French Trio Tapeworms’ Debut Album is an Electric Shoegaze Journey

French Trio Tapeworms’ Debut Album is an Electric Shoegaze Journey

Adding a variety of electronic sounds to their shoegaze sensibilities, Tapeworms debut album Funtastic is a wild, everchanging ride.

Hailing from Lille, France, Tapeworms has released their debut album Funtastic, following two EPs. Margot Magnière plays bass and sings. Théo Poyer joins her on vocals and plays guitar, while his brother Elliot Poyer drums. Magnière and Théo Poyer each also play the electronic instruments that characterize this album. Tapeworms have embraced a variety of synth sounds, mixing them with the drums, bass, and guitar that formed the center of their previous EP releases. It heightens their shoegaze feel and adds another layer of complexity to their sound. Always moving and evolving, this playful album is a strong debut.

The album opener “Next Time (Maybe)” begins with synth sounds, joined quickly by drums. When the guitar strums for the first time it sounds huge and echoey. It provides a feedback drenched backdrop for the track. The track feels like floating through space, if space were a technicolor wonderland. Something in the sound of the track sounds colorful, and the lyrics reference confusion and fantastical worlds. Disorientation shines through on the lines “Found an x shaped mark on my wrist / Just can’t remember what it means,” and “Did I water the plants today?” But the final lines “Follow the yellow brick road / It feels gold and warm this time” followed by multiple repetitions of the line “But everything will be fine”  give a comforting ending to the track.

“Safety Crash” opens with quiet but clear guitar under space age synth sounds, marked by occasional feedback. When the rest of the instruments rush in, the song becomes a bright, indie pop song. The lyrics are pretty simple, referencing jumping, rebounding, and taking a chance, but their simplicity allows the band’s electronic effects to take center stage. A variety of synth sounds take the song down a tangent in the middle. Beats and a simple repeating riff are given a solo, accompanied by what sounds like cartoon spaceship computers and lasers. There’s a fade and a slow down as the song takes yet another turn, never quite settling but always sounding fun.

The next track, “Dog Concern,” begins slower and quieter. Low synth organ and Magnière’s voice provide the intro with muted percussion underneath. Bass and chorusy guitar appear quickly when the drums open up at full volume, but Magnière remains alone on vocals. She keeps her voice contained and almost monotone. The guitar has a serious echo on the chorus and gives the song a wide open feel, like going on a jog through a field. The lyrics are from the point of view of a dog, but it gives what could be a silly song some emotional heft. The chorus, balances these two tensions: 

Don’t turn left too soon I still wanna pee

Don’t you feel I strain at the leash

Don’t you want to see my special trick

Why you’re so mean to me

It’s a strange song, but Magnière’s simple vocals sell it well. Just to keep you on your toes, the instruments pick up and get busy only to cut off suddenly, leaving you in tension.

“Soba” begins with a chirpy synth, before being joined by slowly strummed guitar, drums, and a steady driving bassline. The song creates a cyclical feel as the instruments build and build. They suddenly cut out save for the bass and some feedback when Magnière’s vocals come in. At first it’s hard to tell what she’s saying, but she’s reciting part of a Japanese syllabary, voicing the sounds of different characters. As she goes line by line, the instruments return. After five lines she says “And that’s all I know” and the song returns to its cycle with some haunting oohs in the background. Magnière’s voice returns for two last lines: “I don’t know what makes me cry / Keep an eye on me and I fall asleep.” The instrumentation of the track marches on throughout and gives it a real driving feel. It’s in contrast with the lyrics that often feel like someone lost in thought. It makes for an odd, yet compelling track.

Cracking drums beckon a wall of distorted guitar and meaty bass to wash over you as “Crush Your Love” begins. After the experimental feel of the last track, this one gets back to some meat and potatoes shoegaze rock. Poyer sings alone on this one, spinning a tale told from the point of view of some kind of monster: “Oh not easy to cross the street with gigantic feet / Some say I’m scary, Some say I’m mean.” At times the track embraces a grungy sound, but the midpoint of the song brings back the synth sounds. The song is an aural wave, and listening to it feels like getting lost in the surf, with ocean waves crashing around you, overwhelming you. But eventually you get pushed back to the beach, and the song quiets for the final minute, with the guitar sounding like a peaceful plucked acoustic while the synth and the song fade out. 

The next track, “Smiling Through It All,” once again embraces the spaceship computer sounds. There’s what could be either chirping or just a voice in the background, muffled, and at times there are hints of strings. The track is brief, acting as an odd electric interlude, but Tapeworms likes to have fun with these mini-soundscapes.

“Palm Reading” opens with a pulsing synth beat, sounding like an old keyboard for children, before the rest of the instruments fall in. Margière sings on the verses alone, and Poyer joins her for the “la la las” that act as a chorus. The song feels carefree, but the lyrics feel serious. They seem almost voyeuristic–we are watching someone grow through a window, while also listening to their stories. There’s a synthy, echoey interlude that provides a moment of calm, before the guitar rushes back in, this time growling with distortion. The track sways gently from head in the clouds to more serious and inward looking. The oft repeated line “So many stories are in my head” matches each of these moods, and ties the song together.

Busy, percussive, and beeping synths rush in overwhelmingly, before calming down into an easier beat for the next track, “Tapeworms.” The synth finds a simple riff and this lays over the guitar, bass and drums to create a satisfying wall of sound. But the song never stays stagnant. A glittery interlude that feels like floating amongst stars and clouds interrupts the lyrics, but the distortion comes right back. Poyer sings solo on this one, with his voice adding to the layers of this track. The synth never gets as busy as the intro, but with the rest of the instruments underneath, it all works to become the best sort of overwhelming. The song continues to evolve, stripping away those layers piece by piece until the track ends.

The penultimate track “Round and Round” fades in with some ambient sounds from the end of the last track. Elliot Poyer’s drums come in and they sound meaty and compliment the spare nature of Magnière’s vocals. There’s a variety of synth sounds trying to break free, but they stay scattered and low, creating a solid layer of sound from many small parts. Magnière’s bass comes in, fuzzy and snarling as she sings in her gentle monotone, “Lucky cat I sing your song / Round and Round it goes.” A clear synth comes in and is briefly joined by a clear acoustic guitar. The song never stays still but feels like a fugue continually restarting until the end, when the drums suddenly stop and the synth plays its last note.

“Alternate Ending,” the final track, wastes no time. Guitar, bass, and drums burst in immediately, playing call and response with a light synth riff. Magnière and Poyer sing together again. Their voices compliment each other and become another instrument that adds to the tapestry of sound the band creates. The song drives and drives. Even when the synths roll in the song never loses its energy. The strumming guitar and crashing drums play off each other for the final crescendo before the song fades out into feedback. 

Marked by mini synth soundscapes, Tapeworms have married plenty of electronic sounds with their shoegaze, indie rock approach and created a fun trip of an album. The songs never stop evolving, and there are so many textures and feelings on this album. It’s a wild ride that sucks you in, taking you to many places across ten songs. With Funtastic, Tapeworms have made an impressive debut album that gives and gives.

 

Top Photo by Thomas Girard

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