Friday, 29 June 2012

Le Premier Amour

The new Wes Anderson film has a Françoise Hardy song on the soundtrack - this is a good thing.

It's not surprising that he chose the Jacques Dutronc-penned Le Temps de L'Amour: a song which perfectly captures the wide-eyed innocence and burning intensity of first love, and is a perfect introduction to the delights of mademoiselle Hardy.

Unfortunately, bringing such music into the populist consciousness means it will very quickly be picked up and sullied by crass TV execs from Channel 5...  Oh thank you Mr Anderson!

...meanwhile, back in 1982

Sorry for the lack of posts over the past month, I've been stuck in 1982* after listening to Scraps' ode to the lovelorn computers and robots whose affections went unrequited in all those archetypal films of the 80s like Electric Dreams.

The song really reminds of me of the kind of twisted electronic pop that tender pervert Momus used to put out, and also of Transformer Di Roboter's song for Bob Ross, hero of amateur painters everywhere. Dig that painfully hip low-rent video style too!

You can visit Scraps at her BandCamp page, where you can listen to and buy her album on all digital formats under the sun - 11 songs of lo-fidelity, shuffling Casio pop with titles like Simple Minds and Devo and Owl Power and Pet Mess.  You may also be able to buy a seven-inch if you ask her nicely.

* Actually I've had a super busy month doing all sorts of things like working&seeingrelatives&painting&havingaclearoutofthegroaningmountainoftatthatwasthreateningtoburyL'AmourElectroniqueHQ.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Francoise and the Man from Mars

Ask me what my favourite era of Françoise Hardy records is and I wouldn't hesitate for a second to say the mid- to late-60s. A time when the production values on her records went HUGE, the arrangements (by Charles Blackwell, Mickey Baker, Jacques Denjean, Johnny Harris, et al) were GRAND and the songs were unashamedly POP (see her London-based 60s TV special The Piccadilly Show for some Hardy evidence).

So when someone comes along and tells me that an album from 1971 is one of her best, I refuse to believe them.  This was the case with La Question, recommended to me by a few bods (in person, and in print).  I had to see what the fuss was all about so I downloaded it, stuck it on and did some work whilst it passed by like so much background noise.  I dragged it onto my i-affixed personal stereo and forgot about it until one day I needed something gentle to block out the sounds of the commuter train on the way home from work.

Then the magic happened...

La Question is much sparser than the baroque pop of her output throughout the 60s, but the high production values are still there albeit in a far more tempered and subtle form.  Orchestrated throughout with pared-down strings and intricately plucked Spanish guitar, Françoise's voice is pushed to the forefront, sounding intimate and confessional - it's almost as if she's leaning in close to your ear to confide in you, the listener.

Studio trickery is simple but effective, panning voice and instruments across the whole Stereo spectrum, with a light and airy reverb added to everything. The only bells and whistles are a bit of piano and organ, sleepy upright bass, plaintive whistling, and the desolate winds of the Martian tundra as manifested by the human voice in this song...

Françoise Hardy - Le martien/Chanson d'O

Please do yrself a favour and stick yr headphones round yr ears before listening. Do this and I promise you're in for a spine-tingling and majestic listening experience.

Françoise Hardy - Le Martien
[buy La Question from or allmusic]

a little bit o' Blue for the dads

I've just heard the new Sébastien Tellier album, or rather, I listened to his message (as he requests: "N’écoutez pas mon disque, écoutez mon message...").  On his new long-player, Monsieur Tellier seems to have swapped Sex for Religion, with maybe a bit of sex on the side (he sings of volcanoes, golden ladies, and a magical hurricane...). Or maybe Sex IS Religion?

The title of this latest opus is My God Is Blue, and Sébastien appears on the front, swathed in an azure glow, looking like the second coming of Jesus. Or possibly Dennis Wilson at his beardiest.

We find Sébastien adrift in a topographic ocean of the deepest blue, such is the expansive nature of My God Is Blue. The slick synth soundscapes of Sexuality have given way to great, big helpings of bombast: ecclesiastical choirs, fugual organs, prog-tastic arpeggiators, filmscore strings, and slick guitar histrionics.

In getting across his "message" he gifts us choral overtures, smooth mellotron confessionals, space-y disco musik (Cochon Ville), synth-rock operatics, pastoral folk with glass harmonica (Magical Hurricane), gently parping synthesized brass, and mournful piano. And Sébastien's voice drifts over it all, whispering sexual sweet-nothings in your ear.

Yes, like all great Frenchmen he takes his art seriously, but I also get the feeling Mr. Tellier had *whisper it* fun making this record. There are points when I've found myself almost laughing out loud at the brazen ludicrousness of some of the music: surely anyone who can follow the epic, Bolshevik-strings fuelled Russian Attractions with the syrup-y, lounge-soul of Mayday must have their tongue quite firmly lodged in their cheek?

In an era of quick fix mp3s and 2-second attention spans, you've surely got to have some balls to release an expansive concept album as ridiculous, pompous and brave as this. But that's just the way we like a Sébastien Tellier record.

[you can buy My God Is Blue direct from Record Makers]

Friday, 1 June 2012

France Gall's Baby Pop

I noticed with joy on the last Ready Steady Girls mailout that there's a new France Gall comp coming out. Made In France: France Gall's Baby Pop is released this Monday 4th June on the always-dependable RPM records and collects together all of her Gainsbourg penned output recorded for Phillips between 1963 and 1968.

Aside from the classics, there are a few titles which are new to me (Rue de l'abricot, Mon Bateau de Nuit, Quand on est ensemble, Tu n'as pas le droit...), and it's good to have a proper release of her version of Bloody Jack and Poupée De Cire... in Japanese too!

If you want to start your France Gall collection, buy it!  If you have a France Gall collection, buy it, there must be something you don't already have! If you hate France Gall, why are you still reading, go buy it too, you might be surprised by the sugary audio confections within!

You can buy Made In France: France Gall's Baby Pop direct from RPM/Cherry Red.

the four hands of god

I remember going to see dEUS when I was at University way back in... well you don't need to know the year. They played the tiny Oxford Zodiac around the time of Little Arithmetics, I think (Balls! That dates me!). One of them was really drunk and got kicked out and we had to help get him back in.

So it was a pleasant surprise when I got an email from their friendly PR person announcing their new single, and even more of a surprise that it's in French. Described by the band as a "spy thriller theme in waiting", it's intense and moody stuff, watch it below...

dEUS' new album Following Sea is out today (1st June) on iTunes and released physically on the 8th June, visit their website for details, they tour Europe throughout June.

French pop on BBCTV

Last Sunday, following the Eurovision extravaganza, BBC4 aired two programmes looking at how Foreign pop music is received in the UK, focussing in particular on those one-hit-wonders that leak into the public consciousness and lodge themselves there until we're all sick to death of 'em.

Of interest to us here at L'Amour Electronique were the few clips of French artistes that found their way in amongst the other cheesy Euro-pop.

First there was Anyone for Demis? How The World Invaded The Pop Charts, (available until 1.14am, Sun 3rd June) with a few gems in amongst the Hawaiian guitar, Calypso, panpipes, (the really sinister) Nina & Frederik, Nana Mouskouri, and, of course, the big man Demis. We enjoyed the footage of the French pop stars (beginning at 30m25):
  • Johnny Hallyday (denounced by Stuart Maconie as "the French Cliff Richard") performing his response to Antoine et al Cheveux Long et Idées Courtes.
  • Françoise Hardy - a very brief clip from Eurovision '63 at 23m30 and some lovely footage of her walking round a park to Tous Les Garçons et Les Filles from 1962 at 31m50.
  • Some studio footage of the scary, but compelling, Swingle Singers.
  • Serge and Jane with Je T'aime..., of course! (33m22)
  • A teeny, 15-year-old Vanessa Paradis miming Joe Le Taxi and showing off her gappy teeth on Top Of The Pops (52m59).
  • oh, and the story of The Singing Nun (18m50), who left the convent and became a lesbian, and later died in a suicide pact after being hounded for royalties from the record, which had all been paid to the convent.  Tragic.
Straight after came Exotic Pop at the BBC (available until 2.14am, Sun 3rd June) which included full performances from a number of French stars in amongst the £2.50 jangle-piano of Winifred Atwell, the Kessler Twins ("performing" Un Homme et Une Femme like a 60s female German version of Jedward!) Harry Belafonte, Falco, and the hilarious prog-operatics of Focus.  Here's what we recommend:
  • Juliette Greco looking sultry and playful (9m15).
  • Poor Françoise looking painfully awkward and singing All Because Of You in English with some stalker bloke getting in the way a lot - she keeps shaking her head but he just doesn't get the message (14m56).
  • Charles Aznavour introduced by Sir Jim'll of Fix It at Christmas and wearing the vilest jacket we've ever seen (29m38).
  • Plastic Bertrand grinning and pogoing around like a happy little punk puppet (34m48).
  • And the full synchronised sax-dancing clip of Vanessa Paradis where some of the audience have been given Joe Le Taxi scarves to wave! (51m34)