This ‘Robyn and La Bagatelle Magique’ article was written by Alistair Ryder, a GIGsoup contributor
The debut collaborative mini album from Robyn and La Bagatelle Magique is born out of tragedy – although listening to the lyrics, you would never be able to guess it. Robyn has become well-renowned for her emotionally crafted lyrics that often read like diary entries; she can make uplifting floor fillers with depressive lyrics that would be rendered emo if a lesser artist was behind them. It is somewhat disconcerting that here, her lyrics are as generic as the average club anthem, to the point that at times you have to check to see how deeply she was involved with the project.
Without context, this sounds like a textbook missed opportunity, but with it, it seems vital. La Bagatelle Magique was conceived alongside Swedish house producer Christian Falk, with the project finished after his untimely death in 2014 using the extensive library of samples and beats he had created as a starting point. Ultimately, this mini-album acts as a tribute to a friend – meaning the lack of emoting (something completely alien for a Robyn album) acts in its favour, as why produce something downbeat when it is dedicated to a man who spent his career creating upbeat dance-pop?
The album isn’t revolutionary by any means, but is an achievement in how it manages to pay tribute to all the different sub-genres Falk admired in such a successful way. The best example is closing track “Tell You (Today)”, which manages to combine old school disco influences with that of modern disco revisionists such as Norwegian producer Todd Terje, making for one of the few current dance songs where it becomes difficult to distinguish as to what is being performed by a live band and what is a computer generated beat or sample. Surprisingly, this is a cover version of a long forgotten 1983 track by Loose Joints; the instrumentation recalls the original, yet manages to fully realise the sound that producers didn’t then have the equipment to make a reality. This is the example where it most blatantly marries old and new – even if you were familiar with the original track, La Bagatelle Magique know better than to just regurgitate the original elements, to the extent that it feels wholly original.
This produces something that is at once almost embarrassingly commercial and radio friendly, yet completely alien to the sensibilities of both modern producers and, of course, radio programmers. Across its five tracks, Love is Free doesn’t challenge you artistically, yet is fun and adventurous in a way so few albums are. It may be a triumph of style over substance, but it doesn’t mean that it is in any way empty on the inside.
So although it doesn’t have the emotional resonance of Robyn’s solo work, Love is Free still helps represent the best of its genre. As generic as the lyrics may be, it is made up by vital, energetic production that initially appears simplistic and little different to the current wave of radio friendly EDM, only to reveal new details on subsequent listens. In fact, it is that most noble of passion projects; one where an artist sacrifices an element of their musical identity (in this case, the lyricism) in order to fully embrace the output of the artist they are paying tribute to. This is an unashamedly uncool album that wants nothing more than for you to get up and dance to it – because that is exactly what Christian Falk would have wanted.