Over the course of the past 13 months or so, I’ve spilled copious amounts of ink covering the frenetically prolific, French electronic music artist, producer and JOVM mainstay LutchamaK. And during that 13 month period, the French JOVM mainstay has released an incredibly array of EPs, standalone singles and albums that features material that generally draws from techno, while reflecting a lifelong love of eclecticism, as his work frequently possesses elements of deep house and EDM among other electronic music genres, styles and sub-genres.
Throughout the course of this site’s decade-plus history, I’ve spilled copious amounts of virtual ink covering JOVM mainstays HAERTS. Tracing their origins back to a budding high school romance in Munich, the acclaimed indie pop act have evolved as its founding (and core) duo — Nini Fabi (vocals) and Benny Gebert (keys, guitar) — have evolved: HAERTS was formed when the duo met their now-former bandmates while studying at Berklee College of Music. Upon graduation, the quintet relocated to Brooklyn, where they quickly built up a profile and released their major label, self-titled, Jean-Philip Grobler-produced. full-length debut.
After a series of lineup changes in which the band’s founding duo has remained, Fabi and Gebert relocated to the woods of Upstate New York, where they worked on and released their sophomore album, 2018’s New Compassion. Since the release of New Compassion, Fabi and Gebert have embraced their early international roots by splitting their time between Berlin and New York — and during that same period, they have been fueled by a renewed spirit of collaboration with musicians and visual artists they’ve long admired including Grizzly Bear’s Ed Droste and Julian Klincewicz, who they worked with on POWER/LAND.
As you may recall, the duo’s third album Dream Nationis slated for a March 12, 2021 release, and the album’s material is reportedly marked by a sense of urgent intensity: Fabi and Gebert wrote the album over the course of about a month — and as soon as they finished, they recorded most of the album with their touring band during a week-long, live recording session in New York. Then they went to Los Angeles, where they put the finishing touches on the album and collaborated with Ed Droste on the album’s first single “For the Sky.” (I’ll be getting to that one in a little bit.)
Sonically, Dream Nation will continue to draw their long-held comparisons to Fleetwood Mac and First Aid Kit, but with subtle nods at Portishead and Lamb. “We went into the studio without setting limits or parameters other than that we wanted to make a record that moves you emotionally and physically,” Fabi and Gebert explain. “We wanted it to feel like an invitation into the strange and fantastical night time world, like the songs they play just before the lights come on, when the party is almost over, and the polish is gone.”
Recently Fabi and Gebert were on Late Show with Stephen Colbert, where they performed a gorgeous, acoustic version of Dream Nation’s first single “For the Sky,” a song that as Nini Fabi explained in press notes “came from a dream I had when I first found out that I was pregnant, which was the catalyst and beginning of writing new music.” Naturally, the acoustic version finds HAERTS stripping the layers of the studio version to leave the studs and beams — Fabi’s soaring vocals and the song’s heartfelt, lived-in lyricism.
The live footage was shot in a paradisal backyard and features HAERTS’ core duo with their gurgling, new baby. And admittedly while the live version of the song is just gorgeous, there are few things that I find myself drawn to:
This family is so adorable. They radiate love and happiness.
The kid is absolutely in love with mom’s voice.
Imagine this child being told that they inspired an album and its first single before they were even here; that mom shot a video for that same song, pregnant with you; and when you were finally here, they performed the song on Colbert with you in her lap.
Tristan Bechet is an acclaimed Portuguese-born, Paris-based (by way of Brazil and NYC), singer/songwriter, composer, producer, sound designerr and electronic music artist, who has developed and honed an idiosyncratic approach to music and sound design through stints fronting industrial no wave act Flux Information Sciences electronic rock duo SERVICES and Sauna Kings and with his solo recording project TRZTN.
Bechet has composed pieces for an impressive and eclectic array of internationally renowned brands including Nike, Karl Lagerfeld, Dior, Chanel, Givenchy and The Creator’s Project — with some of his work being featured by The New York Times, Nowness and many others. The Portuguese-born, Paris-based composer, producer, singer/songwriter and electronic music artist is currently composing the score fo a psychological horror drama film.
Bechet’s latest TRZTN album, the recently released Royal Dagger Ballet is an edgy yet lush and mesmerizing compilation of genre-defying, experimental industrial tracks featuring guest spots from Jonathan Bree, Surfbort’s Dani Miller, Ize Teixeira, Estrael Boiso, Interpol’s Paul Banks, Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Karen O and countless others. Each individual track manages to inhabit its own different world — and that shouldn’t be surprising as some of the album’s songs are cinematic and melodic and others are more cacophonous and industrial.
Royal Dagger Ballet’s latest single “Hieroglyphs” is a slow-burning track centered around an eerie track that sonically seems to continuously disintegrate and reintegrate, as its centered around industrial clang and clatter, glitchy and chopped up vocal samples, buzzing bass synths, atmospheric and melodic synths — and it’s all held together by Karen O’s imitable and expressive vocals. “‘Hieroglyphs’ resembles an odd Lynchian dreamstate; bizarre and beautiful. A sonic portrait that warbles away into space dust,” Bechet explains in press notes.
Bechet and Karen O have been frequent collaborators throughout the years, including work together on the music for Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are and the Rise of The Tomb Raider video game.The writing process behind “Hieroglyphs began after Bechet sent Karen O an initial sonic sketch, to which she quickly recorded her cosmic lyrics. “Without holding back, I embarked on a phantasmagorical way of production – sculpting sound more than composing conventionally. I recorded clangs and digital white noise. I re-shaped her voice, deformed the structure, and resampled her own vocals creating the main staccato vocal theme. The track disintegrates and falls back together like the push and pull of a rubber band stretching.”
Directed by Barnaby Roper, the recently released video for “Hieroglyphs” is a glitchy fever dream in which Victoria Dauberville, appearing as though she just ended a shift at an office job and walking into an empty parking garage to expressively dance — until she’s taken into a wildly different dimension.
Melrøse is an emerging French electro pop duo — Anne-Camille and Anthony — that can trace its origins back to last June, when the romantic couple and musical collaborators decided to immortalize their relationship in a song, written while in a Los Angeles hotel room.
The duo’s debut single “Poolside,” the end result of that June night is an atmospheric song centered around Anne-Camille’s achingly delicate and ethereal vocals singing lyrics in French and English, skittering beats, twinkling keys and swirling electronics. The track — for me, at least — evokes late summer nights getting in the mood with a lover while sonically recalling Portishead.
The recently released video is a fittingly sensual and intimate visual featuring Melrøse’s Anne-Camille in an elegant black outfit and dark sunglasses — and in some way, it’s one part music video, and one part perfume/high fashion commercial.
Acclaimed Belgian indie rock act and JOVM mainstays Balthazar led by songwriting partners Maarten Devoldere and Jinte Deprez went on a hiatus several years ago that allowed for the duo to pursue their own, critically applauded solo effects — Devoldere’s brooding, hyper literature Warhaus.and Deprez’s old school R&B-inspired J. Bernardt. And while Devoldere and Deprez found the ability to pursue their own individual whims and muses liberating, they also found the time apart sparking an undeniable urge to work together again, propelled a greater mutual respect for each other’s individual work and a much broader artistic vision.
When the members of Balthazar reconvened to work on 2019’s Fever, they did so without any particular plan. Their hope was to improve upon their previously released work, show deeper artistic growth, and to further the band’s story. Interestingly, when the band’s primary writing team began to write Fever’s material, they mutually agreed that the album would have a less serious, less melancholy tone. And as a result, the album’s material may arguably be among the loosest and most playful of their careers while maintaining the deliberate craftsmanship and razor sharp hooks that have won them national and international attention.
Balthazar supported Fever with a relentless touring schedule that included a stop at Baby’s All Right. Feeling invigorated from playing Fever on tour, Devoldere and Deprez started working on a new batch material that included the sultry, Quiet Storm-like “Halfway,” a track that found the band continuing where their last album left off — but while pushing the overall sound and aesthetic in an even more accessible, pop-leaning direction.
Interestingly, the JOVM mainstays’ fifth album Sand reportedly finds the band fully embracing the soulful alt pop/R&B sound of “Halfway” while crafting what the band believes is the most cohesive album of their careers to date. “There’s a theme running through these tracks, waiting, restlessness, not being able to live in the moment or putting your trust into the future,” Balthazar’s Deprez and Devoldere explain in press notes. “We’re at a point in our lives when we have to consider these aspects of life, that’s why the album is called Sand – after the sand in an hourglass.”
“The idea was always to drop another album as soon as possible after Fever. It was fun and we wanted to build on that,” Jinte Deprez says in press notes. “We did a lot of things that we haven’t done previously – we’ve never used as many drum samples or used bass synths before. So that was an exciting step for us. It was a very modern way of making an album, due to the constraints of the pandemic and we had to work remotely and converse electronically rather than in a studio.” “I can’t wait to play this album live because on the Fever tour we pushed the groove element further,” Maarten Devoldere adds.
So far I’ve written about two of Sand’s official singles:
“Losers,” a slinky, disco-tinged yet sophisticated track centered around Devoldere’s sultry baritone, shimmering synth arpeggios and an infectious hook, but at its core, the song captures the anxious uncertainty of our moment, a moment in which most of us feel as though our personal and professional lives have been in an indefinite stasis.
“You Won’t Come Around,” a slow-burning and cinematic, R&B-inspired track featuring shimmering strings, strummed acoustic guitar, skittering beats and Devoldore expressing a confusing yet familiar series of emotions: regret and heartache that a romantic relationship has ended, relief that the relationship has ended and guilt that maybe they’ve moved on a bit too quickly; or in other words, the gnawing sense that you might be a selfish, uncaring asshole.
Clocking in at a little under four minutes, “On A Roll,” Sand’s latest single finds the JOVM mainstays crafting a strutting and seamless synthesis of their pre-Fever sound with their recent R&B-influenced leanings with the track featuring buzzing bass synths, slinky guitar lines, glistening synth arpeggios, a sinuous bass line, a mournful horn arrangement and skittering beats, Deprez’s soulful crooning and falsetto.
Directed by Pieter De Cnudde, the recently released and incredibly cinematic video for “On A Roll” was shot at the NH Hotel in Bruges, Belgium, and follows Balthazar’s songwriting duo in a Groundhog’s Day-like hell.”The song and video is about the repetitive lack of control you have on situations, your life, your own ways,” Deprez explains in press notes. “Even for a moment when you think you can escape your own loop, you find yourself right back at the start again, finding out the changes didn’t change the outcome, or you.”
Sand is slated for a February 26, 2020 release though Play It Again Sam.
JOVM celebrates what would have been Sam Cooke’s 90th birthday.
JOVM belatedly celebrates what would have been Jam Master Jay’s 56th birthday.
Throughout the course of last year, I wrote a bit about the rising Toulouse, France-based singer/songwriter Laure Briard. Briard has had an uncommon path to professional music: the French singer/songwriter bounced around several different interests and passions, including studying literature and criminology, and even doing a bit of acting before concentrating on music full-time on music back in 2013.
The Toulouse-based singer/songwriter initially signed with Tricatel Records, who released her debut EP. After the EP’s release, Briard met with Juilen Gasc and Eddy Cramps and began working on what would become her attention grabbing full-length debut, 2015’s Révélation, an effort inspired by Françoise Hardy, Margo Guryan and Vashti Bunyan that featured a very modern and poetic lyricism. She then signed with Midnight Special Records, who released her sophomore album, 2016’s Sur la Piste de Danse.
Since Sur la Pisa de Danse, Briard’s work has increasingly been influenced by Bossa nova: 2018’s Coração Louco, featured lyrics written and sung in Portuguese — and a guest spot from acclaimed Brazilian JOVM mainstays and Latin Grammy Award nominated act Boogarins. 2019’s Un peu plus d’amour s’il vous plâit, which was released through Michel Records in Canada, Midnight Special Records in Europe and Burger Records here in the States continued Briard’s ongoing love affair with Bossa nova and Brazilian music.
Slated for a February 19, 2021 through Michel Records in North America, Dinosaur City Records in Australia and Midnight Special Records in Europe, the Toulouse-based singer/songwriter’s forthcoming EP En Voo sees Briard continuing her successful collaboration with Boogarins, as well as with her longtime collaborators Vincent Guyot, a.k.a. Octopus and Marius Duflot. If you were frequenting this site over the course of last year, you may recall that I wrote about En VOO’s first single, EP title track “En Voo,” 60s Scott Walker-like orchestral psych pop meets 70s AM radio rock-like take on Bossa nova, featuring Briard’s ethereal vocals cooing in Portuguese, twinkling Rhodes, shimmering guitars and jazz-fusion that evokes the swooning euphoria of reuniting with a long-lost love.
“Supertrama,” En Voo’s second and latest single continues in a similar vein as its predecessor: 60s Scott Walker-like orchestral psych pop meets 70s AM rock featuring twinkling piano, shuffling jazz-like drumming, a sinuous bass line, a regal horn arrangement, angular bursts of guitar and a soaring hook within an expansive yet breezy song arrangement. But just underneath the breezy surface, the song evokes a familiar bittersweet ache. The track can trace its origins to a piano melody that Briard wrote in France. She then took the track too Brazilian musician and composer Giovanni Cidreira, who helped write the song’s lyrics. The track, along with the rest of the EP was recorded in São Paulo-based Dissenso Studio with Boogarins as her backing band.
“I met Giovani through the Boogarins, who he both collaborates and shares a friendship with,” Briard says of her collaboration with Cidreira. “I admire Giovani’s voice, his words, his stories, and the possibility of working with him one day quickly became a reality. Once I’d written the melody of ‘Supertrama,’ I took the plunge and asked Giovani if he would write the lyrics with me. He took the melody and wrote lyrics which don’t quite tell a story, but rather feelings, impressions, and memories. Just like the rest of the EP, the arrangements were made in real time in the studio. Pieuvre Convex was responsible for the final modulation of the track – he’s a king in that area!”
Although he’s a grizzled Vancouver music scene vet, who once played in a band with acclaimed producer and ACTORS frontman Jason Corbett, the mysterious and enigmatic British Columbia-based singer/songwriter now known as Art d’Ecco emerged as a dark bobbed hair wearing, androgynous and charismatic glam and art rock-inspired presence with the release of 2018’s critically applauded, full-length debut Trespasser.
Since the release of Trespasser, the Canadian art rocker has played a live sessions for Seattle’s KEXP and played more than 75 clubs and music festivals across North America. Last spring, opened for acclaimed UK-based psych rock act Temples before the pandemic struck. “Trespasser was the start of a two-yeah r ride taking me to all sorts of places I’d never been to,” the acclaimed British Columbia-based singer/songwriter says in press notes. “Seeing how different cultures interact with entertainment was the genesis for In Standard Definition. A lot of this record was actually written on the road late at night in motel rooms – with the flickering light of a television in the background.”
Sonically, the forthcoming, Colin Stewart-produced In Standard Definition was recorded on 2-inch tape with a handpicked, rotating cast of musicians that featured jazz and blues-trained horn player, Victoria Symphony Orchestra string players, soul singers and his backing band on a 50 year old console at The Hive. Sonically, the album will reportedly find the acclaimed Canadian art rocker further establishing a sound that some critics have described as neo-glam. Although interestingly enough, the album’s overall sound and aesthetic draws from a diverse and eclectic array of influences including elements of 50s pop, psychedelia, Velvet Underground-like art rock, Grimes-inspired electronics, Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie and Brian Eno among others. “I’m obsessed with tape, film, and sounds of yesteryear, so recording could only be analogue – in standard definition – the way entertainment was once created,” d’Ecco explains. “I wanted to go back in time, exist in a different era and breathe my creativity through it.”
Thematically, the album holds up a mirror to pop culture and explores our obsessions with entertainment and celebrity. “No matter where you live or what language you speak, there’s an entertainment god for you,” d’Ecco explains in press notes. “Whether on TV or writing the books you read, it’s an odd sense of purpose we allocate to these humans whose talent is in distracting us from the doldrums of daily life. We’re constantly searching for something… glued to our phones… consuming various forms of entertainment. We feel less close with each other, and closer to the strangers who make us feel good.”
In Standard Definition’s first single, the infectious “TV God” is a shimmering glam rock-like strut featuring twinkling piano stabs, punchily delivered lyrics, soulful backing vocals, an angular bass line, a scorching guitar solo and blasts of squiggling synths that sonically feels like a slick synthesis of ’77 punk, Ziggie Stardust-era Bowie and Pleasure Principle-era Gary Numan, centered around anthemic hooks.
The recently released flashy video features the acclaimed Canadian rocker and his backing band performing the song in a smoky studio — and all of them, especially Art d’Ecco serves up some fierce as fuck looks with swaggering self-assuredness
oAs 2020 mercifully came to a close, I wound up writing a bit about the acclaimed acclaimed, multi-Polaris Music Prize-nominated Montreal-based indie rock act The Besnard Lakes. The Canadian sextet — currently, husband and wife duo Jace Lasek (vocals, guitar, bass, drums, keys) and Olga Goreas (vocals, bass), along with Kevin Laing (drums), Richard White (guitar), Sheenah Ko (keys) and Robbie MacArthur (guitar) — formed back in 2003, and since their formation, the band has released five albums of atmospheric and textured shoegaze that some critics have described as magisterial and cinematic.
After the release of 2016’s A Coliseum Complex Museum, the members of the acclaimed Montreal-based act and their longtime label home Jagjaguwar mutually decided that it was time to end their relationship and go their separate ways. And although the move was amicable between both parties, the band began to question whether or not it made sense to even continue as a band. But fueled by their love for each other and for playing music together, the members of The Besnard Lakes settled in to write and record what may arguably be considered the most uncompromising effort of their catalog to date, The Besnard Lakes Are The Last of The Great Thunderstorm Warnings.
Unlike their previously released material, the members of the Montreal-based went with a much more patient creative approach, taking all the time they needed to conceive, write, record and mix the album’s material. Interestingly, some of the album’s songs are old and can trace their origins back to resurrected demos that they had been left on the shelf years prior. Other songs were woodshedded in the cabin behind Lasek’s and Goreas’ Riguard Ranch, with the band relishing a rougher, grittier sound.
Thematically, The Besnard Lakes Are The Last of The Great Thunderstorm Warnings finds the band contemplating the darkness of dying, the light on the other side, and coming back from the brink of annihilation. And while touching upon the band’s own story, the album also is a remembrance of dear loved ones, who are no longer with us — particularly Lasek’s father, who died last year. From what Lasek observed of his father’s death, being on one’s deathbed may be the most intense psychedelic trip of anyone’s life” at one point Lasek’s father surfaced from a morphine-induced dream, talking about how he saw a “window” on his blanket, with “a carpenter inside of it, making objects.” All of this manages to imbue the album’s material with an almost fever dream-like quality.
So far I’ve written about two of The Besnard Lakes Are The Last of The Great Thunderstorm Warnings’ singles:
“Raindrops,” a slow-burning shoegazer with a painterly attention to gradation and texture, centered around shimmering, reverb-drenched guitars, twinkling and arpeggiated keys, thunderous drumming, ethereal boy-girl harmonies and a euphoric hook.
“Feuds With Guns,” a dream pop-like synthesis of Prince and Beach House featuring thunderous drumming, anthemic power chord-based riffs, twinkling keys and a soaring hook.
The Besnard Lakes begin 2021 with their forthcoming album’s third and latest single “Our Heads, Our Hearts On Fire Again.” Clocking in 6:39, the expansive song is centered around two alternating sections: a slow-burning and atmospheric section featuring ethereal female lead vocals, glistening and atmospheric synths that slowly build up in intensity with the addition of chugging power chords, thumping tribal-like drums and layered choral-like vocals. The end result is a song that’s a prog rock meets Beach Boys-like take on shoegaze that feels oceanic.
“The track started as an Oggy Film Song,” the band shares in press notes. “A skeletal version of the song had been in the Besnard vault for several years after we initially rejected it for a film soundtrack. It went through a couple drafts before we tore it apart, rejiggered some parts and resurrected it to its new form. The song is an ode to logic and intuition and being able to learn from the past.”
Directed by Dr. Cool, the recently released video for “Our Heads, Our Hearts On Fire Again” is an animated and lysergic fever dream that features divers projected onto city buildings, electrical outlets turn into signing houses moving across the horizon and a horse runs across the changing skyline. It’s a mind-bending and gorgeous visual.
The Besnard Lakes Are The Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings is slated for a January 29, 2021 release through Fat Cat Records here in the States and through Flemish Eye in their native Canada.
The Besnard Lakes have announced 3 livestream shows in support of the forthcoming album. Hosted by Noonchorus, the band’s live streams will be February 5, 2021; March 6, 2021; and April 3, 2021. The streams will go live at 7:00pm EST for each show and tickets are available here: https://noonchorus.com/the-besnard-lakes/