Preview – Jean-Benoît Dunckel & Jonathan Fitoussi

I thought for a moment that Air were back with a proper new album, but apparently not – this is a collaboration between Jean-Benoît Dunckel (Darkel) and Jonathan Fitoussi, and is called Mirages:

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Retro chart for stowaways – 31 March 2007

Due to a whole bundle of personal things coming up, I need a bit more space to get the charts posted, so here’s a retro chart from 12 years ago this week:

  1. Air – Once Upon a Time
  2. Onetwo – Cloud Nine
  3. Tracey Thorn – It’s All True
  4. Client – Drive
  5. Client – Zerox Machine
  6. LCD Soundsystem – North American Scum
  7. Faithless – Bombs
  8. Client – Lights Go Out
  9. Eric Prydz Vs. Floyd – Proper Education
  10. CSS – Off the Hook

Sébastien Tellier – Politics

Having supported Air at the time of his debut album L’incroyable Vérité (2001), Sébastien Tellier was starting to find his form by the time of his second release Politics. But it starts with cacophony, before moving into the odd and jazzy Bye Bye.

To describe it as a bit odd would be vastly underselling Tellier. My non-medical opinion would be that he’s completely out of his tree. Bye Bye is oddly enjoyable, and then League Chicanos appears to move much more firmly into insanity. The debut album had included a trio of tracks subtitled Trilogie Chien, so this is maybe just a different kind of normal.

Wonderafrica is lovely, with the sort of huge funky electronic bass sounds that would typify the next album Sexuality (2008). The lyrics, for the first time on this album performed in English, are weak at best (“I’m eating bananas / under the sun” was hardly going to win any poetry awards), but there’s such a wonderfully mellow feel to the track that even that is forgivable.

Tellier had never released a single from the first album, and from this one there were two, La Ritournelle, which scored him his first minor hit on the French and British charts, and its follow-up Broadway, which is next on the album. It’s a nice song, with a pleasant pop feel, but perhaps an odd choice for single. La Ritournelle follows straight after, a seven-minute odyssey, complete with a gloriously and absurdly long middle instrumental section.

Sébastien Tellier‘s undiagnosed insanity is never far away, as Benny illustrates. I can only really guess what he was up to here – it’s fun, and he was clearly in his happy place, but it does also require a bit of work from the listener, if your happy place doesn’t quite align with his.

The short instrumental Slow Lynch carries us through to the oddly delivered German song Mauer, with a guest female vocalist, and a whole lot of jazzy portamento. Released now, this could be an oddly poignant piece about walls, which was maybe true at the time too – the album is called Politics, after all – but it would be truer now. It’s another adorable song.

La Tuerie sees Tellier messing around with glitchy, arhythmic elements, and frankly comes out of all that sounding pretty awful. It’s instrumental (apart from some heavy breathing), rather dirty, and very difficult to listen to. Not in a good way, where you might enjoy the challenge and slowly start to love the track – this really deserved to be hidden on a forgotten underground 12″ single, gathering dust somewhere.

If you weren’t already convinced of Tellier’s somewhat questionable grip on reality, the very title of Ketchup Vs. Genocide may help you form a diagnosis. It’s glorious, actually – definitely one of the best tracks on here, but it is a little odd, to say the least. Which is, as you’ll have gathered by now, something of an ongoing theme with this album.

In pretty much any other environment, a track like Zombi, which includes the lyric “we’re going to crush old ladies,” would stand out as very strange, but after the last forty minutes or so, this is quickly becoming the new normal. Listening to Sébastien Tellier does do that to you, and he should probably come with a special Parental Advisory Warning – may make you turn very odd. With the possible exception of La Tuerie, I don’t think I’ve ever failed to enjoy his work, but you do have to be ready to suspend your standard definitions of reality of a little while. If you do, it can be very enjoyable indeed.

You can find Politics at all regular retailers, if they still exist.

Retro chart for stowaways – 9 October 2004

Sorry for the delay today! Here’s a retro chart again, as the technical issues causing problems for the chart continue.

  1. Client – City
  2. Jean-Michel Jarre – Aero
  3. Delerium – The Best of Delerium
  4. Groove Armada – The Best of
  5. Air – Talkie Walkie
  6. Faithless – No Roots
  7. Client – Client
  8. Delerium – Chimera
  9. Bent – Ariels
  10. Pet Shop Boys – PopArt

I Monster – Neveroddoreven

Just to make one thing clear before we get into this too deeply: I Monster are clearly certifiably insane. That’s pretty obvious from the intro to Some Thing’s Coming, in which a crowing cockerel gets hit on the head with a frying pan. Conventional really isn’t in their vocabulary.

When they get going, though, they really are rather good – inventive, clever, and very unusual, but also extremely good – Some Thing’s Coming turns out to be a great song, with a slightly grimy bass part and a rhythm that reminds you of the 1970s. Then the brilliant Daydream in Blue, their one and only hit single, in which they heavily channel Air, but do it so cleverly that you can hardly blame them.

I Monster had first appeared in the late 1990s, initially on a series of underground Sheffield compilations, and by the turn of the millennium had already released their debut, the now ultra-rare These Are Our Children (not to be confused with the track of the same name – more on that later).

Neveroddoreven first came out in 2003, fifteen years ago this week, with a very different track listing, although broadly the same collection of tracks – for the purposes of this review, we’ve stuck to the better-known 2004 reissue, but even that hides some secrets – rewind from the start of the first track on a compatible CD player, and you’ll find Cells hidden at the beginning, and Lucifer You Are a Devil at the end.

So next comes the Glamour Puss mix of single Hey Mrs., a glorious glam piece which should really have hit the top of the charts. As with most of the album, it is a bit unconventional, to say the least, but it’s also fantastic on every level. Then Everyone’s a Loser is a glorious song about the life of awkward people.

On any other album, by this stage, you would expect to find something a bit conventional, but here, even that is exceptional – I think the slower and more subdued Heaven might be my favourite track on here, and then Who is She? is entirely exceptional. Drawing heavily from a 1968 track called The Vengeance of She (Who Is She?) it comes together brilliantly.

Even the filler tracks are great – the short interlude A Scarecrow’s Tale is delightfully rustic, and carries us through to the curious electro-didgeridoo-blues of Stobart’s Blues. This is, for the first time, a slightly weaker track, but given the overall standard of this album, that was inevitable, and it’s hardly a bad thing. So, in fact, is The Backseat of My Car, now remodelled as Sticky Black Vinyl Mix, which somehow, while perfectly good, doesn’t quite seem to work.

But then we’re back to the perfection again – the song These Are Our Children (not, as I said earlier, to be confused with the album), is a beautifully dark ragga piece with children’s vocals. Then the more subdued Sunny Delights makes a late entry, full of sweet flutes and growling synthesisers.

Right at the end, you get the long version of The Blue Wrath, the daft jazzy piece that originally appeared in Shaun of the Dead. It’s a great closer for this album – completely ridiculous, of course, but also a lot of fun, and musically brilliant too.

So Neveroddoreven, with its palindromic title, is an exceptional album, however you look at it – and there’s a good chance that even if you know it already, you probably don’t know the hidden extra tracks quite as well. Well worth owning on CD, if you don’t already.

You can still find Neveroddoreven at all major retailers.

Retro chart for stowaways – 19 May 2007

These are the top ten singles from eleven years ago this week:

  1. Sohodolls – My Vampire
  2. Dragonette – I Get Around
  3. Groove Armada feat. Stush – Get Down
  4. Jean-Michel Jarre – Téo & Téa
  5. Client – Drive
  6. Onetwo – Cloud Nine
  7. Air – Once Upon a Time
  8. Faithless – Music Matters
  9. Erasure – I Could Fall in Love with You
  10. Client – Lights Go Out