Tuesday, 11 September 2007
Stumbled onto this absolute gem, through myspace meanderings. The song is 'Le Beau Charcutier', by Kotki Dwa - a Polish-influenced three-piece scattered around various parts of the UK. They take their name from a Polish lullaby that the grandfather of two of the band (the Ostrowski brothers) use to sing to them. Which I think is an awesome way to name a band. You can hear the lullaby on their 6Music session with Huw Stephens, which is on the myspace.
Anyway, before mentioning other aspects of this band, I want to just focus on this song and the circumstances surrounding it. It was written for Tate Tracks, a competition run by The Tate Modern to get people writing songs about pieces of art. This song takes its inspiration from Le Beau Charcutier (literal translation - the handsome pork butcher), a painting by Francis Picabia, a surrealist / dadaist painter. On the Tate site, the band write 'Le Beau Charcutier is so handsome but so sad. What a special effort he makes with himself. He would give anything to be your friend.'
The sense of guilt and shame that a butcher might feel at having to slaughter lots of little, innocent pigs to make a living is rendered beautifully here. If we examine the above statement, we can easily unravel the ideas that underpin the lyrics. The butcher has to put on a smiling, friendly front to his customers so they feel suitably enticed into buying his choice cuts, whilst possibly dispensing culinary advice. He also has to put on a front to the poor little piggies, who he slaughters mercilessly day after day, but it's a necessary evil to maintain his livelihood. The sadness he feels at having to carry out this act stays with him all the time, in his dreams as well the smell on his clothes. He can't share it with anyone, he is lonely and it just wears him down. His fatigue is such that it causes him to be late for his appointment with the painter.
At least that's how I've interpreted the song anyway. The lyrics are just wonderful, slightly eccentric with the odd bit of French thrown in. They really evoke some lovely images. I love the sense of mauvaise foi which just runs through them. Beneath is an excerpt.
'my curly-tailed friends have all met terrible ends. They trust me and depend but all of my love is pretend.'
In this song, the lyrics are reinforced by light guitar pickings and a stunningly raw vocal that drifts, rises and falls at all the right moments. It makes me think of a mixture of Fyfe Dangerfield and Zach Conden and someone else who I can't quite place right now. If it doesn't win the Tate Tracks competition, then there must be some stonking contenders. Or poor judges. It has got through to the final 20, so best of luck to them.
I've also included below a song by GoodBooks (b-side to Leni), which has a similar lyrical theme about the problems of being a butcher. It's not quite as good as Kotki Dwa's effort but it's worth a listen anyway. It could actually be about the same painting, as they mention painting in the lyrics. I ripped it from vinyl and it's not amazing quality, I'll try and do it again later but if you like it, you know what to do.
Kotki Dwa - Le Beau Charcutier - (myspace)
GoodBooks - The Butcher (We All Fear For You) - (myspace) / buy
I suppose reading the above might give you the impression that Kotki Dwa are a bit bleak.Other lyrical influences include Bristol nightclubs, being a waiter in a sci-fi pub, which most certainly demonstrates a sense of fun and normality. This is further backed up by lots of wonderful electronic bleeps and bloops and general good musicianship. The fact that they can write a song as good as 'Le Beau Charcutier' without even demonstrating their electronic side bodes pretty well, I think. Their artwork is also absolutely amazing, courtesy of one of their number studying graphic design. More about these guys, once I get my hands on their album. Which they released entirely themselves. Buy it here. Wonderful.
Right, to finish this one off, just gonna post some songs/links by some artists that I've been really taken with recently with brief descriptions.
First up is Florence and the Machine, with a quite simply brilliant cover of 'Galaxy of the Lost' by Lightspeed Champion. Her voice is just incredibly powerful, another in the seemingly endless list of awesome London based singer-songwriters. Where do they come from? I'm really torn as to which version of the song I like best. I'm not really sure what I make of ex-Test Icicle Lightspeed Champion's other output, but this song is exceptional. His version is wonderfully arranged, with backing vocals from Emmy the Great working to great effect but the stripped down version by Florence just shows how simple it is I guess. Hmm.
Florence and the Machine - Galaxy of the Lost (myspace)
Lightspeed Champion - Galaxy of the Lost (myspace/buy)
If you haven't heard of La Blogothèque or Concerts a Emporter (take away shows), then now is the time to start. Basically, the guys behind it get bands/singers to play little acoustic shows in the street when they visit Paris. Check Beirut performing Nantes (i love the random french bit in the middle - Laisse-moi!), from their new album, The Flying Club Cup, out in the next month or so. It has leaked already though (type in 'beirut album leak' in google to find it. how ridiculously easy), which is a pity. Even though I might have a listen, I'm most definitely going to see him and his merry band next month in Paris at Le Festival des Inrocks, and I'll buy the album too if it comes out on vinyl. It's an interesting issue though, the whole idea of stuff leaking and the implications it has. I refer you to here and here. I'll offer more detailed thoughts on this in future, but I think with technology being how it is at the moment, it's inevitable. I know if I really really love something, I'll buy it. Not everybody's like that though. What's worse is poor quality leaks, because absolutely nobody benefits there.
Beirut - Nantes (mp3 / concerts à emporter / take away shows pour les anglais)