If there was one way to describe Jonathan Boulet’s music – both as the singular man and as the gathered band that performs the 24-year-old’s compositions – it would be a deeply unfashionable (and clunky) phrase like, ‘tribal communalism.’

Yet community is the key to Boulet’s appeal and work ethic.

In fact, to draw an ever tighter thread – his breakout hit from his 2009 self-titled debut was titled ‘A Community Service Announcement’; bubbling around a central melodious hook, layers of rhythm and the kind of chanting custom-built for hundreds-strong crowds.

The album surrounding it though, was a mish-mash of Boulet’s sonic sketches and dense rhythms that hasn’t held up particularly well in retrospect.

For album number two, whose name itself is another chanted lyric, We Keep The Beat Found The Sound See The Need Start The Heart, Boulet has struck upon a greater sense of cohesion to match his ambition.

Opening with the grammar-baiting ‘You’re A Animal’, Boulet’s sets a breathless pace that rarely falters; as the drums, percussion and rhythmic melodies all crash together into a blustered mesh of cathartic noise. That cacophony however is a controlled, polished one, with Boulet coming leaps and bounds as a producer as well as arranger for his second effort.

Sonically the likes of ‘This Song Is Called Ragged’ blend in xylophones and lingering guitar patterns, while ‘Dread Is The Place’ makes an argument to un-dagify the pan pipes; all the while the army of frenetic percussion and chanted vocals bubbling away. The bluster never overtakes the sense of structure and melody, even at its most eccentric – that’ll be the Akron/Family styled freak folk of ”Trounce’ – these songs maintain a pulse, with waves of melody to get swept up in.

Keep The Beat‘s ending offers the only moment of restrained intimacy, in ‘Cent Voix’, as layers of cooing humming are layered on top of each other. It’s the rewarding exhale after a record’s worth of stomping unity. It also reveals that Boulet deals in musical extremes, but always with a penchant that aims for, well… a sense of tribal community.

Or as the man himself puts it more simply, ‘it’s everybody’s music’

– Al Newstead

Get unlimited access to the coverage that shapes our culture.
to Rolling Stone magazine
to Rolling Stone magazine