Monday, 18 February 2008

artist: elle milano

This was written a while back, but due to my laptop not being around, it was delayed a bit. The album has since leaked, (and it is incredible - my album of the year so far and that includes the debuts of Foals and Pete and the Pirates aussi) but let’s have a bit of background first so you can track how the band has got to where they are now. Three and a half years condensed into a thousand words or so.


It’s fair to say that I’m somewhat obsessed with Elle Milano. I have been for around two and a half years now. They tend to split opinions, most people who I’ve forced their music upon either seem to really love it, or just be indifferent.

The band consist of Adam Crisp (vocals / guitar), James Headley (drums / vocals), Chloe Joanna (bass /vocals / screaming). They have also gone by various delightful stage names such as Kobé Winona / Miya Suzuki, Ursula Romano / Jé Suisse and Betty Katsuki. Adam and James met at sixth form college in Hampshire and previously played together in a group called Psirens. Upon moving from Yately and Cove to Leicester to study Music Technology at De Montfort University, they formed Elle Milano with Chloe. Alexander Petersen, formerly of Psirens also as well as Hikikomori Broadcast, volunteered his services when they decided they needed a second guitarist. Alex has recently left the band, citing musical differences and a general disillusionment with the current state of the music industry.

This disenchantment with the music industry and the throwaway nature of modern culture permeates their lyrics, and is backed suitably by their melodic yet abrasive, angular sound which is incredibly dynamic.

As you would expect from a bunch of music technology students, the product sounds pretty good. The quality of their early demos isn’t really in keeping with what you would usually expect from a band in their formative stages – it surpassed them to the extent that they earned themselves a radio session on Steve Lamacq’s Radio 1 show and became the subject of serious music industry interest.

So after being courted by various labels in the autumn of 2005, including interest from the management team of The Killers, Elle Milano chose to sign with Brighton Electric – a new British label founded by James Stringfellow and Mark Jones (Jones previously founded Jeepster Records and signed Belle & Sebastien and Snow Patrol during his time there).

My first gig since arriving in university in London in September 2005 was also their first gig in the capital, at the ARTROCKER night at Buffalo Bar. I was surprised to find the gig very sparsely populated, since there did seem to be a lot of hype and admiration for the demos that were floating about online. Hype, though as I have come to learn, means nothing. They blew me away that night with a performance filled with vicious energy and scathing, scathing, criticism.

Of the early demos, Swearing’s For Art Students was the obvious “hit” and subsequently became the title track on the band’s debut EP, released March 2006. In the space of a few minutes, the stereotypical idea of students being consumed with their own self-importance and the general fickleness one could associate with this is demolished beautifully. The other tracks on the EP are all hurled out at 200 mph including a song about post-modern flings / one night stands, Men Are Bastards, violent lager-lout relationships in Amphetamine Skyrocket and a desperate desire to break out of the 9-5 in Believe Your Own Hype. Always.

You would think at this point after releasing an EP to moderate acclaim that the band would push on and release more material and tour extensively et cetera. On the contrary, even though live shows had seen the band play more and more new material, they clearly weren’t decided on which direction to push musically. They certainly could have gone for gold at this point, turning down a support slot for Test Icicles amongst notable others, which undoubtedly would have seen their popularity snowball and win them a great deal more fans (Hadouken! have cited them as an influence and look where they are now) Instead, they returned to university and set about finishing their degrees and experimenting until they established how they wanted their debut album to sound.

They returned to the live arena last March with a one off support slot for Bloc Party in Reading. Newer songs from the finished album were aired for the first time here and I Know It’s Good But I’m Playing It Down was played on Lamacq Live on Radio 1. Degrees in the bag, they set out on a summer tour with their friends Winter Kids around the UK. At the end of the summer, just as the band were preparing to release My Brother The Astronaut, a song about the psychological difficulties of being an astronaut and going from hero to zero after retirement (in turn a metaphor for the way bands are hyped up, then brought crashing back down to earth), Alex left the band as he felt the notion of being in a contemporary, touring band was a compromise. To those reading the band’s blog, this came as no surprise.

It’s fair to say that 2008 or so is pretty crucial for Elle Milano. I know they have been playing live as a three-piece with friends filling in on guitar / sample triggering duty, but a permanent addition hasn’t been confirmed yet. If the band are to step it up a gear in terms of live shows, they will need stability, which maybe they can find now that they are no longer carrying somebody who didn’t want to be there – talent aside.

Tracks that I’ve heard from their album, Acres of Dead Space Cadets, demonstrate a more mature, layered sound that is very intelligent and has clearly had a lot of thought put into it. It isn’t Battles by any stretch, but in a pop sense I think you’d be hard pushed to find anything smarter. The drumming is always imaginative; the bass lines vary between supporting the prominent angular riffs and acting as a driving force in the song. Vocals are layered in a contrasting manner, a snarling vocal often being juxtaposed with a calmer, more melodic one to great effect. This is their great strength, the ability to combine music and lyrics that can be incredibly vicious and angry, yet tender, vulnerable, humourous and catchy all at the same time.

Here is a mixtape to fill in the gaps until the next single, Meanwhile in Hollywood, is released on March 31st, followed by the album, Acres of Dead Space Cadets follows on April 14th. Pre-order links over at the myspace. The band also have a few dates in London coming up.

Some of the songs are demos, so take that into account when you consider the quality. I'd post individual links but I really don't have the time right now...perhaps when I get more time. They are in a vague chronological order. I just want to demonstrate how prolific the band are, as this is only the half of it really. I respect the fact that they've chosen to leave a lot of songs off the record, when it would have been easy to include them, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be heard.

Elle Milano Mixtape: YSI link // Savefile

1) Swearing’s For Art Students - the song that first brought Elle Milano to my attention.

2) Sunshine in Happyland - off their first demo EP. Quite simple looking back, but biting all the same.

3) Girl Scout Up Late Doing Homework - another one off the first demo, wonderfully noisy. The way it ends is just great.

4) Private Thoughts - The only song off the early demo to make the album. Features the genius refrain, "Masturbation is better for girls with imagination" whilst referencing Big Brother culture at the same time.

5) Ringtone Advertising Director (demo) - This will be the B-side to Meanwhile In Hollywood.

6) The Choreographer (demo) - Download only B-Side to My Brother The Astronaut. I believe it's a tribute to friends who passed away in a plane crash.

7) Showroom Furniture (live demo) - Beautifully heartwrenching song, a re-recorded version will feature as a b-side to Meanwhile.

8) Theme For Coco Loco - Pianos. An interlude to match some of the ones that feature on Acres...

9) Believe Your Own Hype. Always (2007) - Unhappy with the version on the Swearing's EP, this is taken from the album outtakes.

10) Katsuki and the Stilettoed Stranger (6Music session) - Noisy, but pleasurable.

11) Carousels (live) - This song has a sense of frustration and despair to it that is unrivalled on Acres.

12) Curiosity Killed The Popstar (live) - This song demonstrates Elle Milano's attitude to pop, abrasive in places but still undeniably poppy.

13) The Great Gulf (Live & Acoustic) - Another sombre acoustic number.

14) The Car Behind (Kobé and the Konsoles) - This is a song from Adam's solo project.

15) I Know It’s Good But I’m Playing It Down - Taken from the Bloc Party support slot last March, this is a brilliantly modest pop song.

16) Wonderfully Wonderful All The Time - Like nothing else I have ever heard, driven along by a throbbing bass line, with a middle section that is like a guitar band on a ghost train. Possibly the highlight of Acres..., and maybe the best song I've heard this year.



harry said...

thanks, enjoyed that xx

Anonymous said...

Wow, there's so much about Elle I didn't know, and I got into them about the same time you did...

ed cresdee said...

are you stalking them or something? you know everything!

Anonymous said...

Unfortenately the file is no longer available. Can you upload it again? Thanks!

jehan said...

mixtape link again!

interview should be up in about 10 days.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much!

Alls said...

could you please reup the mix please!
the yousendit link is down maybe on megaupload or rapidshare
that would be really really great
thanks in advance
cool blog! i love Dirty Hands by the way Desire desire desire!

MK said...

If you could reupload this it'd be great, i've been looking everywhere for the rarer elle milano tracks!

Aenariel said...

yeh, could you re up this please? thx