Bill’s Indie Basement (11/30): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
I said last week's Indie Basement was the weirdest yet, and while nothing this week tops Laibach doing The Sound of Music, it's a bit oddball. Four of the five selections here are either French, French-Canadian or at least French-speaking, and there's an instrumental nine-piece band from Amsterdam. Before you stop reading, only two of these selections are sung in a foreign language. All of them are cool and worth checking out and a couple of them are genuinely great. We've got two groups from Montreal (one an offshoot of Indie Basement regular Corridor, the other a great new duo Lesser Evil), French band Le SuperHomard who sound like Dots & Loops era Stereolab, plus Soulwax associate Charlotte Adigéry, and that aforementioned Dutch group (Jungle by Night).
My favorite new thing of this week is the debut single by Montreal band Pottery which is a bit like the early '80s mutant pop of The dB's, XTC, and Orange Juice (or current band Minneapolis Uranium Club), Definitely check that out if you haven't heard it yet.
If the band's PR (and Google translate) is to be trusted, Christophe Lamarche-Ledoux and Ariane M were neighbors as children, and their windows literally faced each other. Flash forward however many years to now and Christophe -- who plays in Chocolat and Organ Mood -- and Ariane still have a connection, and developed it into this musical project, Lesser Evil, whose self-titled debut EP is out today. Also if the press release is to be believed, they made the EP in an RV parked in the middle of the woods. One thing I'm sure about: this EP is fantastic.
The duo draw from all over the musical map, but there is a definite dark, smoky vibe that pulls from surf, psych, '60s orchestral pop (Lee Hazelwood, Scott Walker), not to mention '70s krautrock and the like. Opening song "V.W." sounds like mid-'60s Nancy Sinatra -- think "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" -- but hit with queasy washes of synthesizers. Ariane's voice is perfect for this kind of stuff, and is just waiting to be used in a noir-ish movie or TV show. "Caution" has an insistent, paranoid feel shot through with skronky horns, while "Sight Of" is the kind of electronic music Roisin Murphy makes these days, and closer "Cobra Effect" is dreamy and sad. Do you love Portishead and Broadcast and want to hear something that is evocative of those groups without ever once ripping them off? Lesser Evil pull off that difficult trick.
Jonathan Robert plays guitar and sings in terrific Montreal band Corridor (and is also responsible for their artwork). He also makes music on his own as Jonathan Personne and will release his solo debut, Histoire Naturelle, on February 1 via Michel Records in Canada and Requiem Pour Un Twister in France. With help from a few friends, Jonathan made the record on an eight-track and, if first single "Comme Personne" is any indication, he really got the most out of it. You can hear a little bit of his Corridor guitar sound here, but this is much more of an anthemic rock song, with what sounds like a whole chorus of folks on, uh, the chorus. My favorite parts are the instrumental portions, which are grand and stirring with mellotron strings mixing in amongst the guitars. The song makes its premiere in this very post, check it out:
Do you miss Stereolab? Specifically that mid-to-late-'90s era of the band when they made Emperor Tomato Ketchup and Dots & Loops? Parisian group Le SuperHomard clearly do too, as you can hear on the group's new SpringTime EP, out now on Madrid's Elefant Records. There are a couple songs on this EP that are dead ringers for that era, from the groovy basslines to strings that sound like they were arranged by The High Llamas' Sean O'Hagan. If you dig the sophisticated pop of that era -- including The Cardigans, Saint Etienne, Eggstone, Air, and Bertrand Burgalat -- Le SuperHomard are going to make you very happy.
It's not all space age bachelor pad music, though. SpringTime's title track is rolling, modern synthpop, and "Overflight" sounds like its title, with strings that really make it soar. Singer Julie has the kind of breathy voice that makes it all go down ever smoother.
This is the band's second EP of 2018 -- they released The Pomegranate Tree back in July which is also great. Listen to both below:
Charlotte Adigéry has French-Caribbean roots but lives in Ghent, Belgium where she studied art and dabbled in dance music. Like any interesting beatmaker in Belgium, she crossed paths with the Dewaele brothers, of Soulwax and 2ManyDJs fame, who helped her make her 2017 debut EP at their Deewee studio. Four tracks of mellow but endlessly groovy space disco -- her stuff hovers around the 100 BPM Despacio tempo -- with lots of headroom and a focus on Charlotte's heavenly vocals (and harmonies). It makes a nice companion to Kelly Lee Owens' debut LP.
Now Charlotte is set to return with her second EP, Zandoli, which will be out on Deewee on February 8. She again collaborates with her other partner, Bolis Pupul, who she met on Tinder, and they're making beautiful music together, as they say, and as we hear. "Since working on our first EP, Bolis and I have become best friends,” Adigéry says. “And this record is the product of our love.” The record opens with "Paténipat," which is her idea of a four-on-the-floor banger: still minimal, with a kick drum, her voice and almost nothing else driving things...at first. The song builds and builds across six minutes, as high hat, snare and handclaps enter the picture, and she adds layer upon layer of vocals. Her Carribean roots shine bright here, and it's a little like vintage Tom Tom Club too. I really appreciate the joy in her music and general outlook. “If in life you feel tired and hopeless, throw out all the stuff that don’t matter in the end," Charlotte advises. "Dance until you’re dizzy. Be your naked and uncompromising self.”
Stream "Paténipat" and her debut EP below:
Because I couldn't come up with a fifth French (or French-y), here's an all-instrumental nine-piece band from Amsterdam. Despite having no artistic abilities myself, I am a very visual person and in an email from UK shop Norman Records I was immediately struck by the cover art to Jungle by Night's new album Livingstone which is very much my aesthetic, with its weird sculpture that embeds shiny cubes into some volcanic looking rock. I'm not sure that Jungle by Night's music sounds like what that artwork looks like, but I mostly dig it. They're like a bigger, Dutch version of Khruangbin, mixing dub, afrobeat, krautrock, disco, vintage soul and more into a jazzy cocktail that goes down very smooth. They are at their best when not trying too hard: opener "Hangmat" could be a Todd Terje & The Olsens song and "Stormvogel" pulls a similar trick, but adds an Indian-sounding guitar line that takes it into new territory. The songs that lean on reggae and ska, like "Hurn in Bell" and "Ja Precis," get the tone just right and, though it sets itself up like it's going to be a cheese-fest, "Love Boat" is light and tropical, coming off a bit like Haircut One Hundred or The Style Council.
At an hour and change, the album could use some serious editing. Excess is a problem both in length and arrangements (there is way too much brass on this album for my taste), and I found myself exclaiming "this record is still going?!?!" midway through the two-part "Spectacles" that could've been excised entirely. But the good parts are very good, and there's an enjoyable 35-minute record to be pulled out of this. Dig: