Monday, October 29, 2007

The Tough Alliance - A New Chance

It would be too damm easy to write-off The Tough Alliance. Wait, another synthpop duo? Wait, these ones are also coming from Sweden? Add their inclination to write absurdly-happy songs that are on the verge of being too camp or not afraid to sound ridiculous to more conventional ears and you have a potential object of infuriated hate. And let's not forget their tendency to provoke and confuse, using the best agit-pop tactics available, resulting already in some very funny comments written by the Swedish press. So they glorify violence! They embrace hooliganism! And they lip-sync in their shows! But look past this basic (way basic!) reaction, and enjoy the fact that there's a band out there that doesn't look to be consensual and just wants to shake things up a bit. And, as there's more to them than the eye first meets, listen twice to their music and be surprised. Maybe you'll find that, behind the optimism and beach-party-vibes there are actually immense songs full of complex elements and rich details. In many ways, their sound ends up incorporating many of the things that have been heard in the last few months, like balearic rhythms or candid tunes, along with some other sonic surprises (you can even hear Mid-Eastern samples somewhere), resulting in a big cauldron never afraid to sound excessive or worried about following preconceived codes. So think poignant happy songs, pop-deconstruction, musical anarchy... and just like that, here's one of the most political records of the year. Explosive stuff. Or just an enthusiastic "fuck you" delivered with a sincere smile in the form of excellent pop-music. (9,5/10)

The Tough Alliance - First Class Riot (video)

Official Site

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Music Videos # 61

Glass Candy - Digital Versicolor

What started as an italo-disco revival, is now getting darker and spookier-sounding every minute. Fresh from being part of the great After Dark compilation, G/L/A/S/S/C/A/N/D/Y now release a track which further explores those minimal grooves full of Moroder synths and digital echoes. The accompanying video follows a young girl in her night out. With a very DIY visual and including shots of a trip to the laundry, let's just say that what we see is not as glamorous as what could be expected.

Myspace page

Polaroids # 16

Tony Oursler - "Switch" installment (1996)

(Pictures taken on the 21st of October 2007 to some of the intriguing video-installments by Tony Oursler, included in the "Centre Pompidou - New Media 1965-2003" exhibition which can be seen at the Chiado Museum in Lisbon. Yes, the gentleman in the last picture is none other than Mr. David Bowie)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Rhys Chatham - A Crimson Grail (For 400 Electric Guitars)

Commissioned for a Paris arts festival called "La Nuit Blanche", this is a project created in 2005 by New York composer Rhys Chatham, to be played by an orchestra of 400 guitars. Yes, you read it right, 400 guitars, as monumental as that. While the original performance was more than 12 hours long, this recording edited everything and divided it into three pieces, each one taking between 15 and 20 minutes. The end result, full of cinematic and evocative sounds, is quite frankly breathtaking. The first piece is the most symphonic one and is basically a long and beautiful atmospheric drone with dramatic textures, where it's virtually impossible to distinguish each sound, as they're all so well integrated into each other, while the second piece sounds like an hypnotic loop that keeps following a very subtle metronomic rhythm until evolving into a cathartic cascade of sounds. Finally, the third piece begins with an enigmatic wall of sound, adding more and more dissonance and slowly building an involving sonic monument. As a whole, and with so many unique and detailed textures, "A Crimson Grail" could be seen as an hypnotic and abstract wave that keeps drawing circles until it's virtually impossible not to be fully immersed by it. And at that point, with such an epic soundtrack as this, anything becomes possible. One can only think what an intense experience the original 12-hour marathon must have been. (8/10)

Official Site
MySpace page

Les Chansons D'Amour

After last year's Dans Paris, Les Chansons D'Amour looks like a logical sequel. Louis Garrel character is basically the same, Paris streets seem part of the narrative, there's a loss (now a literal one) and a look at its consequences... But this time there's also a surprising twist: Les Chansons D'Amour is also a musical. Yes, one of those where out of nowhere the characters start singing. But worry not, as these musical numbers are really well integrated in the narrative, almost in a natural way, where each song (and quite good songs...) is not a pause in the story but instead sublimes a sequence, a state of mind or a situation and helps things going. The rest is what you get when you look at the lives of a group of young and liberal Parisiennes, their relationships, their daily routines, their crisis. It all starts with a candid threesome, but that's only the beginning...


Saturday, October 20, 2007

Jens Lekman - Night Falls Over Kortedala

The time for immortal superstars seems to be coming close to an end. Apart from a few exceptions that are still relevant today and actually seem immortal (hello Madonna and, hum, who else?), the current music stars are regular people, full of normal insecurities and fears, with whom anyone can identify with. Take Jens Lekman, for example. After almost reaching stardom in 2005 with his previous album Oh You're So Silent Jens, he lost all his confidence, abandoned music and found a job as a bingo caller. Luckily for us, it seems he has solved his own insecurities and is now back with what is his best album yet. The sound here is mostly grandiose, sometimes even reaching epic proportions like with the wonderfully beautiful opener "And I Remember Every Kiss", a track full of dramatic orchestrations and melodic crescendos. Elsewhere throughout these 12 songs, Jens embraces a wider palette of styles, even incorporating alien elements like Motown-soul or doo-wop in his own kaleidoscopic vision of what indie-pop should be. Another great asset of his: the genius lyrics, half-touching, half-humorous, full of sincere declarations and charming opinions but also hilarious situations and poignant comments (who else could make songs describing what it's like to be the boyfriend of a catholic lesbian or about immigrant hairdressers?). All in all, an ambitious travel into the fascinating mind of a common everyday-guy, where you can walk on clouds, feel goosebumps and hear fireworks in your head. Just like any regular guy. (9,5/10)

Jens Lekman - Sipping On The Sweet Nectar (video)

Sky-writing in Iceland...hum...

Official Site

Saturday, October 13, 2007

September Collective - All The Birds Were Anarchists

Consisting of Stefan Schneider (from To Rococo Rot), Barbara Morgenstern and Paul Wirkus, Berlin-based electronic project September Collective seem to give as much attention to silence as to sounds when making music. Building delicate pieces out of micro-details, experimental structures and improvisation dynamics, their goal seems to be finding melody out of the concept of sound-bricolage, but always with a very sparse use of sounds and loops. There's also an important aspect that calls to attention the title "All The Birds Were Anarchists" (and also its cover), as everything sounds very nature-related, as if these were the little sounds that could be heard out there in the forrests. In a way, it brings to mind the best moments of danish project Opiate and their "While You Were Sleeping" album, though with a less ethereal approach and a more down-to-earth / organic attitude. (7/10)

MySpace page

Monday, October 08, 2007

Death Proof

Half of the "Grindhouse" project (a double-feature film done together with Robert Rodriguez which aimed to recreate the typical 1970's sessions in B movies theatres, including fake damaged film reels), Death Proof could be described as the story of a man obsessed with killing beautiful women in car crashes. But there's much more to it... actually, if you count them, we only have two main "action" scenes in the movie, as the rest is all about pure Tarantino-like dialogues, cool characters, cool shots, cool music... Even more direct than usual with Tarantino, everything then leads to the two "action" scenes, the first one ending the first half of the movie and being an iconic massacre (including an unbelievable shot of a leg flying...), while the second one ends with a car-chase that is virtually breathtaking. Loaded with the purest form of adrenaline (my advice, don't go behind the wheel after seeing it, or you'll happily want to run over everyone you dislike), you could also call it another ode from Tarantino to women in general. Clearly an act of love.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Port-Royal - Afraid To Dance

In wrong hands, the whole ambient music concept can bore the hell out of us. Not everyone has the ability to create sounds that keep us focused when, in fact, and at first glance, not much is happening besides repetition. With "Afraid To Dance" (the title actually says a lot...), italian project Port-Royal have built a restrained world half based on classic mid-tempo electronic beats, while the other half uses layers of abstract structures and involving drones, with songs that slowly and subtly mutate and evolve in circles, suggesting an hypnotic trance theme. The final result is full of vast landscapes and a mysterious melancholy, where the whole concept of extreme beauty once again finds a new soundtrack to explain its attributes. (7,5/10)

Port-Royal - Putin vs Valery (video)

MySpace page