Chef Menteur: Press


May 2006
We Await Silent Tristero's Empire Album Review, Terrascope's Rumbles.

Hailing from New Orleans Chef Menteur play songs, psychedelic improvisations and lo-fi experiments on We Await Silent Tristero's Empire, a collection of pieces recorded 2002-2004 before they became a full band. Opening piece "Europa" is a percussion led drone that slowly builds into a dark cloud of noise, the rhythms lost in the debris, before "Pointu" gets you dancing with it's groovy Farfisa organ sound, although this is soon surrounded by swirling noise that ensures nothing is too comfortable. Track three "Paysans De La Mer" is pure psychedelia, a shimmering eastern delight, complete with real Sitar, whilst "Matiasma" is an improvised noise/drone that unsettles and delights at the same time. Further in, "W.A.S.T.E." is a pulsing electronic piece that unexpectedly changes, full of street sounds and backward effects, and gaining a sun-drenched haze that slowly evaporates leaving the scratchy electronics and effects to slowly fade into nothing. The atmosphere is changed again when the slow motion space drone of "Caverns Of The White Widow" melts from your speakers, space made liquid, the sound of your soul leaving it's body. (If memory serves me correctly White Widow is also the name of a particularly trippy brand of marijuana that once left me grinning like an idiot for several hours, but that's another story). Final track "Io" is a vast expanse of medative sound, a pure drone that is like a heat haze, slowly changing yet remaining the same, a mirage for the ears that works perfectly, and is indicative of the quality and innovation that cuts across this album, offering an expansive palette of sounds that are blended together into a cornucopia of musical delights for the discerning listener. —Simon Lewis

March 2006
We Await Silent Tristero's Empire Album Review, The Wire magazine (#265).

Now established as a working quartet compromising Mike Mayfield, Chris Sule, Alec Vance and Jim Yonkus, these tracks predate the full-time arrival of Mayfield and Sule. The background beats and ambiences that Vance and Yonkus had collected on old-fashioned tape machines have since been dusted off and overdubbed for this release. These expansive instrumentals are typified by Yonkus's surging, probing bass and the washes of synth both he and Vance favour. There's a cool detachment to the sitar tinged "Paysans De La Mer", and an epic rolling quality to the lithe "Europa". The disc closes with two lengthier, freer and more experimental tracks. A roiling chaos of sound finds form and focus through its course in "Pointu II", acting as an Ur-version of its earlier polished version. The shimmering, lush, synth wash of "10", named after one of Jupiter's moons, wears its wondrous space rock ambience on its sleeve. —Nick Southgate

March 15, 2006
We Await Silent Tristero's Empire Album Review, Prefix online magazine.

This is a great spot at which to bring up the issue of reviewer neutrality. Spoiler alert: The following might be biased, because the six members of Chef Menteur have three things that endear their band to my heart. For one, they're from New Orleans. Their name comes from a major Crescent City thoroughfare, and in the liner notes they thank college radio deejays whom yours truly used to work with. Second, the band recorded We Await Silent Tristero's Empire in the waning days before Hurricane Katrina; any art with such an antediluvian pedigree is bound to be elevated to mythic status. And finally, any indie band that uses an obscure reference from a Thomas Pynchon novel must be smarter than your average major-label bear. (Although Thrice just did that, too, didn't it?)  

It's hard to talk about separate tracks on We Await Silent Tristero's Empire since as a whole it drones and throbs like one big continuous art piece - this is noise rock in the vein of Acid Mothers Temple or Kinski. The title track starts out robotically, sounding like a current Hot Chip track, but it then picks up a Caribbean vibe, not unlike something you'd expect from the Avalanches. "Paysanas de la Mer" stands out with its spicy sitar. And "Io," seventeen-plus minutes of faintly glowing ambiance, ends the album in very Eno-esque fashion.  

Oh, and one more thing: don't ever antagonize the horn.

November 2005
We Await Silent Tristero's Empire Album Review, Aural Innovations online magazine.

From Aural Innovations #32 (November 2005) Backporch Revolution is, or was, based in New Orleans, so we can just hope that they survived the hurricane and incompetence of the US government. Chef Menteur is an outfit (not sure how many people that is normally but in this case it is 5) who create all instrumental groovy soundscapes with cool catchy bass lines and strange sounds. They play a lot of regular musical instruments (or sample them) as well. Paysans de la Mer features a sitar. This is yet another one of those amazing sound creations that one just has to get into the right state of mind to take the journey. The CD encompasses the instrumental-space rock-soundscape-experimental music genre quite well. While not much of the CD would really be considered rock by anyone, the bass line, which is always very cool, keeps the tracks moving while the sound cacophony takes over your senses and leaves you in another place than you started. —Scott Heller

October 2005
We Await Silent Tristero's Empire Album Review, Foxy Digitalis online magazine.

[Rating 9 out of 10] I don't wish to diminish this disc by simply tacking on a few significant reference points as if it were birthed by lesser beings (or a teenage garage band), but from the moment I started listening to it I kept thinking that it really should have been released by Strange Attractors Audio House. Unlike space flight dreamweapon contemporaries Landing and SubArachnoid Space however, Chef Menteur is essentially a duo. The core of the band is comprised of multi-instrumentalists Alec Vance & Jim Yonkus with a few other cats rounding out the sounds with post-improv synths and percussion (though it seems a solid line up is now in place). We Await… is an alluring collection of psych & space rock jams recorded over the period of two years cleaned and polished up for consumption. Given the relative uniformity and strength of the songs, there must have been a lot of tape to prowl through, coz there's very little filler within the album's 70+ minute run. So either these guys record everything and shake out the seeds and stems or they are musical geniuses or savants that hit the mark each time out. I hope there is more to come from these guys. But seeing that they and their label is based in New Orleans I'm guessing that a lot of gear is now gone. Here's to hoping that all is good and more NOLA psych will be blastin' out soon!!! — Chris Jacques

August 2005
We Await Silent Tristero's Empire Album Review, Almostcool online magazine

Chef Menteur is not the first and will also not be the last band to reference Thomas Pynchon's literary classic The Crying Of Lot 49 in their music. For their second release (a full-length follow-up to their debut Vive La France! EP), the group has taken the statement from behind the secret organization within Pynchon's novel and turned it into the title of their album. Pairing the mysterious statement with their psychedelic long-form space rock workouts is a marriage that actually works out quite well.
Apparently, the group holed away in their own studio over the course of the past couple years for the creation of the twelve songs and well over seventy minutes of music on the release. Analog synths crash up against organ grooves, guitar workouts, a slew of middle eastern sounds (sitar, dulcimer, kalimba) and a mixture of live and programmed percussion. The result is a stew of sonic experimentation that at times touches on the work of the Shalabi Effect at at others drifts into territory haunted by spaced-out guitar groups like Yume Bitsu and Landing.
"Europa" opens the release with unfolding sheets of guitar tones over a rhythm section that grows increasingly impatient before rising up and turning the end of the track into a kaleidoscopic freakout. "Pointu" locks into a more sustained groove with programmed and live drums combining to form a solid beat while dense layers of synths and guitar rumbles squeal over one another in a track that's little more than one long crescendo, but works quite well regardless. The group goes even more overboard on "Charlie Don't Surf," as a blistering wall of sound mixes about 6 layers of guitars alongside a buzzy synth melody for a squalling treat.
The album-titled (abbreviated) track of "W.A.S.T.E." is probably the groups finest effort on the entire release, however, as they mix up styles successfully and throw a slew of different styles into an insanely catchy track that runs just about six minutes. After opening with some squelchy electronic loops, the track progresses into an airy, light piece that strums along with acoustic guitar, handclaps, and "whoot-whoot" vocals before dissolving into a third section that combines the first two just about perfectly.
With two ten-minute plus tracks that close the release (and in a couple other places on the album), the group seems to let their home-studio jams get the best of them, but even when a piece sounds more like an outtake of a longer effort (as on "Pseudologia Fantastica"), they still manage to wring scads of atmosphere out and often cruise by on neat-sounding cinematic sounds alone. Despite a couple soft spots, this really is one of the better releases that I've heard in this genre in some time. If you enjoy any of the aforementioned artists or just good guitar-driven psych rock, Chef Menteur is a lesser-known band you should definitely hunt down.

25 July 2005
We Await Silent Tristero's Empire Album Review, Stylus online magazine.

Maybe when you’re actually getting paid for it, you have to listen to whatever album the editor deigns to shove your way, but for those of us in the more free and easy terrain of the volunteer music writer, there’s still the problem of selection. Oh, sure, I can drive over to Stylus’ vast warehouse of promos and cherry-pick a few tempting ones to tide me over for a few weeks, but what is it that causes me to pick A and not B? The answer is painfully mundane but also, I think, overlooked: They are the exact same sort of often irrational, idiosyncratic reasons that lead the non-writing listener to give a particular album a shot.
In Chef Menteur’s case, I obtained their first album/clearinghouse purely because of the abiding love I have for Thomas Pynchon’s novel The Crying Of Lot 49. Those who have read it probably already noticed that We Await Silent Tristero's Empire’s title comes directly from the book, and although this “collection of songs, psychedelic improvisations and low-fi experiments” bears no real relation to the strange adventures of Oedipa Maas aside from the title, something eerie, silent and a little sinister lurks at the heart of both.
In sound the New Orleans outfit often veers close to the extended, gorgeous formlessness of bands like Stars Of The Lid or | head | phone | over | tone |, with occasional dips into bursts of noise. They claim to prioritize “texture and mood instead of rhythm, harmonics over melody” on their website, and scattered among the longer pieces on this album are short tidbits that don’t do much beyond establishing a feeling before evaporating. They’re not bad, with the dusty Western guitar loop of “Maida Vale” and the brief, sitar-aided “Paysans De La Mer” in particular providing refreshing interludes, but mostly they’re just distractions from the big slabs of sound that compose most of We Await Silent Tristero's Empire and leave the most telling impressions.
“Europa” begins the album sounding like an out-take from Eluvium’s masterful Talk Amongst The Trees album, but soon some muted drumming comes in. Only some of these pieces were recorded after Chef Menteur became a full band (as opposed to Alex Vance and Jim Yonkus working as a duo), and “Europa” is one of the strongest indications that adding Mike Mayfield and Chris Sule on drums and percussion was a good choice. For most of its seven minutes “Europa” is dreamy motorik, but eventually it ends in a hollow explosion, jolting the listener back to full awareness. “Caverns Of The White Widow,” Hammer Horror title aside, is the gentlest track, small curls of feedback and tentative organ welcoming you into its confines.
“Pointu II” and “Io” end the record with twenty-seven minutes of similarly epic proportions. The former pits a grinding feedback howl against persistent organs before the organ eventually sputters to a halt, exhausted. “Io,” meanwhile, bears some resemblance to Spacemen 3’s ambient “Ecstasy Symphony,” or maybe Canadian shoegazers SIANspheric’s “Where The Planets Revolve, I Wish I Was There” but is, if anything, even less hurried. The sound does ebb and flow during “Io,” but at the time it sounds seamless.
Probably the most telling track is also the most incongruous; “W.A.S.T.E.” was made using only a computer and segues from deadpan beats into sunnily pastoral acoustics and handclaps, before fizzling out in static. With regards to composition, tools, sounds, and most other measures it should stick out like a sore thumb here but it doesn’t. It just sounds like Chef Menteur. Their willingness not only to throw caution to the wind to build an intelligible aesthetic but also to show us the places where that aesthetic spills out into interesting directions means that despite the one-size-fits-all nature of a collection like We Await Silent Tristero's Empire it’s hard not to feel as if you’re in good hands with this band, and that their eventual first album proper won’t be one worth waiting for. — Ian Mathers

15 July 2005
We Await Silent Tristero's Empire Album Review, Beat the Indie Drum online magazine

New Orleans' Chef Menteur specialize in sprawling instrumental freakouts and ambience while tapping into the Kraut heroes of yesteryear and Brian Eno's grab-bag of sonic tricks. The band assembled bits and pieces of found sounds over the last few years, beefing them up in the studio and have delicately sequenced them into what has become their debut LP. Backporch Revolution, a well-respected local record label dealing with all things musically progressive and analog, wisely released Tristero's Empire in Feb 2005.
There are standout tracks on the album but it would be an injustice to single them out. 'Caverns of The White Widow' is 7 minutes of creepy feedback, low-end percussion and sounds pretty much like what I imagine the bottom of the ocean to emanate, given I could descend that far and not be pulverized into tiny scraps of angler fish bait. The heavily Eno-esque "Pointu' rumbles along on a deep bassline slowly building up tension and could have easily found its way onto the Lost In Translation soundtrack. Its sequel 'Pointu II' is basically an identical extension of the theme, if not a slight bit more strangled and adventurous.
You can't help but be intrigued by the wide variety of samples and instruments used to create We Await Silent Tristero's Empire. Various synths squeak and squabble. Sitars clang all throughout 'Paysans de la Mer'. Banjo, handclaps, hootin', sparse acoustic guitar and field recordings of a nearby neighborhood drive the latter half of 'W.A.S.T.E.' (now the classic Pynchon references register) before it's sealed up with a glitchy outro. The album is bookended by the aptly-titled 'Europa' and 'Io', two of Jupiter's most significant moons or for you Bullfinch's buffs, notable characters in Greek mythology. 'Europa' is a patient, yet glorious post-rock epic, not only serving as a proper introduction but grabbing the listener's attention immediately and preparing them for the rest of the album. The closer 'Io' sprawls itself out over 17 minutes, utilizing a spacious, dirgey drone, not unlike the movie score for 2001: A Space Odyssey when Captain Bowman ascends to his final(?) destination. Some may consider this a bore but I most definitely feel life on this satellite. Stunning.
Sometimes albums cut of this mold have a tendency to get lost on a listener. Artists get the urge to pile on the gloss or, inversely, oversimplify the themes and emotions they are trying to convey by employing staunch minimalism as a means to perhaps give their music a 'complex' feel. We Await successfully bridges the gap between these disparate ideals by leaving just the right amount of secrecy to their mission while at the same time expounding upon its obvious musical influences in a classy, not-totally-derivative manner. I can recount several moments during the album where I was literally surprised at how gracefully the band formed structure within a song without resorting to cacophonous noise or clashing time signatures. Fresh, hauntingly beautiful and truly therapeutic. Hit 'repeat'.
RIYL: Brian Eno, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Boredoms, Stereolab, Pink Floyd, Can

21 June 2005
We Await Silent Tristero's Empire Album Review, Gambit Weekly magazine

In Thomas Pynchon's novel The Crying of Lot 49, the word "WASTE," written on seemingly innocent trash cans, was revealed to stand for the same phrase these prog-rockers used to title their first full-length studio recording. In the novel, the phrase was part of a complex conspiracy that was laboriously explored but never satisfactorily solved -- in the traditional sense. Instead, suspicion, subtle paranoia and layers of possible meaning that floated through the plot were laid out for the reader, sometimes coming together to create small solutions to the larger puzzle, sometimes not. It was a confusing and unsatisfying book.
What this has to do with the record is that Chef Menteur has created a sonic text here similar, in a lot of ways, to Pynchon's literary one. Layers of sound -- sculpted by as much traditional instrumentation as electronic effects -- create a trancelike, ambient wash that's often lovely, but not necessarily cohesive. The two core members of Chef Menteur, Alex [sic] Vance and Jim Yonkus, are known for being relentless tinkerers with their sound, and the album is, according to the liner notes, a collection of "psychedelic improvisations and lo-fi experiments."
The standout track, "W.A.S.T.E.," nudges the listener out of a trance-drenched fog with staccato electronic beats that dissolve into a wash of acoustic guitar and dulcimer on top of what sounds like barely discernible human chatter. For those who like their space-rock lulling the whole way through, the album might fare better without the 17-minute closing track, "Io." The dissonant, crashing experimental sound is a rude awakening after a long, pleasant psychedelic naptime. -- Alison Fensterstock

June 2005
We Await Silent Tristero's Empire Album Review, Offbeat magazine.

All-instrumental locals Chef Menteur remind me of what the Flaming Lips or Radiohead would sound like if they silenced their plaintive lead singers, finally doing away with any pop preconceptions. It is tough to recommend a separate track on We Await Silent Tristero’s Empire, as the entire CD works as a singular performance. Chef Menteur’s brand of extended prog-rock jams will likely garner comparisons to Pink Floyd and King Crimson, but even those legendary bands’ albums famous for their lengthy excesses can’t hold a candle to the monolith that is We Await Silent Tristero’s Empire. Sure, half of the CD’s tracks are under five minutes, but they could be spliced together as longer pieces, as they tend to run into and complement each other. Of course, this says nothing about the music itself, which is at turns breathtaking, ominous, and downright harrowing. Most of it sounds like the score to an odd indie sci-fi film, especially the foreboding “Caverns of the White Widow” and “W.A.S.T.E.,” the best track and the only thing resembling a dance number here. Its alternation between sunshine-drenched acoustic guitars and minimalist, computerized beats sound like one of Brian Wilson’s nightmares. Some of the longer numbers, though, could have been either shortened or changed up to prevent monotony. This is especially true of the 17-minute closer “Io,” which mostly sounds like a symphony orchestra tuning up. Nevertheless, for the most part, this empire is one worth waiting for.—Jeremy J. Deibel

May/June 2005
We Await Silent Tristero's Empire Album Review, Six Ten Split magazine.

Next time I travel it will be ticket-less and with no known destination. When I am in an airplane, above the clouds, hovering in a baby blue sky and need my anxiety fed, I will reward myself with We Await Silent Tristero's Empire in my headphones. This unpredictable, sprawling soundtrack tells my tales. It strays from convention and deceives all my pre-conceived notions. When I think I have this band pinned down--classified and defined, stocked in the right aisle of my local mega super-store CD retailer--Chef Menteur cunningly turns around and goes another way. It's brimming with equal parts pins and needle tension and stoned space jams. Although for the most part the different tracks hold their own, this album is also a cohesive saga. It's mood and atmosphere-based rather than melody-driven. The narrative only becomes understandable in the context of the whole album, but even then, it's open for interpretation and defined by the listener's own state of mind. I, for one, can't decide if this album is filled with doom or hope. The album was created over the span of two years in Chef Menteur's rehearsal space/recording studio. Founding members Alec Vance and Jim Yonkus play an impressive array of instruments including (but not limited to): sitar, dulcimer, guitar, kalimba, upright bass, and various analog keyboards and synthesizers, while Chris Sule and Mike Mayfield add drums and percussion. Despite the many ways Chef Menteur have chosen to capture their sounds on tape—4-track tape, analog and digital—the end result is seamless and big sounding, perhaps thanks to Piety Street Recording's John Fischbach's skilled mastering. If you want to treat your ears to a feast of interesting sounds and textures, of ebb and flow, and if you love daydreaming, you should run out and buy We Await Silent Tristero's Empire today. — Victoria Larsson

February 2005
Show Preview, Six Ten Split magazine.


Local sound sculptors Chef Menteur will be bringing their instrumental music extravaganza to a venue big enough to fit their expansive, sweeping soundscapes (not to mention all their equipment!). This band paints using carefully arranged vintage keyboards and synthesizers, suggestive drumming, and bold yet contemplative guitar playing. Although this band has been around since 1998 in various incarnations, any Chef Menteur live performance is a treat, since Alec Vance, Jim Yonkus, and company are more interested in recording than performing. The band can change direction on a whim and go off on some quite interesting tangents, for fans of moody, atmospheric rock/electronica hybrids and Brian Eno. Be sure to keep your eyes open, because the accompanying visuals will further enhance any brain-altering occurrence. The lyrics will be in YOUR head. — Victoria Larsson (scroll down)

February 2005
"In the sonic kitchen with New Orleans' kookiest French-porno soundtrackeurs"

Feature Interview, Antigravity magazine.


Alec and Jim talk with Noah Bonaparte Pais about politics, film and music

13 February 2005
Radio Interview, WTUL.

Alec and Jim talk with Chris Crowley about politics, drugs and music.

October 2004
"Amplified Guide to New Orleans", FUSE-TV.

National cable music channel profiles New Orleans area bands.

October 2004
Circle Bar Show Review, 10 October 2004, Live New Orleans.

And that when they got super dreamy, listening to their music was similar to watching water reflect off of blue water. Also, their ominous and repetitive bass lines gave the more rockin’ songs some needed nastiness....
Samples, synthesizers (one being a Moog), e-bows—it was all there. The great thing about the music was that no matter how many layers there were, there was always a pulse. I tapped or stomped my foot most of their set. Nice grooves. The other cool thing was that they were organic, as well. A conga was used along with a drum kit to create polyrhythms that only added to the trance nature of the music. The band had an attractive accessibility. Not too dark or light. Just subversive enough to get past the ears of a Republican. I enjoyed the video they played against the performance room’s back wall. Goldfish swam in a toilet, and I sped through a tunnel in the driver’s seat.

I think the band’s improvisational spirit made them push boundaries and find sounds other people would have passed up or not thought of putting together. These guys were talented and a good time. Long live Chef Menteur. —Jason Songe (with photos)

September 2004
"Vive La France!" EP (review), Where Y'at Magazine.

On the cusp of a new full length slated for the fall, the cleverest named band in the local scene (it’s more than just a strip of rent-by-the-hour motels) has re-issued Vive la France!, their francophile debut EP.
Originally released in June of 2003, Vive la France! weaves airy guitar melodies and staccato bass lines over layers of textural synth/guitar loops, creating forty minutes of lush, instrumental soundscapes reminiscent of a dreamier Labradford. Highlights include the dark, drony “empires sans frontieres” and the more college radio friendly “ecoutez et repetez”, which contains a catchy, sliding bass thump alongside samples of French people saying French stuff.
Nuance is the name of the game with Chef Menteur, so depending on your mood and taste, Vive la France! will either drug you into a space rock trance or help tuck you into a pleasant nights sleep. And if you are still looking for a reason to vote this presidential election, check out the Bush MP3 on their website, in which our Prez denounces Chef Menteur as dirty, evil terrorists.  Maybe the band name hits a little too close to home.
— Bailey Finnegan

Sept 2004
"MP FREE", Antigravity Magazine.

Chef Menteur's free mp3s downloads are featured.

17 Aug 2004
"Hot Seven" Pick, Gambit Weekly.

Dec 2003
"Cooking up Art", Times-Picayune

Chris Rose, local yokel, no-thrills celebrity watcher, and Times-Picayune hack (we mean that in the nicest way) wrote up a piece about a show we played at the Lucky 13 with Heather Weathers. Naturally he was too distracted by Heather's meat bikinis to even figure out what a great opportunity he had to pun on our band's name...

Jan 2002
"Live Wires", Gambit Weekly.

Chef Menteur is one of several New Orleans acts profiled in a cover story about the local electronic scene; other bands profiled include our pals Electrical Spectacle and Glorybee.




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