There should be a term that refers to the spread of music influences and genres, like an epidemiology of music. Why does French pop have so many qualifiers, often with little to do with the sound of the music? How does a band as sporadically popular as, say, The Zombies influence young musicians in France? Is it still chanson if it’s a concept record about an alternate dimension? These rhetorical questions buzz in my head as I ponder Speculatio, the latest record from Lyon-based Odessey & Oracle.

Though the label has a tenuous history, the group aligns well with the French genre nouvelle chanson. In their sound you can hear classics like Serge Gainsbourg or Georges Brassens, navigating their native language with chords as much as with words, though Odessey & Oracle adds electric guitars to modernize their palette. You can’t deny the British influence either, with aimless rock melodies appearing on many tracks and album art made in the distinct Zombies style.

I discovered this band some time ago after they put out their debut self-titled LP, and I fell instantly in love with their delightful combination of woodwinds and Casiotone synths. The opening track was a meditation on the year 2016, which was still twelve months away upon its release; perhaps it was a purposeful prophecy, warning us that the world would no longer make sense once we had lived it. The band may be onto something, then, with their latest cosmic journey.

Speculatio boasts a melting pot of influences, maintaining its heavy flutes and harps while introducing beeps and hums that change the album’s perspective. Even with my limited knowledge of French, it is evident that motifs in the lyrics also tie into the conspicuously psychedelic instrumentation. The story on this concept album is bookended with goddesses and gods, but machines insert themselves into the narrative, integrating drones into vocals on 'J’ai Vu Un Croco' and the baroque instrumentation on 'L’Horizon Tombe'. A cacophony of cold synths and percussion break up 'Les Déesses', the opening track, having lured us in with trumpets only to shove us through a shimmering portal to another world.

But is this world new? Or have we simply dusted off our lens? The most self-aware records of the past year have reflected the devolution of world politics, but Speculatio’s greatest success is that it gives us hope. Hope for a brighter tomorrow, with kind nouveaux dieux above us. Optimism that we will transcend our differences and create a better world than the one we see today. Alas, it’s all still just speculation.