Chams – L’Âme agit Review

If you haven’t listened to it yet, L’Âme Agit is one of those albums that you really should recover soon. French musician Chams is the the mastermind behind this project, in the triple role of producer, author and singer.

His debut LP is a totally blended work, where music, lyrics and vocals became a visceral whole. There’s a delicate balance between opposites that rules this album. Chams’ lines are raw and straightforward, but at the same time deep and introspective. His music is guided by an instinctive approach that rejects prepackaged styles: it is halfway between grime and R&B, glitch and industrial landscapes, surrounded by experimental club beats. He moves from peaceful melodies to the most disturbing sounds, from the unalloyed delicacy of ethereal synths to the bass power blasts. “Remuer le ciel et la terre / Le paradis et l’enfer” (“Move heaven and earth / Heaven and hell”) he sings in “0pinion”, the opener track, and it’s hard to imagine a better introduction.

This lapidary statement introduces Chams’ exploration of the motions of the soul. It is like a psychoanalytic session or, more consistently, an exorcism ritual. And like any ritual, it has its formulas and its rites, made up of lines repeated like prayers or primitive screams. The first part is like a descent into hell, an inhospitable place inhabited by the darkest feelings. In “Avoue” a sentence to a life of eternal pain is pronounced on a markedly industrial beat. The passage of time is unavoidable and leads to destruction in “Un Temps Pour Elle”. It is the trauma phase, that after a majestic instrumental break (“L’Âme agit”, a chilling future bass beat with epic synth strings lines, and “Un si danse sans fin”, with remarkable wordless vocals between groans and graceful choruses) prepares the way for the final rebirth. The end of pain, the sublime atmosphere, are the fulfillment of an expected prophecy in “Tourment chantant”.

Speaking with Clash Magazine about this track, Chams explained that he “made this track to try and exorcise my often overwhelming inner rage and passion… It ended up as a statement going back and forth between the affection and the aversion I have for others and myself.” Curiously, even the darkest songs are not so completely dark, there is always a glimmer of hope left. And in the brightest ones the shadows of the worst feelings remain. His poetic goes on a tightrope, both in music and lyrics, swinging without warning from side to side. Eventually his ritual finds a solution in the awareness of his condition, accepting a restless state of perennial research (“100 raison”).

This sincere introspective capacity is what makes L’Âme agit so suggestive and communicative. Chams’ ability in developing a storytelling, exploiting the expressive potential of language and projecting it into an uncommonly fresh musical form, confirms the creativity and talent of this emerging artist, definitely one to keep an eye on in the future.

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