REED & CAROLINE’s debut album ‘Buchla & Singing’ did what it said on the tin and with it came charming quirky synthpop like ‘John & Rene’, ‘Singularity (We Bond)’ and ‘Electron’.
Championed by none other than Vince Clarke and signed to his Brooklyn-based Very Records, Reed Hays and Caroline Schutz successfully combined tunes with electronic experimentation.
Their second album ‘Hello Science’ is more of the same, but with cello and a Vako Orchestron added to the playground apparatus.
The Orchestron was a polyphonic electronic keyboard made famous by KRAFTWERK on ‘Radio-Activity’ and ‘Trans Europe Express’ which used optical discs containing pre-recorded sounds such as choirs and strings; for ‘Hello Science’, discs of Caroline Schutz’s voice were specially made using the original Orchestron factory equipment courtesy of its current custodian Pea Hicks!
Buchla launched its Music Easel in 1973 and ‘Hello Science’ certainly comprises of many airy sonic colours in a concept album of sorts inspired by Hays’ hometown of Huntsville, Alabama to where a community of rocket scientists had decamped from Europe after World War Two.
The album’s strapline is “Formulate hypotheses and gather all the facts – it’s science! It’s all about science!” and begins with the celebratory ‘Before’; the combination of watery arpeggios, cello and Schutz’s lightly treated voice provides a pleasant start to proceedings with this pretty electronic folk ballad.
The more uptempo and bouncy ‘Dark Matter’ adds vocoder plus some Hooky bass and vocals from Kendra Frost and Ayşe Hassan of KITE BASS. Despite the Brit presence, the track affirms REED & CAROLINE’s distinctly North American sound not unlike AU REVOIR SIMONE, especially in its enticing “dah-da-da-da” refrain.
With a tinge of techno, ‘Buoyancy’ provides a dancey lift while ‘Another Solar System’ is a direct “pie in the sky” reference to the ambitions of NASA with sparkly synths which reflect Hays’ belief that “my love of science is something spiritual and optimistic”.
The title track springs a surprise by being completely acoustic with this cello overture recalling SPARKS in its vocal arrangement and layering but despite this, it doesn’t sound at all out of place.
‘Digital Trash’ is what DUBSTAR would have sounded like if Sarah Blackwood had been born in Brooklyn instead of Halifax and is a wonderfully poignant commentary on social media, data manipulation and online privacy.
Treading not dissimilar musical territory, ‘Ocean’ is full of breezy nautical escapism and Buchla 100 handclaps.
The haunting ‘Entropy’ is a tribute to a departed friend and a fabulously touching Numan homage to his ‘Dance’ period, in particular ‘Cry The Clock Said’. The hypnotic soundtrack of gentle preset rhythms and eerie Roland CP30 electric piano is complimented by Schutz even adopting the phrasing of the man born Gary Anthony James Webb.
A variety of synthbass wobbles, Orchestron choral sweeps and sequenced pulses shape the appropriately robotic ‘Computers’ while with a militaristic offbeat that comes over like mutant chromatic reggae, ‘Internet Of Things’ is a cutely bizarre offering that lyrically highlights the potential downfalls of modern society’s over-reliance on web-connected devices and home appliances.
‘Continuous Interfold’ acts as an abstract art piece before the main act closes with ‘Metatron’ which delightfully goes all Philip Glass with its cacophony of voices. As a bonus, Vince Clarke provides his distinctive studio magic to a remix of ‘Before’, giving it a more percussive mainstream accessibility.
Speaking of which, with fewer of the instrumental interludes that formed a significant part of ‘Buchla & Singing’, ‘Hello Science’ is a much more distinct pop focussed offering with songs kept quite short and on point.
If there is a criticism, it might be there are slightly too many tracks, but it does not disguise the fact that this record is a very enjoyable listen.
Despite the science, the maths, the machines and the tuned vocal aesthetic, there is also flesh and blood that has to work it out and get it all together.
“My childhood was elegant homes, tree-lined streets, the milkman, building backyard forts, droning airplanes, blue skies, picket fences, green grass, cherry trees. Middle America as it’s supposed to be. But on the cherry tree there’s this pitch oozing out – some black, some yellow, and millions of red ants crawling all over it. I discovered that if one looks a little closer at this beautiful world, there are always red ants underneath. Because I grew up in a perfect world, other things were a contrast”.
And so we are invited to go in; into the mysteriously twisted, sickening at times, never straightforward world of David Lynch. One likes the arts and photography, another excels in music, or vocals, few make good films, while the rest write or paint; Lynch has done it all. Having introduced his unparalleled strangeness into American film making and being true to his own ideas, the “madman” (as Mel Brooks called him), even refused to direct ‘The Return Of The Jedi’, claiming that Lucas would do it better his way.
Meeting Angelo Badalamenti, while filming his hugely successful ‘Blue Velvet’, proved to be the start of a captivating musical relationship, which Lynch has proven to treasure till today.
Angelo Badalamenti, whose superlative musical understanding led to various working relationships with many a pop and rock band, with Pet Shop Boys, Orbital, Tim Booth, Anthrax, Marianne Faithful and others, all creating electrifying soundscapes with a little help of the virtuoso.
As Lynch’s films gained critical acclaim worldwide, his musical interests and collaborations grew in parallel.
Who directed a 2011 Duran Duran gig streamed live from Mayan Theater in LA? Lynch did…
Who collaborated with Interpol on ‘I Touch a Red Button Man’ animation? Lynch did…
Who directed Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Came Back Haunted’ video? Lynch did… (incidentally striking a further musical pact with Reznor)
Photo by Michel Delsol/Getty Images
As it often appears, happenstance creates the optimal conditions for working relationships, and that’s exactly what happened with Lynch and Cruise.
The ethereal sounding, dainty Julee may have never worked with the visionary, if it wasn’t for the fact that Lynch couldn’t use Tim Buckley’s ‘Song To The Siren’ covered by This Mortail Coil in a key scene of ‘Blue Velvet’. As an alternative, he commissioned Badalamenti to compose a song of similar feel, with lyrics by Lynch.
As someone had to sing ‘Mysteries Of Love’, Badalamenti recommended Cruise, known for her sublime voice. Recently the rather talented Kid Moxie re-visited the tune with Badalamenti , putting her own spin onto the Badalamenti/Lynch hit.
And so enter ‘Twin Peaks’; first aired in 1990 on ABC, later being taken off air due to dwindling popularity, the series was far more than the crime drama with a twist, expected by the fans of Lynch. Having teamed with Mark Frost, the master created a cult program, which is often described as one of the best TV series ever.
The story of the death of young and beautiful Laura Palmer, set in idyllic landscapes of rural Washington state, and the search for her murderer has, for years, evoked fear, lust, wonder and interest into the metaphysical and mystical.
Needless to say, a correct musical setting was necessary to depict the uncertainty, terror and weirdness of the events unfolding in, otherwise, quiet town of Twin Peaks.
A quiet town… at least that’s what one expects on the surface; but Twin Peaks has its own dark secrets. The horrors and wrongdoings that underline the death of Laura Palmer are palpable and Lynch made sure that his take on the human immorality is fully stamped on his characters.
Cruise was again chosen to perform a number of songs, and Badalamenti provided the musical mysticism, resulting in a multi-million selling soundtrack to the series, even with the tracks being largely instrumental.
But within those magical non word pieces, lay three acutely polished gems, all performed by Cruise. ‘Falling’, acting as the theme tune, must be, by far, one of the most recognised songs that go with any TV series.
Cruise further benefitted from the Lynch/Badalamenti collaboration by releasing her first album ‘Floating Into The Night’, which housed ‘Falling’, ‘Into The Night’ and ‘Nightingale’, all used in ‘Twin Peaks’.
‘Rocking Back Inside My Heart’ is one of the songs performed by Cruise live on stage at the Twin Peaks bar everyone gathers at, with most of the young female characters singing to it.
‘Falling’ has been so popular, that a number of artists decided to cover it, and further inspirations appeared by Apoptygma Berzerk, Bright Light Bright Light, The Joy Formidable, The Wedding Present and many others. The latest cover is, interestingly enough, performed by Chrysta Bell, who appears in the Twin Peaks revival series, and has been involved in working with Lynch for many years.
Joined by LA based music magician and celebrated producer John Fryer, Bell provides a synthy rendition, which is a true testament to the song’s longevity and prowess.
Lynch and Badalamenti also produced ‘Summer Kisses Winter Tears’, which, originally by Elvis Presley, was covered by Cruise and featured in ‘Until The End Of The World’ movie. A wonderfully presented come back of the 50s, with dreamy guitar and lazy piano, floating over the consciousness, not without an underlying uncertainty, however.
Chrysta Bell met Lynch in 1999 and the pair have collaborated since, with the master co-writing two of her albums. Her stunning song written with the director himself, ‘Polish Poem’, was featured in the closing scenes of ‘Inland Empire’. Not only is it hauntingly beautiful, but depicts the end of the movie in a sublime manner.
But Lynch sings himself too, oh yes! ‘Good Day Today’ is minimal electro, breaking into the popular culture, with heavily melodyned vocal pleading for the want of having “a good day today”. The lensman wants to be sent an angel, and complains of tiredness over a fast paced, catchy beat; all this happening against a back drop of a disturbingly Lynchian video.
Karen O joins the magician on ‘Pinky’s Dream’, which has been skilfully remixed by Trentemøller into an electronic burst of metallic beats and heavy bass. Together with ‘Good Day Today’, both taken from ‘Crazy Clown Time’, the first album by Lynch, the tracks have been described as having serious electro pop influences.
‘I’m Waiting Here’, performed by the Swedish singer and songwriter Lykke Li, found itself on Lynch’s second album ‘The Big Dream’. Featuring a video, which could have been taken from any of Lynch’s productions, the dreamy arrangement gets abruptly cut off by unexplained noise and the uncertainty is ushered, breaking off the waltzing style of the music. This is what David is about; nothing is ever perfectly straightforward.
He remixes too… ‘Evangeline’ by John Foxx and Jori Hulkkonen was masterfully adapted by the filmmaker. It’s gritty, dirty and fragmented: mechanical in texture. It feels like observing the intricate workings of a Swiss watch, while on blow, being surrounded by robots.
Moby has collaborated with the master for years too. This includes video directing, interviews and remixes. ‘Go’ was largely influenced by the Twin Peaks theme, which is sampled here, and it sold a staggering two million copies. And now Richard Melville Hall stars as the guitar player in Rebekah Del Rio’s band, performing live in Part 10 of ‘Twin Peaks’ Revival.
The Lynch collaborations are endlessly eclectic when it comes to genre and style. From ambient, pop, rock, via synth, classical and experimental. The working relationship with Marek Zebrowski, a Polish-American composer, also started during the production of ‘Inland Empire’, part of which was shot in Łódź. As both displayed interests in musical experimentation and improvisation, a concept evolved under the name of ‘Polish Night Music’.
More recently the hungry fans of the original ‘Twin Peaks’ series have been in for a treat. Lynch has always stressed that the story of Laura Palmer wasn’t complete and this year has seen the revival series hit the television screens. When Julee Cruise happily took to the stage in the original series, dazzling with a plethora of eerie, ethereal notes and semi-shy demeanour; the Revival brings plenty of musical surprises, inviting different performers to do their own sets in The Bang Bang Bar, a roadhouse in Twin Peaks. Each episode features a live performance from handpicked musicians, many of whom have a long history of association with the film master.
First off, Chromatics showcase ‘Shadow’, the video to which reminds of the Black Lodge’s red curtains. The Portland based band has undergone many a member change, but ‘Shadow’ certainly proves that the current set up is perfect. The track is Badalamenti dreamy, still bearing the electronic sounds of the now, and as an opener to the newest of the tales of the sleepy Washington town, it blends in nicely.
Au Revoir Simone from New York picks up the baton in Part 4, following The Cactus Blossoms. ‘Lark’ keeps in with the intangible atmosphere, leading through to Trouble’s ‘Snake Eyes’. An Americana rock and roll style, with added sexy saxophone and jazzy influences, this instrumental track leads into Part 6, with Sharon Van Etten’s ‘Tarifa’. With the copious amounts of folksy soothing day dream, the quirky vocal and bluesy elements, at times a la Fleetwood Mac, it’s a perfect summer evening track.
None other than Lynch’s old collaborator Trent Reznor comes back to mingle with the master yet again, after having worked on the score for ‘Lost Highway’, and Nine Inch Nails’ video for ‘Came Back Haunted’. This time taking the role of a goth band frontman, the leather clad Reznor and co, take to the Roadhouse stage to deliver ‘She’s Gone Away’.
As the first band to be actually introduced by an MC, NIN hauntingly induce their semi psychedelic, disturbingly mish-mashed track full of guitars over Reznor’s seductive male interceptions. Backing vocals are provided by Mrs Reznor, Marqueen Maandig.
Hudson Mohawke takes the DJ reins on ‘Human’ in Part 9, while Au Revoir Simone returns in the same episode with ‘A Violet Yet Flammable World’, which begins with a similar beat to Depeche Mode’s classic ‘Ice Machine’, to develop into an all girl extravaganza of voice and purely electronic sound, reminiscent of Marsheaux.
Rebekah Del Rio delivers memorable rendition of ‘No Stars’ written by Lynch. The Latin-American songstress has been a muse for the filmmaker for years, providing a cameo appearance in ‘Mulholland Drive’ to perform a Spanish a cappella performance of Roy Orbison’s ‘Crying’. In ‘Twin Peaks’, she is seen in a dress with a pattern reminiscent of the Black Lodge floor, ushers in a stunning vocal, both in English and Spanish. Yet another classic ‘Twin Peaks’ track.
What follows in Part 11, is a twist: a beautifully composed piano piece ‘Heartbreaking’ performed by Count Smokula.
Chromatics return in the next episode with instrumental ‘Saturday’, while the ominous number 13 brings the original series’ familiar James Marshall with ‘Just You’, which also appears on ‘Twin Peaks Music: Season Two Music and More’.
Folksy Lissie performs ‘Wild West’, just where David Bowie appears for the first time in Cole’s dream as Phillip Jeffries of ‘Fire Walk With Me’ movie.
Bowie moves back in in Episode 15, which is wrapped up by The Veils performing ‘Axolotl’. The London based indie band has been yet another of Lynch’s favourites chosen to perform live in Twin Peaks and they don’t disappoint with the quasi electronic, gripping tune, which injects a further dose of fear and uncertain weirdness so typical of Lynch’s disciples.
Number 16 showcases none other than Pearl Jam’s finest, Eddie Vedder, introduced as Edward Louis Severson with ‘Out Of Sand’. The fact that Vedder had been listed as a cast member well before the episode aired, created a stir and many fans eagerly awaited his performance at the Bang Bang Bar. Although the tune had been available prior to the premiere of Part 16, EV toned it down to acoustic guitar as the only instrument accompanying his hauntingly hungry voice.
Interestingly enough Vedder isn’t in the closing titles; Audrey Horne gets to perform ‘Audrey’s Dance’ once more, with a more sinister ending however.
The real treat wraps up Episode 17, with none other than Julee Cruise returning beautifully to finish the part, where Cooper and co go back to the past to try and save Laura Palmer. Julee’s second to none, ethereally magical voice on ‘The World Spins’ is an ultimate tribute to the whole of the series, with Number 18 (being the last) stripped off the, now familiar, musical end.
If anyone wanted answers in the Revival series, they’re probably banging their heads against the wall (or are getting tangled in the Black Lodge curtains), because more questions were introduced and the aura of weirdness has been intensified to almost mystical levels. Has the evil been eradicated? We don’t think so.
Have we got a happy ending? Certainly not so.
But isn’t that what Lynch is all about?
Riddles, riddles, riddles…
And what’s next for the genius? More music perhaps? Who knows, but with the wealth of experiences from the master over the years; musical or visual, haven’t we all been in for a treat?
AU REVOIR SIMONE released their last album ‘Still Night, Still Light’ in 2009 and from it, ‘Another Likely Story’ was their breakthrough to wider acceptance.
But while songs such ‘Tell Me’showed there was nothing awry with their songwriting, an epic gothic disco reworking by MIRRORS and a bouncily percussive reinterpretation by VILLA NAH indicated that production and arrangement wise, the threesome’s numbers were maybe not always fulfilling their potential.
After three albums in four years, the studious trio took a well deserved break.
Annie Hart started a family, Heather D’Angelo completed her University studies while Erika Forster took a buswoman’s holiday and released a solo EP as ERIKA SPRING which included a cover of EURYTHMICS’ ‘When Tomorrow Comes’.
On reconvening, the threesome’s drum machine guardian Heather D’Angelo expressed her concerns that after three albums, ARS’ instrumentation manifesto was becoming too restrictive to develop much further. Thus after eschewing the perils of the drum kit since their formation, ‘Move In Spectrums’ becomes their first album to fully embrace nosier live percussion. But interestingly, although a drummer James Richardson performs on two tracks, the girls’ approach on the rest has been to tackle the duties themselves, much like the early days of OMD when Paul Humphreys took on the percussive role.
Indeed, on the opener ‘More Than’, the combination of the looser rhythmical template, deep drones and organic swimmy synths evoke the atmospheres of early OMD. ‘The Lead Is Galloping’ is dark and mature but following on, there’s a surprise with the album’s second single ‘Crazy’. With a harder, almost rockier NEW ORDER guitar driven sound, the resigned refrain of “Ooh, you girls, you drive me crazy…” empathises with the more aggressive backing and shows that AU REVOIR SIMONE are in reality, more CAMERA OBSCURA than MARSHEAUX.
Producer Jorge Elbrecht of VIOLENS has noticeably beefed up the dynamics but while the fresh rhythmical outlook adds a new dimension, the classic ARS hallmarks of repeated synth riffs and drum machine still remain, particularly on the DMX dominated ‘Just Like A Tree’ and the mechanical conga drive of the sweet launch single ‘Somebody Who’.
There are also several other interesting diversions on ‘Move In Spectrums’; ‘We Both Know’ for example is instrumental for over three of its four and half minutes with the tension building up accordingly while ‘Hand Over Hand’ mutates into something boomingly hallucinogenic. ‘Gravitron’ on the other hand is decisively militaristic before the drifting wispiness of ‘Boiling Point’.
Otherwise, the usual down-to-earth, charm of the trio exudes over a melancholy that is never depressing but always tinged with hope.
However, one regular criticism of AU REVOIR SIMONE in the past has been that they can usually only be sampled in small doses.
In that respect, ‘Move In Spectrums’ doesn’t change that, especially with the album’s washy, chilled-out but noodling final third. The timely solution may be that elusive AU REVOIR SIMONE ‘best of’ compilation; “Smithers… release the album!” 😉
Brooklyn’s AU REVOIR SIMONE have returned with a stylish new video for the song ‘Somebody Who’ to launch their highly anticpated new album ‘Move In Spectrums’.
In it, Erika Forster, Annie Hart and Heather D’Angelo have glammed up for what looks like Hello magazine shoot in a stately home but retaining their girl next door aura, they poke fun at the process by brushing their teeth and blowing bubblegum.
It’s been four years since their last long player ‘Still Night, Still Light’ and during this period, Annie has started a family while Erika Forster released a solo EP in 2011 as ERIKA SPRING.
But the girls are back with their psychedelic electro sound. ‘Somebody Who’ beefs up the dreamy earthy atmospheres of previous single adventures ‘Another Likely Story’ and ‘Tell Me’ which incidentally was given a tremendous gothic disco makeover by MIRRORS in 2010! However, ‘Somebody Who’ still retains the band’s trademark triple keyboard eloquence with repeating riffs and counter melodies but embellishing with more noisier off-kilter synth elements than previously heard on their work.
The trio started out when Erika and Annie exchanged stories on a train journey home and realised that they had a common desire to form an all-keyboard covers band. Heather joined later and they started playing shows locally with a manifesto to make “warm and organic electronic music with forthright female vocalists”. They have now earned a reputation for being a most charming live act with the on-stage banter at times coming over like a Casiotone slumber party. The band have announced a European tour including a date at London’s XOYO on Tuesday 17th September.
‘Move In Spectrums’ is released by Moshi Moshi Records on 24th September 2013
AU REVOIR SIMONE European Tour Dates include:
Helsinki Tavastia (13 September), Leffinge Festival (14 September), London XOYO (17 September), Paris Nouveau Casino (18 September), Kaserne Basel (19 September), Zurich Stall 6 (25 September), Rimini Sala Vertigio (26 September), Roma Circolo deli Artisti (27 September), Berlin Kantine am Berghain (30 September), Prague Meat Factory (1 October)
“Les filles, ces trois filles. Ils avaient l’air si doux, si vulnérable, mais ils avaient acier à l’intérieur entre eux, la dureté de la terre elle-même. C’était comme si elles étaient faites …de diamants.”
From Norwich, it’s the band of the week! …of DIAMONDS are possibly the English countryside’s answer to AU REVOIR SIMONE and compriseof three Norfolk girls Vikki Diamond, Natalie Diamond and Kimberley Diamond.
They differ from the Brooklyn threesome in their use of organic instrumentation alongside the synthesized experiments. Augmented by Boy on Drums, they deliver hybrid electronica with three-part harmonies that can be bittersweet but not without some wry humour and fun. Band interests include tea and cake… so they’re the real life East Anglian version of HO-KAGO TEA TIME!
Working with producers Sankt & Neudorf, the end result sounds like a kooky musical workshop from a Girl Guide camping weekend… there’s tradition but there’s also adventure! With a love of KRAFTWERK and BLONDIE, the varied mix of influences which also include STEREOLAB, SUGARCUBES, THE KNIFE, STRAWBERRY SWITCHBLADE and BANANARAMA make for some intriguing music.
Their debut single ‘…of Diamonds Theme’ was an enjoyably bizarre three movement mash-up of KRAFTWERK, JANE BIRKIN, NINE INCH NAILS and AIR. For that alone, the girls deserve an award or a straitjacket or something! Described in their press release as “rural electronic girl-pop weirdos”, that may be so but as their previous B-side ‘Weirdo’ testifies: “If I am a weirdo, then you are much weirder…”
Their new EP ‘Two Songs About Love’ is their second release and from it, the catchy ‘Friends’ features a promo video of the girls singing in front of some mock Twitter subtext to illustrate the standpoint of virtual relationships. As the girls themselves say: “Breaking up on Twitter is so hard to do…”
Also on the EP, ‘Go Far’ is a quirky buzz ‘n’ bleep laden Magical Mystery Tour via THE CURE’s ‘In Between Days’. And in a twist to ‘Are Friends Electric? and its story of failing robot lovers, ‘Buddy’ gives a quaint alternate take on the matter…funnily enough, it sounds like a less gothic ROBOTS IN DISGUISE!
“We formed from carbon atoms that came from stars” say Vikki, Natalie and Kimberley; …of DIAMONDS are distinct from many other acts using synths who might prefer industrialised or minimal strains. Delectably charming to the nth degree, having played a handful of gigs in their hometown, the girls hope to bring their live show to the rest of the UK in the Autumn.
‘Two Songs About Love’ EP is released by Norfolk Mining Company on 20th August 2012. It can be purchased via iTunes and Amazon, other digital retailers are available…