Think of a track with the horns of a 60’s Burt Bacharach hit with a 70’s aesthetic recorded on modern equipment, but produced with a touch of nostalgia. Giorgio Tuma manages to balance these all rather well, and he lets singer Lena Karlsson’s voice fly effortlessly through these tracks.
Thanks to the wonders of Bandcamp, I am able to catch up on old friends’ bands from Los Angeles (like Tunnelmental, Farflung, The Secret Society of the Sonic Six), but it’s also quite pleasing to discover bands I missed out on. Cloud have a vibe that is not dissimilar to bands like Galaxie 500 or Luna, but add a touch of Los Angeles to their work. I’m not quite sure how I can qualify that, but growing up hearing so many bands in this area, there’s something in their music that makes it familiar. I’m really enjoying this band.
La Souterraine continue to be the best alternative music label out of France. Each release is a treasure in and of itself, but the fact that they are free means that they should be accessible to anyone who has the time or opportunity to listen to them. I would highly recommend downloading these files in the FLAC format, as the sounds tend to be so rich, but even a 320 kpbs mp3 file would suffice.\
Musically, Terre Battre’s instrumentation is sparse, harsh at times, but with vocals that straddle well between harsh and delicate. French is a fine language to make pensive, moody music in. The label continues to surprise and please me.
This gem is from 2010. It boggles my mind that this gorgeous single escaped my grasp for so long, but I suppose I could say that about a host of reissued albums from all over the world. Not, however, from such a great work out of Montreal (though it seems band leader Olivier Alary is originally from Toulouse, France).
From Ensemble’s Bandcamp site:
‘Envies D’Avalanches’ is the first single to be taken from ‘Excerpts’, the stunning record from Montreal resident Olivier Alary, the songwriter/composer behind Ensemble. A middle ground between lush orchestration, absorbing pop, guitar-indie, experimental sonics and beyond, it offers no obvious or straightforward reference points, yet here is an album full of maturity, sophistication and romance, architectured carefully and atemporally. A loose comparison could be made with Kraftwerk’s unconventional, experimental adventures in pop music, or to the larger scale music of Matthew Herbert in its sublime eccentricity, or even to Yann Tiersen’s gentle nods to chanson française, but behind Alary’s musical charms is an overarching, unique personality that interweaves wide-ranging musical cultures and influences.
There is a dark, melancholic tension to ‘Envies D’Avalanches’: full of brushed percussion and swooping noise, eventually building into a densely textured controlled chaos via Alary’s gorgeous French-language vocals and the track’s initial acoustic guitar-fuelled foundations. Collaborator, the award-winning film/theatre composer Johannes Malfatti, can be heard in the thick, heavy piano chords and subtle harpsichord.
‘Envies D’Avalanches’ is backed with a gorgeous, lilting cover of UB40’s ‘Food For Thought’, their Brit-reggae condemnation of bloated western Christmas celebrations during the time of the Ethiopian famine. The track – led by album collaborator Darcy Conrai’s beautiful vocals – reinvents the dub rhythms of the original track as something far closer to the Ensemble school of songcrafting. The textures are deep and full, embraced by almost slow-motion saxophone melodies, spiky strummed zither and unobtrusive percussion, accordion and spectral drones.
A major theme of the full-length ‘Excerpts’ is the confusion of real memories with fictional ones, and this is no different for ‘Envies D’Avalanches’. Represented by traditional musical forms – the waltz and string quartets found elsewhere on the record – as well as experimental recording techniques (such as recording on cassette tape and degrading it with different tools) mixed with contemporary or standardised techniques, Alary’s illustration of a sense of fictional nostalgia can be felt across the album. It is at once enlightening, dizzying, tragic and beautiful.
Far closer to traditional songwriting or to film score composition than to a “studio project”, ‘Excerpts’ was recorded almost entirely using physical, acoustic instruments and objects (i.e. with no software or sampling). It was committed to tape in Montreal (a city, like the record, bilingual) and mixed in upstate New York and Berlin with Malfatti. ‘Food For Thought’ was recorded by Malfatti and Alary in their respective home studios in Berlin and Montreal.
Olivier was among the first artists to send music to FatCat Records at the label’s inception whilst living in London and working under the name ‘Hearing Is Our Concern’. Eventually retitling his project ‘Ensemble’, Olivier’s debut album ‘Sketch Proposals’ was released by Rephlex Records in 2000. By 2006, Ensemble had re-established his ties to FatCat, and, alongside the release of his beautiful self-titled album (featuring collaborations with Lou Barlow and Cat Power), co-written with Bjork on her ‘Medúlla’ album and contributed several remixes to Bjork singles. Olivier has also composed music for several exhibitions at the V&A museum; contributed to an Audio-Video installation by Doug Aitken at the Centre Georges Pompidou and at the MACBA in Barcelona; and received an honorary mention at the Ars Electronica Festival. Since 2007, he has also provided soundtrack for several feature-length films and documentaries, some of which have received prestigious awards and screenings in Europe, the US and China. His film work includes the score for the 2008 film ‘The Last Train Home’, directed by Lixin Fan, which recently received a Sundance screening.
Many years ago, my brother and I shared a book on Bauhaus that was probably put together by a fan of the band. It had mentioned some rare curios like a 7-inch recording of band bassist David J collaborating with a member of the original Weimar Bauhaus movement in Germany, René Halkett, who had been residing in Cornwall, England in 1980. David recording Halkett reading his own poetry and releasing it as a one-off.
Here are some more notes from David’s Bandcamp site:
While still a member of the pre-eminent gothic rock band Bauhaus, David J had the brilliant idea to collaborate with René Halkett, artist/poet of the Weimar Bauhaus art school in the 1920s.
On July 28th, 1980, David took a trip to René’s cottage in Cornwall. Using a portable cassette recorder, he recorded an 80 year old René reciting his own poetry. In 1981, David added musical accompaniment to two of the poems and released them as a one-off single for 4AD.
I stumbled across this valuable single at a record convention when I was 19 or so. I think I paid four bucks. My buddy has his turntable set up for ripping vinyl to his computer. Before heading over there, I figured I’d look on Soulseek to see if someone had beat me to it. I found the two tracks, plus three extras!
It turns out that in 2001 this single was re-released as a Silver Anniversary CD, signed and numbered, limited to only 1000 copies. The two original tracks, “Nothing” and “Armour,” are remastered and then followed by a newer track, presumably circa 2001. “The New God” is a longer narrative piece that was also recorded that day in 1980. In a fitting touch, David created the music with the help of a lute that he inherited from René when he passed away in 1983. As a final bonus, the original spoken word cassette recordings of “Nothing” and “Armour” are included. Although David’s surname appears here as Jay, for consistency’s sake I’ve tagged his name as David J, the name he’s used for all subsequent releases in his career.
René Halkett & David J – Nothing . Armour (1981)
1. René Halkett / David J – Nothing (2:22)
2. René Halkett / David J – Armour (2:50)
3. René Halkett / David J – The New God (13:23)
4. René Halkett – Nothing (2:26)
5. René Halkett – Armour (2:53)
creditsreleased January 1, 2011
Words by Renee Halkett
Music by David J
c&p 2001 Urbane Music
Photographed by Anton Corbijn
‘Nothing’ and ‘Armour’ recorded in 1980 and originally released on 4AD Records in 1981
‘The New God’ recorded in 2001, spoken word from the original recording by Rene Halkett 1980.
‘Nothing’ and ‘Armour’ (spoken word) recorded in 1980.
There’s not a lot of music I could compare Slovak chanteuse Katarína Máliková to. Her sound is utterly unique, and I could only imagine bands like Dead Can Dance as sharing her ethereal vibe. The instrumentation could fit somewhere comfortably between folk, fusion and Fourth World Ambient (think Jon Hassell).
For fans of these genres and of artists like Loreena McKennitt.
May they rest in peace, and may APZOO recover.