Labelle - Univers-île

Born and raised in the French colony of Réunion Island, musician and composer Jérémy Labelle finds his identity in the muddied confluence of place, culture, and race, perhaps more so than most. He writes his music as an authoring and exploration of the self – a self informed by his nation’s history of invasion by Western Europe and slavery thereafter – and this year sees the release of his second album, Univers-île.

Following on from 2013’s Ensemble – a collage of largely instrumental, electronically influenced pieces made over five years – it is immediately apparent that Univers-île is a work of greater maturity and depth. Playing on the themes of universality versus individualism, as referenced in the record’s title, these 11 tracks bring together a wealth of instrumentation, compositional influences and collaborations to embody the métissage, the cultural braiding, of Labelle’s heritage.

Although seemingly disparate, the two major influences displayed in Univers-île are Detroit techno and maloyan music. Maloya is a musical genre of Réunion Island, created by the African slaves and indentured Indian workers living there in the 18th and 19th centuries. Recognisable by its heavy use of percussion and call-response structure, it is an embodiment of Réunion history, and one that was only legalised in the 1960s, owing to its ties with creole culture.

Read the rest of the review on the Quietus.

[This piece was published on 11/09/17]