Friday, 23 May 2008

Recollections From The Crash: Elle Milano at The Fly

Following Jehan's monumental MSN conversation with Adam Crisp, I met up with Elle Milano before the final gig of their UK tour at The Fly (30th April):

From assaults on the music industry ‘Curiousity Killed The Popstar’ and ‘Believe Your Own Hype, Always’ I expected anti-publicity, spiked-tongued Yanis-alikes, but none of Elle Milano pull perverse, pretentious stances. Adam Crisp (frontman) is charming and thankful I’m not another clueless blonde undergraduate who wants to get ahead in journalism (which is exactly what I am, but I didn’t blow my cover).

Whereas someone like Yannis tries to maintain a cult reputation when his band are less David Lynch than Judd Apatow, Elle Milano’s poptastic moments are meshed with a malevolent undertow; their debut album ('Acres of Dead Space Cadets, see Jehan's review) is a melting pot of time-signature play, blistering drums, electronic whirrs, raw power guitar, blasts of orchestra, heartbroken yelps and powerpop choruses. Depth careering through the walls doesn’t help you in an age of drab recycled indie, though. “They don’t know how to pigeonhole us” says Adam, not proud but lamenting. Things might have been different if they’d accepted a support slot for Test Icicles, but they chose to finish music production degrees and hook up with infant label Brighton Electric, sadly still recovering from their chief financial backer dying in a plane crash. The band are dreading getting jobs after the tour; Adam is also a dab hand at hip hop production, and I guess we’d all rather do that than groom ourselves into a band like The Courteeners. Indifference is his worst fear: "I think NME gave 'Acres of Dead Space Cadets' 6 out of 10", he says, crumpling his face. We move on to recite snatches of the 'NME is so shit now' chorus, and end up discussing that mag's chief suer, Morrissey. "I've got into The Smiths recently", Adam enthuses, impressed by, on songs like 'Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others', "that way of crafting a two-minute blast of pop song that's gone before you know it. That's what we tried to do with 'I Know It's Good But I'm Playing It Down' (anti-anthemic highpoint of Elle Milano's debut)".

Elle Milano's headlining set at The Fly that night showcases their own intricate, triumphant brand of emo: scathing yet sentimental as opposed to quiet then loud but all the while pointless. The crowd is a bizarre mix of benignly interested regulars and a small clutch of dedicated groovers including one fey fan whose invented actions to the lyrics are burned on my retinas and his fag hag, whose shapes put half my pint on the floor. Elle Milano deserve better than this. Pay attention or the band themselves may be gone before you know it.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

simian mobile disco @ fornarina, louvre

the above photo is temporary until my drinking buddy Ben uploads his photos.

I think it's important to distinguish between a live set and a DJ set. According to various definitions, live means something that's actually being performed at the time of hearing or viewing. This can raise issues when considering the performance of electronic music, as a DJ set could in its simplest form just mean playing songs in sequence, which isn't really performing anything per se. Skilful manipulation of tracks could be held in higher regard, as there is a clear eamount of technique involved.

Other definitions of live can allow for it to mean something that's charged, or abounding with life and energy. This you could easily apply to a DJ set, as the choice of tracks as well as the manipulation and mixing of them can clearly be done with this spirit in mind.

Maybe this isn't an important issue, as surely what is more important is whether the act, in the form of a DJ set or a live show, is actually any good.

Free stuff is good. People who say nothing in life is free haven't been out in Paris lately. On two occasions in the last few months, I have been out to see Simian Mobile Disco completement gratuit. Firstly at Le Showcase, where they delivered the full live show which was nothing short of mesmerising. They only played around ten songs but the way the spun them out through fucking everything up sonically in ways I cannot even begin to comprehend was really impressive. Of course, they also have the tunes, and the light show.

Simian Mobile Disco - It's The Beat (The Teenagers remix)

Last Sunday, I headed down to Caroussel du Louvre for a free show put on by Fornarina in aid of an urban beauty show - whatever that means! Queues were snaking almost all the way to the Mona Lisa for an hour or two before they let everybody in. Myself and my beautiful, urban friends wandered about a bit round various art exhibits and stuff before heading to the room with the soundsystem, and also free bar. Free bars, I've decided are good. Endless half pints with an hour in between is probably the right idea as it means that the whole room isn't completely and utterly smashed within a short period of time. It just takes longer, that's all.

New Young Pony Club warmed things up with a DJ set that pushed all the right buttons without really setting anything alight. In between NYPC and Simian, some DJs playing early 90's rave style stuff took to the decks, which was alright if not a bit of an anomaly. I wasn't really watching all of it, as there was a free bar and dancers and just lots of very urban, beautiful people (average rating about 8.5 for the room I think). Jas Shaw from Simian then appeared and played a sweet set which included a couple of Simian Mobile Disco tracks like the aforementioned It's The Beat, whilst mixing it up nicely, which I think is what a DJ should do. The set climaxed with Erotic Discourse by Paul Woodford which first blew my mind ages ago at The Key near King's Cross. It sounds like robots fucking.

Paul Woodford - Erotic Discourse

With regard to the whole live / DJ difference, I think it's worth mentioning Justice. I can't really see any major differences between their live and DJ sets, as even though their live sets do concentrate more on their own material, it's not exclusive. They don't use any extra equipment in their live set, and whilst their shows are incredibly powerful, I just don't see why they advertise it as live when it is just a DJ set with a load of amps to hide behind. Some people (my flatmate) argue that you could say the same thing about Daft Punk, but just on a bigger scale but I don't really agree. I just think that whilst Justice have better songs than Simian Mobile Disco, they could learn a thing or two about what really constitutes a live performance.

In other news.............this is happening this weekend in Nottingham. Dot-to-Dot Festival has steadily grown over the last three years (previous lineups here) into one of the finest one-town festivals around. Except now it's also in Bristol and has a one dayer in Hoxton. The quality of the lineup is brilliant. I'm hoping to catch Jeremy Warmsley, Mystery Jets, Noah and the Whale, Slow Club, Eugene McGuinness, Esser, Midnight Juggernauts and Kissy Sell Out to name but a few. The Sunday is the better of the two days, I might pop home to watch Sebastien Tellier perform at Eurovision. The strength and weakness I suppose of most festivals is that clashes are inevitable , and that sometimes, but not always, you end up stumbling onto an artist that otherwise you would never have come across. Another thing with these festivals is that the lineups change. When I bought my ticket a few weeks ago, Florence and the Machine is playing. Now she isn't, which I'm really not very happy about.

Will try and do a more comprehensive preview before the weekend, but if I don't have time then these MP3s will have to suffice.

Slow Club - When I Go
Midnight Juggernauts - Into The Galaxy

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

i saw you waiting in the water....

Late of the Pier. I have been going on about them a lot, which I make no apology for. Just a quick post here to highlight possibly one of the best free things to come with a record ever.

3D Sunglasses in the style of the original Space in the Woods single. As modelled by me. to go with their last single The Bears Are Coming, which finally found its way to me last week. To be seen on dancefloors and hip clubs everywhere as LOTP continue their weird ascent to the top of planet pop? Err....probably not as they are just made out of paper. Would not last five seconds at a gig. They make everything look rather skewed and hazy though.

As is the song.

Late of the Pier - The Bears Are Coming
////buy here at turntable lab

They also have made lemon curd...not really a fan myself though of citrus based conserves. What other crazy LOTP merchandise would you think would outdo these items? I think some kind of timepiece in the style of the Thundercats sword, cheese knife, possibly boxer briefs or a letter opener? Ideas anybody? Can you outdo a letter opener? They've just finished the mastering of their album, so I'm told, it certainly looks at the moment like Erol Alkan could have two albums on any truthful self-respecting list of great albums of two thousand and eight...Warehouse party on June 6th in a secret Shoreditch location....mysterious.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

rise above.....

In this day and age, it is incredibly easy to know tremendous amounts about music, books, films etc. before you actually experience them directly. I think that there's a lot to be said for just going to something completely blind, without any preconceptions in your mind about what will follow.

It was with this spirit in mind that I headed down to Nouveau Casino on Thursday to see Dirty Projectors. There's been a lot of hype about these guys whizzing its way around the blogosphere, since Rise Above, the release of their hazy recollection of Black Flag's album, Damaged, hit the shops last autumn. Again I'm completely oblivious with regard to Black Flag as well.

More to the point, the only reason I was going down to the Nouveau Casino was also because it was free. were running a competition in association with the venue to give away 15 free places to anybody who could be bothered to track down the tracklisting for their 2002 album, The Graceful Fallen Mango, and post one of the song titles in the relevant group shoutbox.

So, I had absolutely nothing to lose. I'd pilfered a promo of the album from work a few days before but hadn't had time to listen to it. This again is an all too regular problem - too much music, too fast, not enough time. Everybody has gaps in their musical or literary knowledge that you're never going to fill in.

I caught the tail end of the support, Nancy Elizabeth, but I didn't really see enough in the one song that I heard that impressed. Dirty Projectors took to the stage soon after and blew me away. I was just struck by the sheer power of the vocal harmonies between the frontman, Dave Longstreth, and the two girls, Amber Coffmann and Angel Deradoorian, who were backing him up. At one point, they held a note for what seemed like an age before just casually pitch bending up a few notes. My flatmate described Longstreth's vocal style as "Antony Hegarty meets Prince" and I can't really think of a better way to put it. Their music is quite dreamy and soulful, but it also has a lot of bite through the sharp guitar playing and incredibly forceful drumming of Brian McComber. Bought the vinyl after and it comes with a coupon for MP3 download for a short period, which is always good. Here's the first track off the album for you to check out. Perhaps you should just ignore my advice and just go to one of their gigs blind, check the links below for dates. Don't actually go with your eyes shut, because then you might get runover or walk into someone but anyway, they are playing lots of festivals this summer. I will be at Primavera Sound in Barcelona.

Dirty Projectors - What I See

visit dirty projectors myspace / website

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

a pocketful of money

If you're susceptible to really catchy songs, and don't have enough time for them right now, then please stop reading. Go listen to The Twang.

A few months ago, I went to see Jens Lekman in concert at the Nouveau Casino with my friend Sam. Got there a little late so didn't really catch much of the support. Started chatting with the girl who was running the merch stand, turns out she was meant to be the support but couldn't get a visa. I couldn't quite figure out why she was there anyway, given this visa issue, but I thought it was apt given the story of Lekman's song, Shirin, (for me the highlight of Kortedala) is about a woman who runs an illegal hair salon in her basement.

The show began, and despite the best efforts of some of his backing band, Lekman was brilliant. He would flit between full band songs and just himself and sparse guitar accompaniment. A Postcard From Nina (as previously described here) was performed beautifully, as Lekman described the story in far much more detail than the song actually alludes to, which had the effect of being quite funny.

Anyway, the main reason I feel compelled to write this post is the quality of last song that I saw. As it happens, Tapes 'n' Tapes were playing at another venue, La Fleche D'Or about a mile away. Sam really wanted to leave so we'd get there in time, as they weren't headlining so it would be tricky. Lekman was in the midst of various encores and everything was starting to get a bit disjointed, and also I was only familiar with the recent album, Night Falls Over Kortedala, so a lot of the other songs just went straight over my head.

However, Jens decided to try and create a bit of crowd participation, which is something I'm completely behind. Usually though, bands choose to divide the crowd into left and right which is the obvious thing to do I suppose (brilliant memory of seeing The Futureheads do this with Hounds of Love). Jens tore up the rulebook though and wanted the crowd to be divided into terms of vocal pitch - those with low voices (boys and girls) on one side, and those with higher voices (boys and girls). This humourous ploy had my attention anyway, but the fact that he then went on to play, unbeknown to me the best song (I'm being silly here, I haven't listened to the album enough yet) off Oh You're So Silent Jens, certainly heightened proceedings.

A Pocketful of Money is one of those songs that has a catchy vocal hook, which sears itself into the back of your brain and stays there for weeks on end. The song is about blowing all your money on a girl that you're completely head over for, and how she sets your heart on fire. Bit cheesy, you say? Perhaps, but everything's good in moderation and Lekman's music has a wonderful, saccharine quality that at times is a bit too much. He borrows a sample from Gravedigger Blues by Beat Happening, whom I can't really say I was that familiar with (sorry, stone me if you like!), but you can find it here. The low vocals from Calvin Johnson of Beat Happening work so well with Jens' melancholy cooing over the top. I dunno if it will set your heart on fire, but you won't be able to stop singing it for a while that's for sure.

Jens Lekman - Pocketful of Money

visit his website ///

We missed Tapes 'n' Tapes as well. But I wasn't really that bothered. Have only just got my hands on the aforemention Oh You're So Silent Jens. I'm somewhat worried I might have ruined the album by overplaying one of the songs too much. It's a real problem, don't you think?

Just found this on Pitchfork / YouTube. It sums up the audience participation I was mentioning, by drawing the audience in to a song that is incredibly catchy and incredibly personal, the embedding of the melody in your head is inevitable. See him live, he's playing in the UK soon.

This video here is quite nice too. Tries to make smoking look cool at the start though. Shameful. I don't think it's official.

Friday, 2 May 2008

interview: elle milano

Following on from yesterday's review of Acres of Dead Space Cadets, here is an interview with Adam, lead singer of Elle Milano, from a month or so ago. He's quite the sarcast, so the fact that the interview was carried out over MSN of all things made it interesting. Adam reveals what the future holds for the band as well as casting a glance over all that's passed over the last couple of years. So click on the 'play' button below to stream the opening track of their album, Laughing All The Way To The Plank, and strap yourself in for the ride ahead.

Elle Milano - Laughing All The Way To The Plank

J: When I interviewed you at the Buffalo Bar in Sept 06, you said you were still in a very developmental stage, do you think you’ve found your sound now? Or are you still constantly evolving?

A: I think we will probably keep evolving, but I think the more recent stuff we've been doing has a specific sound for sure. Not that any of it’s on the album! The album is just a whole load of ideas, loosely tied together, by pop magic.

J: You say loosely tied together? It seems pretty well blended if you ask me, in terms of production and all the interludes.

A: Well I guess we tried.

J: Is it fair to say that you don't really want to big yourselves up too much, in terms of the effort you've put in?

A: of course, that wouldn't be our style haha.

J: So what’s planned in terms of future releases? Future singles etc?

A: Well I guess that all depends on how the next 6 months unfolds. There is no rigid schedule or plan. I’m not really too bothered what happens with singles, its all just promo for the album.

J: Have you got any plans to release new material not on the album? B-sides, an EP perhaps? There’s various songs floating about like Modern Man, Oh Society, Look What You’ve Done – will these get a release?

Elle Milano – Modern Man (demo)

None of those songs will be released, and it’s a bit a mystery how they have entered the public domain! Anyways there’s a couple of other songs floating around from the album sessions that'll be b-sides, there also a song we were trying to get on the album at the last minute but it didn’t come together in time, so that'll be a b-side...
We're seriously thinking about an E.P, maybe in 6 months time or something. Just to keep things moving.

Sure. Are you happy with continuing as a 3 piece for now? or is it just a case of not having found someone who fits?

A: This is it yeah, we love it, and have no plans of changing. We were gonna look for someone new, but kinda grew to enjoy just being a three piece and the newer songs sound bigger than anything we did as a 4-piece.

J: I haven’t seen the 3 piece live show yet, but do you think it packs a significant punch live? I mean how are you managing to trigger all the samples and play keyboard?

A: We were worried about not sounding big enough and everything as a three piece, but by stripping stuff down the songs breathe a bit more, and probably have more punch than the big mess of guitars we've probably had in the past...The new stuff sounds like the demolition of a galaxy millions of light-years away. Poppy yes...but in a Megadeth kind of way.
And yeah I trigger a few samples here and there to fill stuff out...

Elle Milano - Juliette's Dead (new, new song off the myspace...some indication of the direction the band are now heading)

One of the reasons Alex cited for leaving was that it had become too much of a compromise. Have you or the others ever felt similarly, or have you guys always been quite committed to seeing this through?

Well for a 'commercial rock' band, we've actually made very few compromises, which is nice. The three of us are very dedicated to taking this band as far as it will go... the dark times have probably brought the three of us closer together or something mushy like that.

Does it feel now like you're all pushing in the same direction? Not carrying anybody who didn't want to be there anymore.

Yes exactly, its been very liberating. We're writing quicker now, with much more vision.

Are you doing this full time now then? Do you have a job or are you riding high off the cash from pre-sale orders?

Haha, yeah full time, and yeah the pre-sale orders are insane…
Umm i actually have no idea how pre-orders are doing at all!

What would you say has been the highlight of what you've done with Elle Milano?

Just having a finished album for better or worse in my hands a couple of months ago, with a bar code on it…Was probably the highlight.

and the lowlight? (if that’s even a word!)

Don’t have one, because I’m a ball of positive energy

What would be your nightmare job?

Probably behind a bar at a nightclub

Is that because you'd have to be friendly to people you couldn't really give a shit about?

I dunno, I just don’t have very good people skills, and soberness around drunk mobs is a nightmare, and I have my fair share of loud music with the band. Having drink orders screamed in your ear all night must be horrible.

Fair enough. Could you ever see yourself living abroad? (given some of the criticism of British culture in your lyrics – notably Amphetamine Skyrocket.)

A:Yeah maybe, I'd like to live in a Chicago suburb and pretend I’m in Wayne's World on a daily basis. I don’t have any major problem with this country, it’s what you make of it and I wouldn’t take any notice of the lyrics, they’re just meant to sound clever when they’re not.

Sure I get the whole thing you have with not wanting to attribute any significances to what you say, because that would be arrogant to a certain extent. But what if they are intricate? and a bit clever? Or are you just that disconnected from them that you don't really care?

Take for example...Showroom Furniture. The phrase crops up again in Laughing All The Way To The Plank. Perhaps I'm just reading into this far too much (blame my philosophy degree), but I like the contrast between flat-packed and showroom furniture possibly as a metaphor for being honest / putting on a front (Sartrean difference between good and bad faith if you wanna get deep)?

Yeah, that’s kind of it I guess...I find lyric writing really strange…I don’t really like doing it most of the time, but I like pop tunes so you gotta write some words...and when I do finally get round to it I like to make an effort for sure...
But I can never tell if it’s good or if I’ve just written it by ticking loads of Morrisey-like-cliche boxes that sound clever but don’t actually have much substance.

It’s a big head fuck to be honest... sometimes I write things that I know don’t make much sense, but then I'll look back at them a few weeks or months later and they make perfect sense, like it was something sub-conscious getting out at the time...there wasn't supposed to be a direct metaphoric comparison with showroom/flat-packed furniture, 'flat-packed' is just supposed to refer to people who just aspire to live in an Ikea showroom.

Showroom Furniture, is how I feel onstage sometimes. Everyone’s kinda showroom furniture the moment you leave the house, you're on display for people to judge.

Elle Milano - Showroom Furniture

J: Favourite disney character?

Oooh That’s tough...let me think for a moment.


I can relate to dumbo

In what sense?

Being an elephant

That can fly

: Were you pissed off that the album leaked?

It seems pretty unstoppable these days.

No haha, we knew it would be inevitable, you can barely call it a leak, cause it was released in Japan. If it means more people get into the songs and come to gigs its only a good thing.

J: I
'm guessing you aren't really fans of marketing, have you met whoever does your PR and do you have any idea what it is they actually do?

Yeah we made the effort to make sure we met everyone that was supposed to be 'working' for us. It just feels like you should know who’s doing stuff on your behalf, although it makes me feel a bit weird knowing there are people employed just to help shift 'Elle Milano units'. Really hits home how much of a commodity music is...

Last question.

J: What is the television ban about?

I have no idea. It was songs like that that made me realise I needed to make more of an effort with my lyric writing!

I see what you mean. I guess pop songs don’t really have to mean anything though.

Well exactly, as long as it sticks in your head

visit elle milano website
//album review//feature

So there you go, if you're not converted to Elle Milano by now then it's not for want of trying on my part. I can't think of a band that currently demonstrate as much variety - lyrically speaking and also in terms of vocal style and instrumentation. The album is out now in record shops everywhere, and whilst it isn't as viciously biting lyrically as the early stuff, it still rocks my socks and should rock yours.

Back to non-Elle Milano stuff tomorrow.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

rock 'n' roll's never been more over than now...

Albums of the year so far for me include Little Death by Pete and The Pirates, Twenty One by Mystery Jets and Sexuality by Sébastien Tellier. All of these have a certain pop element to them and Elle Milano's debut offering, Acres of Dead Space Cadets, is no different. As previously alluded to here, Elle Milano fuse anger and melancholy with cutting British lyrics to create a subtle brand of intelligent pop.

It has been a long time in the making, after signing to Brighton Electric in the autumn of 2005. I would say that the gap of nearly 2 years between the Swearing's For Art Student's E.P. and this album managed to erase any momentum that might have been building (Similar momentum loss applies to O Fracas, whose brand of Yorkshire agit-pop has finally arrived in the form of Fits And Starts – review to follow soon!). That would be to overlook the point though, as Elle Milano clearly don't give a fuck about the music industry and what they see as incessant meddling in their attempt to just get their music heard. However, this contempt clearly informs their lyrical outlook, as the anti-major label tirade of Curiosity Killed The Popstar and sarcastic sniping of I Know Its Good But I’m Playing It Down demonstrate. Elle Milano don’t expend all their energy on outbursts against things they consider contemptible, they use a significant amount writing perfect pop melodies that lodge themselves firmly in the back of your mind.

The highlight of the album comes towards the end in the form of The Nightclub Is Over. and Wonderfully Wonderful (All The Time). The former is a dreamy ballad encapsulating the jealous emotions that arise when confronted with an ex-lover in a nightclub. The lyrics deal with the cruel nature of desiring someone now unobtainable and the nausea of imagining what they might be getting up to with a new lover whilst touching on the way that a night and romantic encounters can turn on superficial matters like a ‘razor-sharp hair-cut, a little perfume, a racing pulse and a Wonderbra’. All set against a backdrop of atmospheric strings, a classic guitar-solo and murmurings of discontent with our Big-Brother obsessed society which climaxes beautifully in the affirmation that ‘Masturbation is better for girls with imagination…’.

Wonderfully Wonderful… draws you in with a punchy programmed beat and a melodic bass line behind casual observations of 21st century Britain. It then explodes into life like a ghost train / rollercoaster screaming round a tight bend with singer, Adam Crisp, yelping over subtle backing vocals that he just ‘doesn’t want to know anymore’ about your life or mine or anybody else’s for that matter – (in an interview here, he claims the song makes him feel like the world is about to end). The song then winds down before building up to one final triumphant hurrah where Crisp implores the listener to ‘Get clever’ so they can change the world together.

Elle Milano – The Nightclub is Over.

Elle Milano – Wonderfully Wonderful (All The Time)

It’s fair to say that to truly appreciate Elle Milano requires a bit of effort, which correlates naturally to the amount of effort that they put into it - the album was self-produced by the band themselves. You can tell they knuckled down at their degrees in music technology as it sounds flawless, the 11 tracks really become a seamless whole with the help of a few interludes (some instrumental / some not - one in particular as printed below evokes Radiohead's Fitter/Happier) that add to the general atmosphere. Elle Milano have a relatively large body of work for a band that remain relatively unknown, and I would be lying if I said that I felt this album captured everything that they are about (you need to hear the b-sides and old demos) but it is a perfectly weighted snapshot. The dynamic picks you up and drags you down in all the right places, and after waiting this long, I couldn’t ask for anymore.

'So this is how it sounds when you are digitized
Through a USB interface
Hunted relentlessly by wolves
And the humming of pylons
Yes, perhaps it is ridiculous to think that you will never feel further than your nerve endings
And never see further than the end of the rods and cones of your retina.
But you and I know that the best love letters lack form or shape
Our imminent glances and gestures
The sad smile across the canopes
The tight grip on your hand to keep the panic attack at bay.'

(words of the interlude between My Brother, The Astronaut and Stepkids In Love)

visit elle milano myspace//brighton electric album offer

interview to follow in the next couple of days