire ends up ghostwriting for other Francophone artists (we’d love to hear what she could write for Jamie-Lee Smit, for example) and we’d love to hear Cape Noire tackle dub techno, progressive electronic, or even ambient. Hell, we’d love a Cape Noire piano-pop record. It would probably sound something like “Rabbits On the Run” or “Liberman”, and that’d be wickedly awesome.
We’re looking forward to hearing in whatever direction Cape Noire decides to move from here. It would be interesting to hear what she could come up within the full album format or whether she’s going to perservere with EPs for the time being. It’s good having Cape Noire back after a five-year hiatus and it remains a question for the ages why the mainstream hasn’t picked up on her yet. Cape Noire would go over well over alternative festivals, high-end dance temples, as well as goth clubs. The beauty of Cape Noire is that there’s something for everybody. “Javel” was very much worth the five-year wait but we can only hope that Cape Noire will return sooner rather than later with the follow-up. A release like this only intensifies the mystique surrounding Cape Noire and her music. Whether her insistence on anonymity is a boon or a bane to the overall enjoyment of her music is entirely up to the individual listener. Good having you back, Cape Noire.