Mickaël Mottet has been toiling in the French indie mines for more than a decade under the name Angil, often with a revolving collective of like-minded collaborators from all over dubbed the Hiddentracks.
In the summer of 2006, Mottet gathered his motley crew of "record-shop owners, students, music teachers and even a police helicopter pilot" around an out-of-tune piano from 1904 (a Joycean synchronicity, for sure) and recorded this unique set of English-language songs. After being asked by his sax player to avoid composing in the hard-to-play key of E, the erudite Mottet was reminded of the playful restrictions of the 1960s Oulipo literary group and went on to write all his songs without using the letter "e," in emulation of Georges Perec's lipogrammatic novel La disparition (translated as A Void).
What makes this inspirational lyrical gimmick work is the quality of the songs and the sure-footedness of Mottet's approach to sound, a not-so-distant European relative of the Elephant 6 palette. The constant presence of that plonky piano anchors the modern-jazz sax-and-drums attack and the other instruments and voices, over which Mottet lays half-spoken English Channel vocals pitched somewhere between Robert Wyatt and the Streets. From the Velvet drone that ends "In Purdah" to the celestial harmonies of "Lift Trip to Mars," this is a rewarding trip that proves you don't need any "e" to have an uplifting time.