marcopantella

———– Writer / Music re-views / inter-views / and my points of view ———– The GROUND Magazine / HungerTV

Category: Music Reviews

The Labèque Way – A Conversation with Katia and Marielle Labèque

Read it on The GROUND Magazine

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Katia and Marielle Labèque are more than sisters and internationally acclaimed pianists. There’s something in their bond that goes beyond genetic; it’s something that taps into the soul level. They may be daughters of Ada Cecchi, who was a pupil of pianist Marguerite Long, and passed on to them her love for classical music but these details feels more like faded information on a passport than a blueprint for their future. In fact, meeting Katia and Marielle is like standing in front of two very distinct mirrors reflecting each other as they play along the same harmony. Their talent is not the result of a solitary gene showing up, uninvited, in their DNA; Katia and Marielle recognized their artistic place in the world from an early age and ignited it with a passion that revolutionized the classical world, starting with their contemporary rendition of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue that became one of the first gold records in classical music.

As I see them taking the stage at the London Festival Hall, where they will play Poulenc’s Concerto for two pianos and orchestra, led by Spanish conductor Juanjo Mena, I recall my phone conversation with Katia. The punchy and acerbic Concerto begins, I understand that despite the innate nature of talent, Katia and Marielle’s synchronicity is not a mere family affair but a true passion for a journey called life and living for art. An ever experimental journey that may just be better shared and enjoyed between siblings.

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Photo by Umberto Nicoletti

“Our lives are so intertwined…” Katia tells me from her apartment in Rome who once belonged to the Borgia family and has been decorated by the grand seigneur of the design world Alex Vervoordt “…and when we’re not travelling together, Marielle travels with her husband”. The other half of the Labèque piano duo is married to prestigious orchestra conductor Semyon Bychkov. “Her life is so difficult to manage having a husband constantly on the road as we are but passion is the key to make it work”. Katia sounds as warm as the sun shining in the a-typically warm winter day in the Italian capital and the passion she speaks with is the same as the one she uses at the grand piano. Time may stand still in the Eternal City but indulging in it is out of discussion for them; “We are musicians and interpreters so being on a stage is essential for us. If we’d be at home the whole time we couldn’t express our musicality. In this respect travelling around the world is a necessity to bring our work to the audience; otherwise it’ll remain a lifeless piece of work. We don’t really get to be tourists but it’s a beautiful necessity”.

It’s a lifetime journey started in the Basque region of France, “one of the few places in France where a musical education does not exist though its culture is musically strong” an adventure that brought them together to the most illustrious orchestras in the world, collaborating with composers like Philip Glass and Luciano Berio and to a record-breaking performance attended by more than 33,000 people at a gala concert with the Berlin Philharmonic inside the Berlin’s Waldbühne. In a classical world where the repertoire for piano duo is limited, Katia and Marielle always had it their way, as the title of their documentary suggests: The Labèque Way, directed by Félix Cábez. Applying the expertise of an artisan they created a body of work of their own, delivering mesmerizing projects that show, and dare, to display exotic combination between the classical world and contemporary art forms. After all Katia is not afraid to mention Radiohead among her favourite composers, along with “Bach, Mozart, Stravinsky in general and Schumann, who in my opinion is not played enough.” I immediately feel that the charm of this lady is not only in the way she speaks Italian but in her nonconforming nature. They brought basque percussions to Ravel’s Bolero with the Kalakan Trio, performed an arrangement for two pianos of Bernstein’s West Side Story arranged by Irwin Kostal and more recently Minimalist Dreamhouse, a project inspired by the early minimalist works that got their exposure in La Monte Young’s 1960-61 Chamber Street Series in Yoko Ono’s New York loft.

Katia, who lives with guitarist, composer and producer David Chalmin has a kind of stability that also allows her to look after their KML Foundation, a heartfelt project founded in 2005 aiming to promote classical music to a new audience whose educational background has lacked an introduction to the classical world “I really enjoy it and I’m definitely more available than Marielle but I don’t see our relationship about sharing tasks. Everything between us runs with a natural flow by now. When we play it’s different though; she brings her strengths, balance and happiness. She’s also physically strong in her approach to the piano and it’s a resourceful skill to use on so many pieces. We are working on the original version of The Rite Of Spring by Stravinsky who composed it for two pianos and she’s got such a strength in the virtuoso and lower parts. Playing together with someone at her level helps a lot.”

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Photo by Nacho Carretero

When Katia and Marielle take the stage before my very eyes there’s a silent thrill in the audience and as I find myself in front of this one entity breathing the same breath, it’s not difficult to see why they compliment each other so effortlessly. It’s not about major and minor scales, they somehow complete two very opposite emotions. Katia, bringing a touch of red with her Louboutin stiletto has a dramatic stage persona that approaches the piano like an animal in trance. It’s surreal and supernatural to see the instrument surrender to her hands. Her counterpart, Marielle, brings to life the deepest and darkest side of the composition in a calm, precise and most of all meditative manner. Their eyes always staring at each other, as if severing this connection would bring about utter destruction. The audience under their spell… “It takes time to control the piano for it’s a very strong instrument but you have to, otherwise it will fall apart. There are no limits to what you can achieve by playing it and yet there is a little bit of suffering that I guess it’s part of our world and any other artistic expression. It’s a moral and physical pain, like a dancer who’s got his own body as an instrument but the moment I go on stage it all fades away. There is definitely a dark side to this all and we need it in order to reveal light and find a balance. This is a permanent game we have to play otherwise we’ll live in a superficial state of joy or sadness”

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Photo by Umberto Nicoletti

The secret for achieving this level of consciousness and be a channel rather than the bearer of the darkest emotions is discipline. I expected it to be part of this equation but Katia and Marielle found freedom through it that allowed them to experiment with classical music like no others. “It’s always a fight against something, even freedom! People who can do whatever they please are not really free or interesting. True freedom is being able to be disciplined in your work that sustains your artistic freedom. The more you work, the more you’ll arrive on stage so prepared that you’ll fell like you are recreating that piece as if it was yours rather than just playing it. Almost as if you are improvising Mozart! The music you play is not a fruit of your hard work anymore; it’s just like a piece of art speak for itself to you. This happens only because the painter has worked so much before and this is a kind of discipline that comes from our mother.”

Writer Hanif Kureishi once wrote in Gabriel’s Gift through the voice of a father “if you’ve got it, you’ve got it from yourself, and don’t you forget it. You can inherit an old tie but not a gift, that’s one thing I know” It may not be written in stars or in the family tree but can talent be just a sheer coincidence when it comes to Katia? “The quote is so terribly true. He’s right, you can pass on so many things, like education for example which is very important to your personal growth by the way, but when it comes to talent we are talking about a gift; you either have it or not. No matter how hard you work this quote remains very true. On the other hand, talent with no hard work and discipline is useless and a sad condition because it’s not enough. We learnt a great deal about discipline from our mother, she was a role model in that regard, she would know if one day, for example, I wasn’t training properly and it took her a few words to let me know. Practice and hard work is the engine to make your talent running otherwise it will just stay there, switched off.”

At such a young age and seen the extreme experimental nature of their projects, I imagine a rebellious duo and two daughters who, just like anybody else, have a conflictual relationship with their mother. “I wouldn’t say we were rebels in our growing up. When teenagers started rebelling we were already in Paris on our own, studying at the Conservatoire. You know, we grew up in a small village and our mother made the best she could. Since she was a teacher she understood us but when we reached a certain level she knew she couldn’t keep us at home anymore as it would have equaled to kill us. If she wanted our talent to grow and blossom she’d had to make this sacrifice and let us go. I was 13 and Marielle was 11. We weren’t rebels because we chose to be musicians; it was our passion and what we wanted. We did not argue with our parents’ choices because we knew it from the start what an incredible sacrifice they were doing. We have been lucky at the end of our studies to be able to make a living on our own immediately, going on tour with a dance ballet. We actually had a very wonderful and easy relationship! Life itself was hard. It was tremendously sad for us not being able to see our parents so often. My mother came to visit us in Paris whenever she could but still it was hard moving away from the basque coast; that was the country we were in love with, its beaches, its sea. Paris was not our city.”

Luck literally came knocking on the door on day during their years at the Conservatoire. “We were playing Visions de L’Amen by Olivier Messiaen and he came in wondering who was playing his music. It was normal for us back then to be playing in front of him but it was actually a turning point for us once we recorded the piece. Thanks to that moment people got to know us.” The eagerness that made them want so much to perform as a duo is the same they use to promote their foundation that among its artistic committee includes Madonna, Placido Domingo and Italian writer Alessandro Baricco “He’s a great friend of ours who welcomed us in of the rooms of his Scuola Holden to shoot a project on Tina Modotti. Director Nathalie Joffre and actress Dajana Roncione worked on this project to honour the life and work of Tina who was such an incredible photographer and revolutionary. There was a lot of research involved and we made this short film. Madonna is a friend of ours and we introduced her to the basque Kalakan Trio who eventually went on to follow her during the MDNA Tour. I believe in and support them as much as I can. We are interested in people whose worlds are about the continuous research of ways to experiment. Every artist brought us closer to another and this is extremely interesting. Miles Davis was doing the same thing, he brought people and artists in the same circles so that they could learn a lot from each other. There is too much individualism at the moment in society. You’ll always have commercial products and works anyway at it’s fine because this is something so far away from our world that we don’t feel any sort of competition. I only wish more people would be exposed as much in regards of classical music, and I do want to believe that this is possible.”

Where only the love of a mother can gift her own daughters to follow their talent even if it means living apart, dealing with record companies was an even more painful matter. It tested them in how far a “difficult artist” could go. “Many things changed so quickly in the music industry that there’s no time to adapt and for artists like us it has never been easy. The classical repertoire for piano duo is not a well-known thing to begin with, probably the most famous one is by Mozart but even fans of classical music aren’t quite aware of it as much as they are with Chopin or Liszt. We love playing Poulenc, but once again he is not considered that much as part of a pianist’s classical repertoire. It wasn’t easy for record companies to deal with us and in the end it was always up to Marielle and I to decide what to do and what to play.” Taking the road less travelled by rewarded them once again. Instead of continuing with Philips Record, they finally started their own record company “It was not a nasty divorce but we could just could not picture anymore their projects in our world. When you are young you need someone to look after you but in our case it’s fame that helped us achieve many things. People got to know us and supported us so all of this became possible. I find it natural having created our own record company and helping different artists from different artistic worlds that we feel so close to us. There are already many foundations in the classical world of virtuosismo that help the best violinist, or pianist. Our aim is to also support artists beyond our world because nowadays’s music is electronic. I’m not saying that it’s done without classical instruments, on the contrary, but if you look at Radiohead for example, they are genius. They create a world of acoustic and electronic guitars to add a certain sensibility to electronic music as we know it. If you do this as well as they do the result is mesmerising.”

Someone said that classical music will never ever cease to appeal in human history, and it’s not even rare to see how modern authors turn to it. Haruki Murakami uses classical compositions as metaphors and to create emotional landscapes in his novels. His epic work 1Q84 actually open with Janáček’s Sinfonietta playing on the radio of a taxi. “The thing with music is that you have to love it first of all and not trying to understand it, that will happen later on if you want to. The problem with classical music is that people are not exposed to it; it’s not that they don’t love it because music is so direct and immediately speaks to you. People think that in order to enjoy classical music they have to be clever and sometimes they’re afraid they won’t get it but this is just confusing. Media are not helping with this, nowadays it’s all about pop or rock music which by the way I love; Radiohead are one of my favorite groups and very important musicians. Even though classical music is the music I was born with, I always like when it comes into contact with contemporary music. It’s a paradox but maybe contemporary music is the most difficult to understand and love immediately. If you make a kid listen to Ravel’s Bolero or The Rite os Spring, he gets it and loves it. A kid is not afraid because fear comes afterwards, when you grow up and you’re lead to believe that classical music is conceived as something elitist. It didn’t find its way yet, it still suffers from prejudice and it’s not well divulged. A lot of people are trying to work towards that direction but classical music, I believe, needs to be part of children’s education in particular since school. It’s important to divulge and it should start when you are a child. Of course if you then want to play Mozart, knowing his historical context, the architecture and instruments of those times helps a lot. When we played on a fortepiano from his time it made us understand deeply his style and we found a new way of playing beyond the limits of the instrument. It’s exciting and to me, knowing how to deal with your emotions and control them is at the basis of my drive.”

I’m interested to know how their inspirations come about when choosing a theme to explore and experiment with and most of the times it has got to do with artists or movements that challenged common thinking. “Minimalism for example is an extremely important movement in music history for me. It may very well be the greatest revolution of the last century because it opened the door for rock, pop and a different way of making cinema. Everyone from Brian Eno to Radiohead got in touch at least once with minimalist’s principles. It was a kind of music that wasn’t well received at the beginning and so we recreated the same kind of atmosphere that Yoko Ono created in her loft. We gathered with different musicians in our studio, improvised a lot and discovered many things along the way. It’s an endless project because there are endless possibilities and it all started with our friend Igor Toronyi-Lalic who asked us to play in a minimalist festival at London’s Kings Place, even though we had never played that music before. We are always looking for something new, if we wanted we could have played Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue all our lives. Don’t get me wrong, I love it but you have to move on. Recently we have been working on new projects that we are excited about like The Bernard Hermann Concert Project that includes arrangements of Hermann’s music. He was such a great composer who scored many fantastic films by Alfred Hitchock. We are also working on a project about Moondog and his world on NYC’s Sixth Avenue. He used to dress up as a viking and wrote incredible music. A documentary about him is coming out soon. Philips Glass took him under his wing and also Steve Reich was greatly influenced by him. We’ll perform this project as part of Kings Place’s Minimalism Unwrapped programme and it will include also music by Glass and a modern piece from David Chalmin. We want to investigate and show how Moondog inspired Glass but also young composers. He used to live on the street and he was an incredible talent.

We are also doing a project with one of Madonna’s break-dancers Yaman Okur who invented a particular style of dancing. It will be inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and it’s called Star-Cross’d Lovers; the music for this ballet has been exclusively written by David Chalmin. It’s a contemporary Romeo and Juliet for seven break-dancers, two pianos, electric guitar and percussions premiering in May 9th-10th at Paris’s Philharmonie 2 followed by Luzern Festival and later on Dortmund and Bordeaux” Shakespeare’s  timeless theme of impossible love has been a source of inspiration for both Chalmin and Okur who, together with Katia and Marielle, managed to break down yet another barrier. On one side, Chalmin shows how rock music, Minimalism or electronics can coexist with classical pianos and in doing so, he paves the way for contemporary music to be closer to pop music without being elitist. On the other hand, Okur is free like his body movements to bring break-dancing from the streets to concerts halls as a piece of art that can be written, choreographed and danced alongside classical soloist. Chalmin’s ability to build bridges between different musical universes has found the perfect chemistry in allies like the Labèque sisters and when this alchemy gets in touch with a visionary choreographer like Okur, these universes collide and come together to create a new symphony that is the very essence of experimentation. Love and hatred through fluctuating dancing, two romantic pianos inspired by Schubert or Chopin, and rock explosions between Capulet and Montague all find a common ground in this unconventionally conceived and produced project.

“Not that I’m surprised but you looked beautiful on stage tonight” I tell her as we meet backstage and find out that fashion doesn’t go unnoticed in the Labèque universe. “It’s really important even in our world because once you walk on stage you are already making an impression. Maybe this is one of the reasons why the classical world has to learn a lot from the pop-rock scene because that world presents itself in an appealing way. The way you look on stage is also a form of respect towards your audience.” Katia, wearing a purple velvet long jacket tells me about her love for Riccardo Tisci, “it’s not about the fashion house for us, it’s about the designer. If Riccardo was to leave Givenchy one day we’ll follow him.”

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Photo by Umberto Nicoletti

As Marielle is on her way to sign autographs for the fans already in line I need to tell Katia how impressive it was to see them on stage and ask her about a piece that expresses her unity with Marielle. Just like a breath mark, a pause that does not affect the overall tempo, her answer brings everything back to the beginning: to family and those memories of their mother taking them to see Ravel’s birth house before treating them to cake and chocolate. “It would be Ma Mère L’Oye by Ravel and his music in general that we grew up to. He’s a special composer to us and our mother’s teacher was a dear friend of him. I think it reminds us of our childhood that is always inside of us; we never lost a connection to it. Yes, we are adults now but you have to keep that world inside of you alive. When I sit with Marielle in front of the piano I always feel something gripping my heart as soon as we play the first notes. It’s very important to me and I think it has got to do with being always amazed towards life. Everything may keep on falling in a routine but it’s important to keep alive that part inside of you that is always in awe. It also helps you recognise what you have before your eyes. People are too blasé nowadays.”

Throughout yet another year’s packed schedule, the Lebèques are performing at the end of May the world premiere of a new Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra written for them by Philip Glass. Commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, this double piano concerto will then be performed in France, Turkey, Sweden and Spain. The influential master composer said – “Like many people involved in today’s music I have long been an admirer of Katia and Marielle Labèque’s performance of traditional and new concert music for duo pianos. I was very happy to hear their brilliant playing and interpretative skills with my own music – first with the 2007 work, Four Movements for Two Pianos and then, more recently, the Two Movements for Four Pianos. This last work was premiered by the Labèques along with additional pianists Dennis Russell Davies and Maki Namekawa. I was very pleased when they suggested a new work – the present double concerto.” This project promises a new way of experiencing the relationship of the soloist to the orchestra and since both Glass and the Labèques always seek inspiration in the unusual and unexplored, the music of the soloists will be shared between the two and the orchestra will serve to extend the range and color of the soloists.

Katia and Marielle Labèque make an impression even when they walk away from the venue and looking at them, talent is not only in the movements of their hands, the knowledge of their minds, in their fighting spirits and the exposure to music within their family. Talent is as hard to describe as the reason why a soul choses to come to life in a certain body. Reason may tell us that the Labèque future was inevitable, but when our heart is touched by their passion, talent is nothing more than “seeking the echo rather than the refrain and preferring discovery to repetition.” Their uniqueness won’t be repeated even with their DNA but Katia has her own “piece” to pass on to the future “The only thing that can make you strong is years of experience and love for music. It’s the willingness to hand down to someone your knowledge.

M.P

Katia and Marielle Labèque nel album ‘Sisters’ is out now on KML Recordings

Official Website www.labeque.com

KML Foundation www.fondazionekml.org

Twitter @KMLabeque

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Lana Del Rey / ULTRAVIOLENCE / Lyric-view

Released / June 13, 2014

Length / 65:22

Producer / Dan Auerbach, Lana Del Rey, Paul Epworth, Lee Foster, Daniel Heath, Greg Kurstin, Rick Nowels, Blake Stranathan

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CRUEL WORLD

‘Cause you’re young, you’re wild, you’re free,
You’re dancin’ circles around me,
You’re fuckin’ crazy,
Oh, you’re crazy for me.

NAIVELY DANGEROUS / FLOATING LIKE SMOKE / NEVER TAKE CANDIES FROM A STRANGER

ULTRAVIOLENCE 

Cause I was filled with poison
But blessed with beauty and rage

I can hear sirens, sirens
He hit me and it felt like a kiss
I can hear violins, violins
Give me all of that ultraviolence

Cause I’m your jazz singer
And you’re my cult leader

MASOCHISTIC RITUAL / MURDER AND ORGASM /BITTERSWEET LIKE BLOOD AND HONEY

SHADES OF COOL 

But I can’t help him, can’t make him better
And I can’t do nothing about his strange weather

You are invincible
I can’t break through your world
‘Cause you live in shades of cool
Your heart is unbreakable

RAGING HEART AND GUITAR / MENTAL FIXATIONS / UNREASONABLY SWEET

BROOKLYN BABY

They think I don’t understand
The freedom land of the seventies

I’m talking about my generation
Talking about that newer nation
And if you don’t like it
You can beat it

FORGOTTEN POEM / AWAY FROM MANHATTAN / INVALUABLE RECORDS COLLECTION

WEST COAST

Down on the West Coast they got a sayin’
“If you’re not drinkin’ then you’re not playin’.”
But you’ve got the music, you’ve got the music in you, don’t you?

CALIENTE / EXOTIC / NANCY SINATRA MEETS QUENTIN TARANTINO

SAD GILR

Bein’ a bad bitch on the side,
Might not appeal to fools like you.
We been around while he gets high,
It might not be somethin’ you would do.

THE SMELL OF MONEY AND POWER / HYMN FOR YOUR MAN / DADDY’S GIRL

PRETTY WHEN YOU CRY

Don’t say you need me when,
You leave and you leave again.
I’m stronger than all my men,
Except for you.

SINGING YOUR HEART TO AN EMPTY CROWD / MESSED UP MASCARA AND DIGNITY / MEMORIES LIKE DOPE

MONEY POWER GLORY

The sun also rises,
On those who fail to call
My life, it comprises,
Of losses and wins and fails and falls

SOMEWHERE IN HOLLYWOOD / COLLAPSING UNIVERSE / SHARP IRONY

FUCKED MY WAY UP TO THE TOP

I’m a dragon, you’re a whore,
Don’t even know what you’re good for.
Mimickin’ me’s a fuckin’ bore,
To me, but babe.

Lay me down tonight in my diamonds and pearls
Tell me something like I’m your favourite girl.

LEGALIZING PROSTITUTION / TORI AMOS’ IRREGULARITY / HOW TO TREAT A WOMAN LIKE MARILYN

OLD MONEY

My father’s love was always strong,
My mother’s glamor lives on and on,
Yet still inside I felt alone,
For reasons unknown to me.

But if you send for me you know I’ll come,
And if you call for me you know I’ll run.
I’ll run to you, I’ll run to you, I’ll run, run, run.
I’ll come to you, I’ll come to you, I’ll come, come, come.

GONE WITH THE WIND / WARM TEARS / PATHOS

THE OTHER WOMAN

But the other woman will always cry herself to sleep
The other woman will never have his love to keep
And as the years go by the other woman will spend her life alone, alone

Alone

NINA SIMONE / TRANSMUTATION OF ICONIC SOULS / MIRRORING PERFECTION

BLACK BEAUTY

I paint the house black
My wedding dress black leather too
You have no room for light
Love is lost on you
I keep my lips red
The same like cherries in the spring
Darling, you can’t let everything
Seem so dark blue

A DAVID LACHAPELLE IMAGE / WRINKLES OF EXPRESSION / MOURNING FLOWERS

GUNS AND ROSES

‘Cause you were so much better,
Than the rest of them,
Out of all the others,
You were the honest man.

VENICE BEACH’S SUNSET / PLAYING VIDEO GAMES / A ROSE IN THE MOUTH AND A GUN TO THE HEAD

FLORIDA KILOS

White lines, pretty baby, tattoos,
Don’t know what they mean,
They’re special, just for you.
White palms, baking powder on the stove,
Cookin’ up a dream,
Turnin’ diamonds into snow.

Yayo, yayo, yayo,
All the Floridians like,
Yayo, yayo, yayo,
All the Colombians like,
Yayo, yayo, yayo,
That’s how I do it like

ESCAPISM / RESIGNATION / CLANDESTINO VIBE

THE END  

/ An album to put next to your Amy Winehouse’s collection / metaphysically violent yet fine like an Italian Neorealist film / To listen to as you dress up in an exotic Jean Paul Gaultier dress; or blue jeans and white shirt.

M.P

 

lana

Yann Tiersen ∞ Composing the sound of Infinity

Interview for his new album Infinity – Read it on The GROUND Magazine

I think it’s great to be able to communicate with the world, it’s brilliant. On the other hand, economical globalization is the worst thing that happened to us. It’s horrible and the opposite of what we do as artists. I’m afraid that this situation will lead to the end of the world.

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“Technically and legally I’m French but from where I come from, culture is really different compared to France” tells me Yann Tiersen about Brittany and the Ushant Island, the place where he finds himself for our conversation. It’s the place where he was born and one of the three islands that inspired his latest work, titled Infinity. From the secluded north-westernmost point of France, Tiersen continues to play and experiment with music, sailing away from the safe harbor and etiquette of the Amélie composer, the 2001 surreal film by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. The timeless, and French, soundtrack was heavily driven by the accordion and piano but it also featured a spinning bicycle wheel. It’s fair to say that Yann Tiersen has never been the typical kind of composer, in fact doesn’t see himself as such; he’s an anarchic musician and a visionary. Through his studio albums and countless collaborations, as the instruments he can play, he pushes music closer to our us, creating a universal soundtrack and language made of different moments, textures, sounds and noises. Everything life is made of.

For someone in the middle of rehearsal for his upcoming tour, Tiersen sounds relaxed and I immediately understand that his sensibility is the same as the one we feel in his music. As with every true musician, music is the only meaningful language worth speaking, the only one he knows to communicate. Nevertheless he needs to use words to tell me how good he always feels about going on the road, “We’re almost ready and the set list is finished”. The making of Infinity has definitely something to do with his peaceful state of mind; the album is so minimalistic to a point where, the first time I heard it, I found myself in front of an immense landscape where something esoteric was slicing the air. This feeling is remarkable if you think about the layered process involved in the creation of these sounds.

“I was pretty relaxed and excited to finish with my modular setup. I wanted to avoid all of that without ending up with just modular sequences, so I did something radically opposite. The starting point was completely acoustic and I played with the cliché kind of things let’s say, but why not?! I went to Iceland just with my toys instruments for two weeks and I recorded with the intention to transform everything afterwards, through the modular and computers. I’ve kept everything; even the bad ideas and I used those songs as a base for new songs. It was like doing remixes of songs that don’t actually exist yet, it was quite funny to do”.

The endless back and forth of the album, from acoustic to electronic and digital, and then back to analogue, is in line with Tiersen’s working ethic. His previous work, 2011 Skyline, already contained tracks from the recording sessions of 2010 experimental Dust Lane, in the same way Amélie‘s soundtrack was made of a selection of compositions from his first three albums and the then upcoming L’Absente. Such restlessness creates an ever changing sound, always open to new frontiers and fusions of classical, folk, and indie music. “After a long time, I had this idea to work with acoustic instruments. The last song from Skyline is Vanishing Point and I did it during the mixing with my computer. It’s made of samples from all the songs of the album so I was really excited about pushing things further for the next album. I like to transform things and maybe for the next album I could do the same but with free recordings during my travels. I could try to recompose the sound, manipulate it and try to make songs bases from that”.

Tiersen may be compared to contemporary composer Philip Glass or referred to as the Gallic Michael Nyman but none of these two smashed a violin at the age of thirteen to buy an electric guitar, like Tiersen did. His love for the punk culture will not only shape his avant-garde style but also affect is vision where there are no rules in the world of sound. Instinct and freedom of expression has always been more important for Tiersen than his classical training but he doesn’t see his artistic journey as a series of random shifts. “I think that my music is not really changing, it’s just evolving. I need to feel that what I’m doing is genuine as it was at the beginning and in order to reach that, I need to explore new ways of making music. This is the only way for me to be able to play music and let ideas or inspirations come to me”.

Infinity does not only represent a return to acoustic music as the base for a new textured sound, it also stands for a connection with Nature through songs inspired by stones, minerals and their infinite nature. “I live on an island and I see nature, especially stones and stony places, all the time”. Le Phare, his third album, was inspired by the light house of the island that through his rays of lights revealed to Tiersen hidden details of the land. This time around he goes beneath the land, using different languages trying to reach a universal meaning. Steinn is sung in Icelandic, Grønjørð in Faroese and Ar Maen Bihan in Breton. The closing track of the album, Meteorite, is a true piece of poetry reciting “my heart could be a stone or a sponge” as to express our carelessness or openness towards the wonders of nature and our lives. “I am a massive fan of Aiden Moffat and I asked him if he was keen to write some lyrics about stones. He came back to me with this beautiful piece and when I first heard what he did, I thought that Meteorite had to be the last song”

I would never dare to say something like “out of tune” to someone like Yann Tiersen but as it slips out of my mouth, he gives me permission to use it to describe the somehow distorted and haunting melodies of Infinity. Every track is as complex and layered as the geologic process that formed the Grand Canyon, and yet the outcome is at times introspective and at times joyous like the first single A Midsummer Evening. “Everyone chose it, I guess because it is the catchy one I don’t know!” he sincerely tells me about it before continuing “You can say out of tunes because I love out of tune things. There is this piano at the beginning of the song and I detuned and actually during the whole recordings it was out of tune. When everybody found out they just said that maybe it was better to tune it, at least in one point of the song. It was funny!”

Despite being tired of talking about Amélie, Tiersen’s contribution to it, as well as on 2003 Good Bye Lenin! and 2008 Tabarly, are all examples of how the music for a film can sometimes be remembered much more than the film itself. What Tiersen explains to me is that he’s now far away from those little streets of Montmartre and that Amélie girl played by Audrey Tautou. “Actually I don’t really see it as an important moment of my life. I am happy with it, it’s a good film to have my music featured in but on the other hand, it is really far from what my music is about right now. I am also really far from the Parisian scene and though I am proud of it, I’m also a bit embarrassed because Paris is almost a concentrate of what I really hate; I hate Paris and people always think about it when listening to that soundtrack so, it’s strange to be associated with that since it’s far from me”.

It seems redundant to ask him about a possible new soundtrack in the future; in fact the answer is no. Still, Tiersen gives me an insightful point of view on the relationship between music and images: “I have never been into soundtracks; my former music is not a language but something really abstract. Making music is a sort of DIY for me and I want to be free to experiment and play with music. I really need to have fun with what I’m doing and, on top of that, I think that it’s impossible to make music from images. This is why I don’t really like soundtracks”. I can’t allow myself to be disappointed by his statement because, even if another soundtrack won’t come along, I now understand what he means: every album he makes is a soundtrack on its own and it’s up to us to imagine the film we want to see as we listen. On Infinity, he outlines a few details like his love for Iceland “I felt at home the first time I was there; it smelled and felt like home with its impressive nature” and his fascination with stones and minerals. The rest is left for our personal discovery.

As I picture him with his toys instruments in Iceland, I ask him about his first childhood memory about music, and just like the lighthouse that inspired Le Phare, light symbolizes his first encounter with music. “I know that what put me to music was light actually; it was an exhibition happening somewhere and it impressed me. You had to walk through many lights and there was music so, the whole thing really struck me. My memory is blurred but I definitely remember the feeling”. Those lights keep on showing him the way and one thing is for sure: they keep his teenage sensibility alive. “The hardest thing about being a musician is to keep playing, even if it’s not working. Beside that it is actually a dream life!” he say with no filters “my life didn’t change that much, I live as if I was still 15 thanks to music and the fact that it’s my living. It’s true, I became a father along the way, but I didn’t really change me. Growing up doesn’t mean that you can’t do silly things anymore; actually I do more silly things right now! I’m more in peace with myself and I enjoy my girlfriend and kids. As you grow up you enjoy the real things a bit more”.

Tiersen is ready for another extensive tour and will be presenting Infinity for the first time in an intimate show in London, at the ICA [Institute of Contemporary Arts] and having the chance to travel the world, and gaining access to different cultures is for him the only good thing about globalization. “I think it’s great to be able to communicate with the world, it’s brilliant. On the other hand, economical globalization is the worst thing that happened to us. It’s horrible and the opposite of what we do as artists. I’m afraid that this situation will lead to the end of the world; people are not able to find their place and feed themselves in this world. If we are able to talk to each other, we can rebel to all this and I think it’s the only way to avoid going to war, and save ourselves”.

Does Infinity also represent the artist’s desire for escapism? Not really, it’s more of a reflection or, as Tiersen simply tells me, “Infinity is life itself. It’s quite an optimistic vision on things like unity and life”. The sound of Infinity is not meant to provide us with some philosophical answers. Infinity is the pursuit of life itself, with its unsettling sounds, outburst of happiness and magnificent wonders. The language of Nature is as universal as the different languages we hear on the album. Yann Tiersen is the mere, and master-composer of a positive moment that allows us to experience our own view on mortality and immortality. “It’s good to be positive at the end of the journey, or at least at a certain part of your life”

Infinity is released on May 19th via Mute Records

Tour Dates and Tickets Info on www.yanntiersen.com

 

 

A Conversation with LIARS – a MESS on a mission / The GROUND Magazine

Read it on The GROUND Magazine

Liars-The-GROUND2-980x150

Endless choices lead to endless possibilities and while for some people this condition may result in anxiety and paranoia, Liars apply these side effects at the basis of their creativity and drive. They always manage to take unexpected turns with every release, miles away from their previous work and yet without compromising their identity. From punk-funk, garage rock, dance-punk and even modified drum sounds on 2006′s Drum’s Not Dead Liars’ attempt to experiment with electronic music created the introspective and self-analytical 2012′s WIXIW. Ahed of the release of their seventh album Mess, The Ground spoke to band member Angus Andrew who explains to us what it means to “not only face fear but chewing it up and spitting it back out in all its technicolor glory”. This is the new schizophrenic sound of Liars, aiming for the first time to create a beautiful and colorful mess out of the doubts and fears of our real, yet very fictional, existence.

“It is beautiful here in LA” Angus tells me as soon as I get on the phone with him, but it’s not another ordinary sunny morning in LA, it is the day after the Oscars. “All the celebrities left town” he remarks sounding relieved about it even tough Mess is the band’s third album recorded in the City Of Angels. 2010′s Sisterworld focused on the struggle of finding your own space and identity in  a city like LA while WIXIW saw them intentionally retire into an isolated cabin in the wood to completely remove themselves from the ephemeral and plastic reality of the city. The recording sessions, aimed to analyze their internal anxieties, gave life to a beautifully crafted electronic piece of work. In line with their drastic musical shifts, Mess hides a new intention, to finally attack fear, and music, from a different angle in the same city where false promises and discarded dreams can turn out to be a source of inspiration or at least reflection. “LA can be enticing and it’s difficult to navigate away from that. I was living in Berlin before and that was perfect for avoiding all of this. I felt really nicely isolated because I didn’t speak German and it felt like being in a little bubble. I could cocentrate on my own work with no distractions but in LA is the exact opposite, I’m constantly defending myself from the onslaught of media and things trying to grab my attention. It’s difficult but at the same time possibly inspiring too”.

I think about how schizophrenic LA can be since the day before, as I was listening to Mess for the first time, I felt like I was being assaulted by the analogue synths and electric drum pads. It sounds intense and it literally leaves you breathless track after track, as you witness a direct moment of pure instinct and purposeful abandon. Unlike WIXIW this album doesn’t give you time to stop and think, starting with the opening track Mask Maker. “Generally with the whole record I just wanted to have a lot more fun. WIXIW was a great experience but it was very heavy and quite dark. It was a really tough record to make and it took us a really long time and I wanted this one to be the exact opposite. It had to be spontaneous and immediate to kind of get back to the idea of having fun with making music rather than struggling. The reason why I wanted it to be the first track is because it exemplifies this concept. When I did that vocals that you hear at the start, I spent a few hours in my studio kind of talking to myself in that voice and recording it. It got stranger and stranger as I kept going but I loved the feeling and spontaneity of it. If I had been in the mindset I was when we made WIXIW I propably would have thought about it for a month and then decided that maybe it wasn’t the right thing to do. Instead with this record I was like that’s it, that’s what we are doing, let’s just live with it! It is a good track to start.”

The doubts Liars always had about human conditions and relationships were the same they experienced with electronic music but in Mess they are almost nonexistent, at least the ones about electronic. “I always wondered how to rid myself of doubt” he sings in Voc D.E.D and questioning everything may just be the reason of their distinctive sound. “Particularly with WIXIW we where making a record for the first time with electronic instruments and what that meant is that we had a manual open all the time, trying to figure out how to use everything. It was very uncertain to me but part of that was a good thing because being in a mood of questioning everything brought out an interesting sort of sensitivity to the music. On the other hand it is also a bit of a plague and with Mess I wanted to avoid that and the best thing to do was just to work faster. It really helped to get rid of that doubt”.

It’s interesting that despite more than ten years in the music business, Liars’s journey has never been a process of reinvention or a strategy plan to keep their sound fresh all the time. Their journey may be defined as an anthropological one, a study on identity and the culture of our generation: anxiety. “I think this idea of too many choices which leads to a certain amount of paranoia and fear is a very common idea for a lot of people today. The song Dress Walker is about this kind of modern situation you may find yourself in. You are overwhelmed by all the possibilities, the amount of media that we get bombarded with everyday and all the choices you have in terms of life itself. Everything isn’t that compartmentalized as it used to be, even in music. You were a rock band or a jazz musician and now every rock band is an electronic artist and vice versa, everything is very mixed up in a  way. Obviously it is a great thing but it’s also paralyzing. I personally feel overwhelmed with choices in every part of my life and it is not an easy thing to deal with. Sometimes what I try to do is to block everything out or say to myself I’m not going to turn on the TV or the radio, I’m just going to focus on these books that I have. Also having a walk somewhere where there are no billboards can help. Most people have strong feelings inside about what they really want to do and achieve but the problem is that they get pushed around by all these other stuff going on. For example, it is difficult for me to listen to pop radio because I know what I want to make musically but if I listen to a new Gaga song, suddenly I’m like Oh my God I really like that , but it’s really not what I wanna be doing.”

The universe of Liars, just like LA, is an endless dichotomy but when it comes to music their challenge is to produce uncommon sounds with common tools. Technological progress is ever-growing and this definitely contributes to Angus’ anxiety and his way of making music. He actually talks about the insanity of progress in the song Pro Anti Anti but not because he’s a traditional guy. “It’s just admitting that it is hard to keep up with technology. There are artists who embrace technology just like a photographer who is really up on all the new equipments and saves his money to buy the latest lens or camera but there are also the ones who just want to shoot images with their crappy old camera. It’s the same with music but I don’t love the idea of keeping track of the new trends, instruments and programs. I wish I was more technologically advanced but at the same time I don’t want to use the apps on the iPad to make music, it is not interisting to me. I see how it could be and I love that Björk is into that for example but it’s not me”.

Mess On A Mission is the first single off the album and despite its immediacy, it raises the problem of what is real and what is not. In the song, Angus almost commands the listeners to “trash the book the film’s half based on” but if life is a film, on which book is it based on for him? “I just have to go with my gut reaction and that would be Charlie and the Chocolate Factory just because ever since I was a kid I really connected with the character of Charlie Bucket. He’s a very poor kid but with big dreams. The whole movie kind of speaks interestingly about society, greed and the way people take advantage of each other. Groundhog Day with Bill Murray could be another option”. It also seems necessary to mention and remind oneself that “facts are facts and fiction’s fiction” no matter how near of far we live from the Hollywood hills. Angus tells me “the most basic fact to live by is that you gotta be honest, with yourself most of all. That’s where our band’s name kind of comes from because we’re really trying to be honest. The biggest fiction is success, money, popularity and all these things that make for a good life. I think that’s just bullshit. The most important thing is to be happy with what you do yourself, that’s the key to living a good life”.

Julian Gross, the drummer of the band, is also the maker of the artwork for Mess and the long colorful thread that we have been seeing in the album’s trailers. Inspired by contemporary artist Urs Fischer and conceptual artist John Baldessari, Liars wanted to manipulate something in a live setting, as to express their uneasiness towards life in a fucked up, but most importantly vibrant way. “I love contemporary art, particularly conceptual art, that’s where I get a lot of inspiration from. The simple idea that the idea itself is the most important thing rather than the product and end result fascinates me. I love that because it removes this emphasis on technical skills. I like the idea that anyone who has a very interesting idea can put it forward without being a professional painter or musician. The idea of a ‘mess’ is obviously what we where trying to talk about and it is a very personal sort of subjective opinion. If you walked into my bedroom right now you would say that there’s such a mess but ,ayne for me it’s actually really clean. It’s just a way of seeing things differently and I like that about our artwork. One person can look at it and think oh that’s just a pile of strings but another person can realize that it is a very specifically placed and very worked on piece”. Where does he intend to lead his fans following that string in the trailers? “Hopefully it is leading people to think about how they asses what they see in everyday life. To make them think about, or second guess, whether they think what they saw is what it really is”.

Doubt and uncertainty once again. Mess may be a cathartic experience and a way to release some pressure on the subject but sticking to electronic music to finally find some sort of balance doesn’t seem the solution. The more unstable the territory, the more likely is the chance to find Liars there on a mission. “If I had to guess I wouldn’t bet any money at the moment. We spent quite a bit of time now with electronic instruments and I do find myself thinking about how nice it would be to sit in a room with an acoustic guitar and a microphone and just have fun. It is exciting to not know what we are doing next but I’m pretty sure it would be another change. For example I really love that kind of electronic music which uses a lot of acoustic instruments. The Civil War by a band called Matmos made me think a lot about how you could use traditional instruments in a way that was taking advantege of the modern technology and tools. Liars approach music in lots of different ways when making an album; you can be conceptual about it, focus on a particular idea and experiment in a way that you are pretty confident that you’ll end up being uncertain about what you are doing. All of these approaches end up giving you a different but interesting result”.

I can almost picture the trio in the studio dealing with this intricate net of sounds and possibilities but at least for this album they didn’t question too much what they were doing and part of that was in the better understanding of the tools they were using. Mess is a manipulation meant to create fun and color. It was necessary as Angus explains to me “you spend a year or two working on an album and then you go on tour for about a year and that whole time your mind and expression is based around that album. When we get past that point it always makes us want to try something different to experiment with and I think that’s really the way it works. I love the idea of being a band like The Ramones and being able to make a record over and over and make it sound awesome. I also admire people who can be great guitar players for example and choose to keep on playing the same instrument in order to get better at it but as you said before maybe I’m too schizophrenic for that!”

As the album comes to an end, Liars tastefully place Left Speaker Blown as the closing track. It is the quiet moment after a party or a concert. The moment where your mind is still while your ears are buzzing. Every intense experience needs to end like this and despite singing “I hope you never learn how to play music” this is a personal moment of reflection as you finally allow yourself to take a deep breath. “What I was trying to talk about is the idea that when you play music and write songs you express yourself in a way that sometimes could be a little hard for people to swallow. You are constantly putting yourself out there into the world with quite personal feelings more than a lot of people do. As a musician I do it on a regular basis so it makes you very vulnerable. The idea of what it is to be a musician is evolving so much just like technology and you feel certain obligations to keep up with it. Obviously nowadays it has so much more to do with everything except the music but I’m always very interested in the visual aspects. Nevertheless, if you just compare the different mediums of being an artist, the ones who really put themselves out there the most are songwriters. A visual artist or a painter certainly do the same but not in such a direct way of expression. Not even an actor could do that. Songwriters talk about themselves putting words to music and are really speaking directly from their souls”.


The world may be evolving too fast and forcing us to adapt and synchronize our personalities as easily as we do with our iPhones but isn’t this the endless conditions every human being faces over and over? LA, life, and a piece of work from a contemporary artist can be so full of nonsense and meaning at the same time and instead of looking for an answer, Liars let their sensibilities float on this beautiful mess; the only way to create music that never lies. “All I know is that there is an equal chance that what we are doing next is moving to Fiji or making a jazz record. The opportunities are wide open and that’s the only thing I can be confident about”.

Facts are facts and fiction’s fiction.

 

MESS is released on March 24th (25th USA) – Mute Records

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Goldfrapp / Tales Of Us / Review

Read it on Hunger TV

It took Goldfrapp just a little more than a decade to experiment with any opposite musical genres. Secluded in their studio in the country, Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory have been fearlessly fusing glam rock, electronic, acoustic and even 80′s disco like two alchemists. The result has always been different but undoubtedly exploding, sensually overwhelming, and emotionally contagious. Even when reinventing disco with 2010′s Head First, Goldfrapp managed to achieve depth and musical integrity.

This time around with Tales Of Us we see them walking in the footsteps of debut album Felt Mountain and Seventh Tree in a less surrealistic and cryptic way. There is a filmic atmosphere in Tales Of Us, meaning that each track literally transport you into a scene of an old film, through musical arrangements that remind of French and Italians songwriters of the 60′s. This is the perfect album, as Alison stated, to have accompanying videos that actually show us the essence of the songs. Directed by her partner Lisa Gunning, these videos will be released as a film by the end of the year. They are shot in black and white just like the double exposure photos you can take through GoldfrAPP’s app and share with Alison herself. For someone who has always described her writing process as a visual experience, Tales Of Us is a project that quintessentially portrays their artistic expression, makes us think, and proves through its acoustic notes that a warm sensuality is not exclusively obtained with electronic and beat driven music.

Each track is named after a specific character inspired by books and films but ‘Drew’, ‘Annabel’, an even the ‘Stranger’ are not merely songs and inventive inspirations but real characters in search of an author. Through Alison’s precious voice they take a life of their own. She is a narrator, who closely shares their feelings without judging them and ultimately the listeners are witnesses and voyeurs as each tale unfolds. Let’s meet them…

Jo – A haunting piano opens the album with a very calm vocal performance by Alison that at the same time creates a sense of urgency in the lyrics. The moon makes the first of its many appearances, it is watching the scene, people, everything. Details of nature are present and they carefully and silently witness Jo’s actions, “you better run for your life”, as strings play a singing wind.

Annabel – There in an old fashioned sense of escapism in this tale. It is inspired by Kathleen Winter’s 2010 novel of the same name which follows a hermaphrodite child who is forced into taking on a male identity in 1960s Canada. Alison’s fascination with dual creatures and personalities is now embodied in this androgynous boy exploring his femininity. A difficult and delicate theme exquisitely portrayed in the video and a statement on society that always wants us to choose. “Why can’t you be both? I feel really strongly about that whole concept in so many things in life” said Alison recently, and the dichotomy between the warm guitar, gentle whispers and the coldness of reality make of this song, and video, a pure celebration of freedom of expression without telling, or showing, the clichés of society’s dogmas.

Drew – Just like a fairy tale, or a horror movie, there is something mysterious about the leading single of the album. Alison rides a bike at the end of the video, like Annabel will do in the following film, and the orchestral arrangement makes us feel that the white snow outside is stained of sin. “Dream on your skin, on my tongue” sounds tempting and the “la, la, la, la, la” adds up to the cinematographic vibe of the song.

Ulla – Goldfrapp’s ability to never speak directly of feelings but let natural elements do the talking through metaphors is shown here. “Ask the lake, you’ll get all the answers” sings Alison in this track of self discovery through traveling and connection in a world that makes no sense. It has a positive feeling and a good dose of sane utopia.

Alvar – Alison tweeted that this is a Finnish name for a boy but we also know that it was inspired by a trip to Iceland. Enigmatic, that’s for sure, and the sinister and purposely distorted guitar leaves us a bit puzzled. “I find it really quite hard to summarise and articulate the meaning behind a song, I apologise for my rather incoherent explanations of my work”, said Miss Goldfrapp but we don’t need to know anything more when we have lines like “I want to swim your silk black skin to the floor”.

Thea“There’s wild in your eyes oh Thea” and maybe it is not a coincidence that this is the only track featuring an uptemo rhythm and Goldfrapp’s trademark sentimental electronica. You may argue it doesn’t fit the mood of the album at first, but it actually works perfectly and makes you wish the next album would follow the musical direction of this track; liberating and cathartic. Something dangerous is happening in this cursed and dangerous town but Alison goes with her instincts as she looks at a “tender torn sundown on Isthmus”. Is this happening for real? Tension, drama, but ultimately romance in this endless night, “It’s all for you, oh hungry moon” as horses ride at the end of the track.

Simone – this is the story of a woman who came home to find her daughter in bed with her own lover. Simone is young and insatiable and her mother, who gave her “the world” is now devastated. The scene becomes a tale as it happens in front of her eyes and is described almost photographically in the lyrics. Along the piano and cavaquinho playing a dark and unsettling music, Alison’s ghostly voice abruptly ends this with “a tale to tell the world, it’s now your’s Simone”.

Stranger – A stranger arrives with a smile that sings and Alison immediately knows it, “you’ll be killing me gently”. It is an extremely sensorial track with a quite seducing Latino feel to it. Alison tries to be indifferent, sometime whistling, but “taken by the crowd, a ride”, she falls for the unknown. So passionate and sensual like a slow flamenco dance, we may not know the stranger’s name or identity, “you’re the in between, boy or girl” but we feel and almost smell everything about him/her as if we were in 1985’s novel “Perfume” by Patrick Süskind.

Laurel – Alison’s voice is soft and almost broken for this track, reminding us of the melancholic “Felt Mountain” era. There is some sort of iciness in her voice, in contrast with Laurel’s “red red hair + almond eyes.” She sounds as if she is watching the scene from far away while Laurel is “looking for a golden light”

Clay – The closing track is a love letter between two soldiers who fell in love during World War II. They don’t know if they would ever find each other again but there is a “beauty in this uncertainty” and since each lyric in the booklet in clearly handwritten by different people, when we read the line “WE fought them on great white sand” we know that this is true love. Violins and guitars celebrate this universal feeling and everything cryptic about “Tales Of Us” melts into a sweet and clear vision. Possibly the most important tale to tell, “my only love, sleep well good night”.

To download the app, go to the iTunes store.

Catch Goldfrapp live on November 1st 2013 Live at Hammersmith Apollo.

Björk / The Biophilia Experience / Live in London

Read it on The GROUND Magazine

If the term “biophilia” literally means “love of life or living systems” and it is a scientific hypothesis suggesting that there is an instinctive bond between human beings and other living systems, in Björk’s immense creative world biophilia is a whole new universe that stands for a never seen before concept project.

The Icelandic artist released “Biophilia” two years ago making it the first app album, partly recorded on an iPad and promoted as a multi-media-dimensional project meant to make us experience each track within the app as a single universe of its own. Biophilia also became an educational program designed to inspire children to explore their own creativity, and to learn about music and science through new technologies. In the last couple of years Björk has been touring in a unorthodox way, at times headlining festivals and at others presenting Biophilia through residencies in selected cities and in venues like The New York Hall Of Science.

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The world of Biophilia comes to life at London’s Alexandra Palace for the last time on an in-the-round stage featuring an octagon of video screens projecting the digital animation that each track has on the app. We are told to experience the show without taking any picture and as the lights went off, London was ready to travel to the secret core of the Earth, the microscopic world of a cell, and listen to the sound of the universe thanks to Björk’s voice and a range of specially-conceived instruments for the project. This is why Biophilia is not a concert or a show but an experience and a “meditation on the relationship between music, nature and technology”.

 

 “…much of Nature is hidden from us… like the one phenomenon that can be said to move us more than any others in our daily life. Sound. Delivered with generosity and emotion, is what we call music” says naturalist Sir David Attenborough during the intro video before informing us that a revolution is about to start, to reunite humans with Nature through new technologies, “until we get there… prepare… explore Biophilia” 

 

THUNDERBOLT Lightning, arpeggios 

The Graduale Nobili Icelandic choir, made of 24 female singers, look like a pagan group on stage and after their performance of “Óskasteinar”, Björk appears like a modern Mother Earth with an oversized and colorful Afro wig and lumpy dress by Iris Van Harpen. “All my body parts are one / As lightning hits my spine / Prime runs through me / Revive my wish / Inviolable” she sings as the Tesla coil makes electricity visible at the center of the stage and sounds like a far away haunting thunder that is about to strike the venue.

 

MOON Lumar cycles, sequences 

Based on four different sequences that repeat throughout the song, resembling the lunar cycles, this track explores the theme of rebirth. The line “Best way to start-a-new is to fail miserably / and kick in to the start hole”, expresses the opportunity we are given each month with the new moon and in this continuous hypnotic and soothing sound, her voice floats back and forth like tides.

 

CRYSTALLINE Structure 

As everything in Biophilia is a metaphor, here the crystallization of minerals serves to investigate Björk’s fascination with the growth of human relationships in our hearts. It is now time for the ‘Gameleste’, a modified celesta, to play before the song storms out in a drum and bass uproarious ending. “It’s the sparkle you become when you conquer anxiety” she sings as the beats, for a moment, really seem to create a piece of quartz. It is the sound of the invisible movements that our eyes can’t see.

 

HOLLOW DNA, rhythm 

During this performance everything becomes sinister yet fascinating and this feeling is enhanced by choir. We travel back to meet our ancestors as trunks of DNA are shown on the screens. Björk’s voice in poignant and almost desperate as she “yearn to belong”, and as the song suddenly ends, we exit this Biophilia’s constellation and realize, little by little, how the music, the app, and the videos are pieces of a single body.

 

DARK MATTER / Scales 

The phenomena called dark matter are directly “unexplainable” and this is why the song features heavy gibberish. Björk embodies Nature but at the same time she does not shy away from what we cannot explain and just like a scientist she questions everything and the result is an atmospheric and ethereal performance.

 

VIRUS / Generative music 

We are not surprised by now about the fact that Biophilia could easily be a natural history or biology book through music but the metaphorical connotation of the lyrics are a true work of art. In this song Björk surprises us singing about the fatal love between a virus and a cell. The virus loves the cell so much that it destroys it and this is a way to express a symbiotic relationship. It sounds captivating, darkly romantic, and truly passionate. On the screens we see the virus taking over the cell and decoding its DNA, “like a virus / patient hunter / I’m waiting for you / I’m starving for you”. No need to fight the virus, in fact, there is a game in the app related to this song where you need to stop the virus from attacking the cell but if you do so, the music stops…

 

MUTUAL CORE / Tectonic plates, chords 

In pure Björk’s style this song starts off with an ambient feel to it before erupting like the volcanoes in the video. The vocal crescendo of the choir, standing in a circle in the middle of the stage as to summon through their feet the powers of the Earth’s core, is outstanding and shivering and as the breakcore part kicks in, we feel how it feels like when the Tectonic plates move. The force of Nature is unleashed; the Earth is constantly seeking balance through imperceptible movements just like human beings, through unconscious actions.

 

COSMOGONY / Music of the spheres, equilibrium 

The sensibility of “Joga” is reinvented here. Trying to unveil the mystery behind the creation of the world means to apply a philosophical view. Is there a limit to what science can show, create, and explain? Maybe, and this is why the lyrics are so different in “Cosmogony”. They are not a metaphor for technical and natural phenomenon here. In its four verses Björks explores the theories behind the creation of the world, trying to look for a definitive explanation; the first verse is the American native creation myth, next verse is Sanskrit creation myth, the third verse is Aboriginal creation myth and the fourth verse is Big Bang theory. What matters is balance and harmony and you can feel it through the epic vibe and vocals of this song.

 

SOLSTICE / gravity, counterpoint 

The Biophilia stage is something unique as it looks like a scientific research camp lead by the free-spirited Björk together with the Graduale Nobili choir. They learn and explore with us on a stage that does not only presents curious and unconventional instruments but also a group of pendulums. They create patterns with their moves, transmitting the movements of the Earth to the sound of a harp making of “Solstice” an almost paranormal experience and a tribute to Foucault’s pendulum.

 

SACRIFICE Man and Nature, notation 

This last song from Biophilia is performed twice, like another couple of tracks during the show. Björks wants to make sure that everything is perfect as the show is being filmed, but her attention to details somehow interrupts the flow of energy created during the night. Nevertheless, she seems really happy, chatty more than ever, and proud to perform “Sacrifice” on yet another unique instruments, the Sharpsichord, a harp/barrel organ hybrid. It was not possible to carry it around during the tour she explains, and for a song that is about surrendering and forging for the love of another, this instrument creates a beautiful and melancholic aura in the venue.

 

They may not be part of Biophilia’s constellation but the setlist included a few back catalogue tracks like the majestic “Isobel” and a sublime rendition of “Possibly Maybe” with the Tesla coil thundering in the middle of the stage. Thanks to the choir, gems like “Hidden Place” and “Sonnets/Unrealities XI” almost become part of a sacred ritual. Among the crowd’s favorites is “One Day” from her 1993 album “Debut” that after twenty years, and through a minimal and tribal rendition, perfectly matches the overall Biophilia theme; “one day it will happen, one day it will all make sense”. The finale is a pure punk-electro-rave and Björk finally tell us to dance along “Náttúra” and “Declare Independence”.

 

The whole choir releases the pressure dancing with an infecting syncopathic rhythm and in this hurricane we are lead to believe that after this Biophilia experience, Mother Nature really manifested Herself through Björk’s work and voice. Björk’s curiosity was aiming to explore the universe from the stars to a single molecule and this is definitely her most arduous and ambitious project to date. She stimulates our minds and leaves us with more questions or, like Sir. David Attenborough put it, “I put on your music when I really want to think about something.”  Nature has its secret way of revealing itself but as long as people will be willing to listen carefully and look closely, we will see that all is full of love, for real, and that Björk’s talent and genius is a manifestation to experience with all the five senses.

Bjork at Alexandra Palace, London

 

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Goldfrapp / Live in London / Somerset House

Read it on The GROUND Magazine

 

 

Goldfrapp’s caravan came into town, right into London’s Somerset House, the famous Neoclassical building and hub for art, fashion, and music. I can use the word caravan because when the caravan girl, aka Alison Goldfrapp, and her band come on stage, you immediately feel they’re vibrating with that raw energy and passion that only gypsies and true artists have when traveling the world and performing from town to town.

They were coming straight from the Manchester International Festival, a fine and avant-garde biennial arts festival where they gave us the worldwide live presentation of the whole new upcoming album “Tales Of Us”. It was a unique performance accompanied by The RNCM’s string orchestra but as for us Londoners, we only knew about Alison’s new look. From modern-erotica Marlene Dietrich, to glam, circus performer and 80′s disco, her new incarnation in Manchester showed a simple black floating look that she manages to pull off ambiguously and sensually. On the other hand, the music was a surprise just like opening a new book, and even though we were granted a preview of only four songs from their new work, Alison showed us how to combine intimate and down tempo performances with glam-electronic-disco, creating an everlasting and emotional atmosphere.

Her tales start with a spoken intro “Once upon a time there was a girl…” and on stage the lights behind the band, that lacked Alison’s partner-in-crimes Will Gregory, looked like trees. This is Goldfrapp’s twisted and enchanting forest, where nature, and human nature, inspires her reflections on the dynamics of our feelings from a privileged and unfiltered vista. She once said that music is a visual experience and as she opens with “Paper Bag”, from their masterpiece debut album “Felt Mountain”, Alison has a white light coming from behind to enhance the stillness of this ambient song that melts later on along the line “when you laugh, I’m inside your mouth”. Her whispered voice continues with the opening track of 2008 “Seventh Tree”, a song about clowns and balloons to symbolize the obsession with fake tits. “Clowns” display her storytelling skills, captivates the audience with its metaphorical words, and makes you want to let those balloons fly, renouncing our plastic reality. The mood is set on the opened courtyard of the Somerset House and Alison has everyone’s attention for the first new song that make up a sumptuous opening triptych. “Stranger”, just like an intruder in the middle of the cloudy London evening, opens with an acoustic guitar to become more and more cinematic. It’s the only track from “Tales Of Us” that is not named after a person, it sounds sinister, dangerous like a James Bond’s mission but ultimately intoxicating, “stranger when you look at me / you’ll be killing me gently”, she recites like a Serge Gainsbourg ‘s chanson.

After opposing no resistance to the stranger, more stories from these mysterious characters unfold. “Alvar” has an unsettling edgy guitar and is “inspired by a trip to Iceland” while “Clay” is about “two soldiers in WWII who fell in love…” Just when the new, decadent, and sophisticated material draw us into this new Goldfrapp’s chapter, we are taken off guard as if someone died too soon in a book we are reading. We know every great book has to take our breath away so the synths and strings of “You Never Know” cut the pace like a knife and we are back into 2005 “Supernature”. The forest on stage brightens up and we are in for some loud kicks with every word “I/love/you”. Alison sounds better than ever and when her soft soprano vocals take on electronic songs, her versatility as a recording artist is mesmerizing and honest. She does not just try out new musical genres to reinvent herself; she is a metamorphosis that shifts in image and style but always maintaining her essence untouched.

“Number 1″ is up next and the crowd, her “deers”, starts shaking and clapping along the synthesizer and bass arrangements that became a timeless and moving fan’s favorite anthem. Glorious is the word to describe it, visionary and yet it talks about love in such a physical way: “I’m like a dog to get you / you’re my Saturday”. Indeed it was a Saturday night and also the folkloristic “A&E” had a whole new meaning to its line “It’s a blue, bright blue Saturday”. Alison recently stated that their previous album “Head First” is not among her favorites, but still one track, “Shiny And Warm” was surprisingly performed like an inciting rhapsody that continued with the hits “Ride A White Horse” and “Oh La La”. The lights are blinding and Alison falls in a trance to her own music. Words like “dancing at the disco” sound extremely lustful pronounced with her British accent and the symbolic green lights for “Oh La La” are just enough to perform one of the most libidinous songs in music, “You’re just made for love”. Spellbinding.

The beats are pulsating, Alison’s moves shift from consumed rockstar, tough she is only drinking water on stage, to dramatic cabaret performer and her intimacy with the talented band is palpable. As the set comes to an end you are even more intrigued by her reserved personality because she does not need to say a lot to the audience. She is here to put on a show with her music leaving the rest to the fantastic lighting effects. This is just enough when everything you have to say has already substance in your art. “Caravan Girl” is a joyous pagan chant of pure freedom and liberation, Alison resonates with nature and after another “Cheers” she leaves the stage.

New, hypnotic leading single “Drew” already deserves to open the encore. The beautiful black and white video, directed by Lisa Gunning, gives life to the dreamy and melancholic feeling of the song and when she says, “Feel the cold arrive, in my bones” Alison seems as she’s acting in a François Truffaut’s film. Performed in July, “Little Bird” sounds even better with slow motion psychedelic mantra, “July, lie, lie”. The sound is so minimal yet the effect is dope. Alison reemerges from the blue led lights to perform the romantic and ethereal “Black Cherry”; try to cut a cherry in half with a bite, look at it and you’ll understand what she means with “black cherry / stone”. The line “hearing you say it, I could die” is heartbreaking but the show can’t be over without indulging in the shivering and erotic ecstasy of “Train”. It is a journey in a shallow L.A night and in pure Goldfrapp style it portrays a borderline experience that we cannot resist to experience. How can we when the word “apricot” in the song manages to stimulate our minds?

Alison marches and lets the music in one last time for “Strict Machine”, the intro rises like a fever and the song is the ultimate experiment between a human body and a machine that commands our brain and sexuality. Goldfrapp does not have a statement or a manifesto; they make experiments within the only nature more complex than Mother Earth. Our human nature. Alison is still “wired to the world / I’m super brain / that’s how they made me” and as the caravan leaves behind an endless explosion of white confetti, on those blank pieces of paper lie Goldfrapp’s future. Tales to tell.

Tales of all of us.

THEM & US / Hunger TV / Interview /

Read it on HUNGER TV

Words / Marco Pantella

Photography / Fabio Esposito www.fabioesposito.co.uk

 

Ami Carmine is a singer, producer and DJ who from the age of 16 was already a session singer for the likes of Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy, before touring as leading vocalist with Basement Jaxx and working with KT Tunstall.

Lee Potter, aka Killa Kela, is as Pharrell Williams once stated, ”one of the finest multivocalists and beatboxers on the planet.” He has been sharing stages alongside Busta Rhymes, Prince, N*E*R*D and opened the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2010.

Ami may come from Venus and Lee from Mars but together as a band they find a common ground where their identities create a bittersweet recipe made of ethereal vocals and sharp beats, produced by James Rushent (The Prodigy).

We catch up with the duo to peak inside the twisted fairytale world of Them & Us

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HOW DID THEM&US COME TO LIFE?

LEE – It came about quite organically, we were finishing our own projects and through that it just felt like the right time to start working on a project together. I was asking her if she wanted to do something on my project and vice versa so people would see us together a lot, you know? Whether or not they knew we were a couple…

AMI – Everyone else knew before we did!

LEE – Yeah and they started associating us together and making assumptions like “oh you must be working together ’cause she sings and you are a writer”. This was four years ago…

AMI – The first two years were just a relationship and now it’s a double relationship!

WHY “THEM&US”?

LEE – We were sitting there in two different creative artist modes so we thought “that’s Them now and together we could be the Us”. Symbolically there are two different alter egos and as things moved on we realised that people getting into the idea of Them&Us were seeing “Them” as people who do certain kind of things and “Us” as these two guys who do something different. This created quite a following of pro-Them&Us.

WAS IT DIFFICULT TO MERGE YOUR DIFFERENT MUSICAL BACKGROUNDS?

AMI – I’d say we do have similar tastes but our paths have kinda gone on different ways. I grew up listening to all kinds of music and I am very beat driven, just like Lee.

LEE – I think we are very clear about the style and sound we are looking for. We’re not influenced from what we are familiar with, it’s more like having a new white canvas and experimenting with new things that may come a little bit out of our comfort zones.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR MUSIC AND INSPIRATIONS?

AMI – I like to think otherworldly, this is one of the reasons why I love films like “The Neverending Story”, “Chronicles Of Narnia” and everything with a fairytale feel to it. It is inspiring to me because these things take us away for a little bit to a nice place to be.

LEE – And this makes it easier to make music that is far broader than what people may be doing now. There may be a hint of dubstep, hip hop and dance but when you have an ethereal orchestra behind it and a great hook in a verse… Well it turns everything into something very moving and powerful. Something else.

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HOW DOES YOUR BEATBOXING AND DJING BACKGROUND INFLUENCE YOUR MUSIC?

LEE – I’ve been beatboxing since I was 16. It came fairly instantly to me even though I was more into graffiti, rapping, and that hip hop competitive side. On every new project you take, everything you’ve developed in the past come back to you to be applied in a deeper way. I do all these sort of different things within the project that I don’t feel like I’m stuck at being just a beatboxer.

AMI – When you are a musician you kind of need to experiment with every angle in music. This is how I started DJing, I took an hour lesson once and I just went on practicing, bought some decks and three years later I was ready! There is a little bit of everything in my DJ sets, they can be quite slow, there’s a bit of hip hop in there, Filthy Electro and the Moombahton of course.

YOU RECENTLY OPENED FOR KELIS AND YOUR GIGS INVOLVE HUGE WINGS ON STAGE, MASKS, DANCERS… HOW DO YOU PUT A SHOW TOGETHER?

AMI – The visual aspect is very important because we see our music as a journey. You have these heavy beats and dark-looking dancers but there’s also a more theatrical attitude entwined in it. You can see a juxtaposition between light and dark in everything we do. I found those wings online and in my research I came across Loie Fuller, one of the first contemporary dance artists. She does this Serpentine Dance with a huge cape on and it inspired me having flowing wings for the show.

LEE – The mask is some sort of “Beauty And The Beast”, the hard and the soft, dark versus light. This is what we are trying to celebrate in our songs. The drops are always heavy and hard but the journey is floating.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR DEBUT VIDEOHAPPY NEVER AFTER, SHOULDN’T A COUPLE NAME IT “HAPPY EVER AFTER”?

AMI – As for the song we had an idea of the bassline and we worked on it with our producer. It starts off with a very playful mood to become more melancholic, more… “fuck another Monday morning!”. The main idea for the video was to have a fairytale-ish atmosphere, so we called upon our friends who are video directors and they totally got the idea and really expanded on it to make it more crazy.

LEE – Super Massive, they were really great!

AMI – Absolutely, they were really fun to work with despite the long hours shooting outside in minus five degrees in a dress. It was freezing cold but they kept our spirits up!

LEE – When we were writing it there was not a feel that this could be about our relationship but in the same breath we got tweets from people on Mondays saying “Fuck another Monday morning”. We didn’t even think about the context of talking about Mondays!

WHAT ABOUT WRITING TOGETHER?

LEE – Ami is the main visionary towards particular songs, she’s almost a filter of the ideas we put together when writing cause she is a commercial songwriter and she knows her voice because she’s predominantly singing.

It gets tough and rigid at times but at its source and from the beginning it is an organic process.

AMI – And it is always different, our song “Oh My God” on the other hand starts off very ballad like and it’s ethereal before storming out.

You always learn along the way and I feel happy about where we are now, it feels right for me and for us.

YOU SPENT YOUR LIFE IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON IT?

AMI – Personally I see it as an experiment of my own creativity and a place where I try to keep myself intact in an industry where you can get broken very quickly. You start out at a level where you don’t get paid for what you are doing and you do it for passion, so as long as we are being sincere we can express ourselves and have people understand us.

LEE – There are obviously times when tactics and strategy comes in but we’d be going against our name if we were to do it just to get along.Also, we are really into all sorts of mediums, not only music-wise. I love art, Ami loves fashion and if you believe in what we believe, we are not averse to work with like-minded artists.

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THE DREAM COLLABORATION WOULD BE WITH…?

AMI – That would be with Spanish director Guillermo Del Toro who’s got that fairytale thing again but with a dark twist. Björk is also a big inspiration for me, her music is timeless, I can still listen to her old albums and feel so inspired.

LEE – I am a very big proper rock fan so that would be someone like Slash. Working with him would be… awesome! And Lemmy from Motörhead.

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR THEM&US?

AMI – We are working on other tracks, we are constantly writing. It takes time especially because we want to make sure that what we are doing has substance and feels right for us. We are working on our first EP and it should be out pretty soon.

LEE – We actually had more songs that were ready to go, but very much like the first tune we want to make sure the video has its own characteristics as well. We are also doing a lot of road testing to see how people respond, which is very important. So far it has been awesome and it’s nice to feel how things are coming together.

WHAT DO YOU THINK AN ARTIST SHOULD ALWAYS KEEP IN MIND?

AMI – Be true to your art and what you want to do because as a human being your instincts are usually always right when it comes to art. You have to be true about your art because you will not be happy with the end result if you are not sticking to where your feelings reside.

LEE – Also, just don’t be an arse! Skills, practice, style, moments of artistic enlightenment, that’s all important, but being nice, well that’s everything! This is why Peter Andre is famous I guess, right? Ok, seriously, the point is: be cool!

WHAT ARE YOU HUNGRY FOR?

LEE – I have an appetite for destruction!

AMI – My hunger lies in just trying to always live my life at its fullest potential.

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Catch Them & Us LIVE at The Underbelly of Hoxton Square, London. August 10, 2013

Official Websitewww.themandusofficial.com

Soundcloudhttps://soundcloud.com/themandusofficial

Phlo Finister / A Conversation with the Poster Girl / The GROUND Mag

Read it on The GROUND Magazine

It is yet another rainy summer day in London when I head inside of the Soho House to meet with Phlo Finister and the moment I see her, sitting in a corner waiting for me, I suddenly feel like Owen Wilson in Woody Allen’s “Midnight In Paris”. As she walks through the crowd in search of a quiet spot, I feel like time is running backwards.

I knew this young Californian artist, who is set to release her very first EP “Poster Girl” this month, found a strong connection with the Youthquaker movement of the 60′s and “Mod” sensibility but as I follow her, dressed in a Felder Felder black beaded mini dress and Prada shoes, the noise around me disappears and what I hear is modern jazz, British R&B, and The Who. Phlo Finister instantly walked me through the day and age she embodies in her style and music, and I’m about to find out why she deserves to be a Poster Girl just like Twiggy, Penelope Tree, and Edie Sedwick.

© EP Album, ‘Poster Girl’, Phlo Finister,

Born in Oakland to half Portuguese and Irish parents, Phlo strikes me with her sparkling smile and though she only has a hint of Egyptian blood, when you look into her eyes you immediately feel the Cleopatra glamour.

“There is a lot of history in my blood, just like in my tattoos”, the way she laughs is real, funny, and young but from singing in a church choir to being a singer, Phlo’s ride towards the definition of “self-made American” was not an easy one. Her debut EP is inspired by her spiritual mother Diana Vreeland, the iconic and groundbreaking Vogue Editor of the 60′s, who first coined the term “Youthquaker” to convey this cultural movement where teenagers dictated the fashion and music scene. This is why on the cover of the EP there is the date 07.16.65 but Phlo wants to embody the Poster Girl combining simplistic, progressive, industrial beats with a new R&B wave.

“TLC and Destiny’s Child had a big influence on me but in my music you can hear it only in the melodies as the production is totally different. I think more of Portishead and industrial beats. I work on production as well, I am so hands on and I literally stay for hours drowned into different sounds until I find the right one. I have to be a bit freak about it otherwise I don’t feel like it is mine”.

She has already been compared to Lana Del Rey but instead of merely singing about dangerous liaisons, Phlo is more explicit in portraying a bad girl. In “Coca Cola Classic” she sensually sings about money, abuse, and Jack Daniel’s shots while in “Hotel Miami” she says, “Baby I should be your call girl / meet me at the top floor room 2012.”

“It was 2012, I was in London and I used to watch “Secret Diary of a Call Girl” the one starring Billie Piper. I watched it for hours, I loved the British style and feel to it but I was in Miami when I recorded it so I got influenced by that as well. As an artist you can get hooked up by anything and create it according to your vision. The song is just a story for me, being a call girl and making money got me thinking about being alone and trying to make my way into the business.” As we cheers to that with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc I ask if her music is a way to rebel to her past where she was banned from listening to hip-hop and R&B. “Definitely, my ethereal side is to be found in my childhood when I was singing in church and training as a ballerina but regarding my dark side, well… I get really dark, I need it and this is why I tell stories.”

Coming from California, the tale of Phlo has a chapter called Hollywood, full of extravaganza, excess, but also broken dreams that helped her staying focused on her career. “Can you imagine growing up there? It is unreal, seriously! People come from all over the world with a dream that fails to become true and you see them walking up and down Hollywood. I was privileged because I grew up in California and I saw every part of it, from Beverly Hills’ lifestyle to the poorest places. This made me more cultured in a way but when I traveled to London I realized how much culture and art history there is in Europe. We don’t have that in America and you see it, everything is so new but growing up I was really able to see through everything and understand certain things.” The most important of course was not to be seduced by the alluring lights of the city and remind herself, “Don’t get caught up because you saw it and you can really end up that bad!”

It is clear to me by now that Phlo is everything but naive and when asked about her decision to become a singer she surprises me once again,”I had a master plan all along! I did all these things in preparation so that when I was going to be 18 I knew I was going to be Phlo, an entertainer.” Her mother left her when she was 15 and growing up without parents only pushed her to survive and create. Instead of wasting time she knew she was on her own and determination never failed her, “I worked as a stylist for a while and when the time to make my own decisions finally came, I wanted to put everything I was putting into styling other artists into myself. I knew I had more talent so I did it and the rest is history!”, she jokes humbly but with a deserved hint of satisfaction.

The next step in the making of Phlo was her admiration, or obsession, for Diana Vreeland but how can a modern girl be so nostalgic? “I am because we don’t have these sort of cultural movements anymore, picking up a Vogue back then was so relevant, right now everything is so accessible. I loved what Diana did with the magazine, she was aware of the influence Youthquakers had and this movement of fashion and music was amazing.” She tells me about Penelope Tree and Edie Sedwick but when I ask her about any inspiring women at the moment she sadly gets silent, “Today?! No one I am sorry. I like Fiona Apple, she is amazing and ultimately I admire everyone who is really dying for their art.” In this cultural crisis at least fashion is still giving some hope, “I am obsessed with Miu Miu and everything Italian like Dolce&Gabbana and Prada. They always hit the spot and it’s amazing how they can be so classic and edgy at the same time, just like my music.”

Phlo Finister – Hotel Miami (Official Video)

“America’s Most Wanted” opens her EP and Phlo sounds like the girl of a mafia gangster who is on the run. We follow her along the dangerous and seductive melodies but isn’t she scared at all about being a woman in this business? “I try to have that voice that won’t be compromised by labels and budgets. I’m not at that point yet but when it is going to happen, it will at my terms. A lot of people compromise for success but to me success is not fame. I want to be iconic, I want to be remembered and do something good.” Phlo does not seem to take things for granted and she is also aware of the impact she may have in the future on her fans but most importantly on her brother, “I also think about my family and I do it for him, I don’t want to be commercialized, I want to be the girl that makes you see reality for what it is. Certain people dismiss the responsibility of being a role model but you just can’t when you have millions of people who look up to and analyze you. You have to be a positive influence when you have that power and think about the next generation.”

“Last Winter” is her most romantic track since she often speaks from a male perspective, saying things that women won’t usually say. “And that’s power! I don’t like labeling people, especially women but let’s say I am a masculine woman, it is the best way to put it.” Behind her strong façade, it is not a weakness that the song is about love, “Love has always something to do with this, I am not gonna lie. Love is the root of everything, thank you for pulling that out of me!” and since there’s no more inhibition I ask her if she’s in love. “I’ve been in love for the past six years but I just wrote about it. Let’s say it was a silent thing.” After laughing on this she continues, “Music helps me to survive but what makes me really happy is having a normal life and people who I truly care for. This is the best thing and being in love makes me happy.”

© Phlo Finister live in London

“Music played, and people sang / Just for me, the church bells rang” is a line from Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang, Bang” that Phlo covers to open her intimate set at the Soho House few days after our interview. She is excited about her upcoming gigs at London’s Wireless Festival, Germany’s Melt, and shooting the video for “Coca Cola Classic”, “I think you guys deserve a video, it is about time! I will work on that.” On that rainy day, as I was leaving the venue, I was back in 2013 from the 60′s. The rain had stopped and despite an extremely fun conversation, I hadn’t quite figured Phlo out, just like the unpredictable weather. It took me a second though to realize that she fulfilled her intention all along. “When people think they had me figured out, I am already working on the next thing and… you’ll never figure me out.”

Phlo Finister releases her debut EP “Poster Girl” on July 29

Night Beach www.nightbeachrecords.com

Phoenix / Bankrupt! / Review

Read it on Chasseur Magazine Issue 5 / page 6

Phoenix-Bankrupt

 

It took four years to Phoenix to release the follow up to their incredibly successful “Wolfang Amadeus Phoenix” and this comes as a surprise since from the very first time you listen to “Bankrupt!” it sounds effortlessly fun. A feel good album that could have easily come out of a jamming session, but these French guys are perfectionist as vocalist Thomas Mars stated, and their new work is a wonderful reinvention of the 80’s, full of synths and unafraid to experiment with electronica.

 

As the title of the opening track and single suggests, “Entertainment”, we are in for a psychedelic and releasing album that makes you want to move along the shimmering guitar and  mind-boggling synths. It gets better and better thanks to a very specific style that grows and acquire a distinctive and colorful attitude up to the second 360 uptempo single “Trying To Be Cool”. Mildly emotional but never dramatic the album becomes more organic when title-track “Bankrupt!” kicks in; a six minutes journey with an intriguing minimal intro that adds texture and depth to this work.

 

“Drakkar Noir” feels slightly Daft Punk-ish but by now Phoenix’s album is a creature with its own personality, “Chloroform” sounds young, fresh, and contemporary while “Bourgeois” may just be the most passionate one. It creates a universal atmosphere, bold like a revolutionary generation that just wants to be understood. Closer “Oblique City” somehow feels a bit out of space but it is integral to this album that finishes in style.