Monthly Archives: March 2012

New music videos (lost in retro)

Trapped living Mark Ronson-meets-‘Frontier Psychiatrist’ by The Avalanches, Willy Moon is surreal and confused. Possibly because this is also the first time he’s ever appeared in colour.

Everything is gorge in Lana Del Rey’s vintage world of black and white Chateau Marmont glamour; where cosmetics don’t smudge in chlorine and tattooed hunks throw themselves at you in slow-motion. Just watch out for the alligators.

Have a lovely weekend

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A chat with: Clinigol

Themes aren’t really “me”, but somehow I’ve managed to successfully crowbar a slight continuity about the merits of music in a foreign language over the past few days (NEARLY OVER NOW!). But while we’re still on this particular subject it would be daft not to have a chat with this most interesting example of non-English pop, who manage to make an oft-regarded Luddite language hip – I give you Welsh wizards of sound Clinigol.

What’s the full story as to how Clinigol was first formed?

 Aled: About ten years ago, I was DJing in London and Brighton. It was all disco house back then, before the 80s influence crept in with electro-clash, but I loved it all. It seemed like a natural progression to go on to study music production, but more perhaps out of interest and curiosity than having some grand plan to get into music…

 Geraint: I’ve always had ideas, lyrics and melodies floating around my head but being a bit hopeless with technology, I had never thought I’d put them down, that is, until Aled got into music production…

 Aled: Also, around that time, we’d been talking about the lack of any dance music being produced in Welsh….

 Geraint: A really good Welsh dance band called Diffiniad had split some 18 months previously, and during that time, no one was producing any kind of synth/dance/pop in the Welsh language. Historically, the Welsh language folk and indie music scenes have always been strong but we couldn’t believe that nothing was being produced in the genre that we loved. So instead of sitting around moaning, I suggested we do something about it, expecting a firm “no” from Aled…

 Aled: But instead I said yes! And the rest is history!

 What was each member’s level of Welsh like to begin with?

 Aled: Welsh is our first language! It’s the language of our homes and our families. We were all educated in Welsh and we all live fully bilingual lives.

 Nia: I couldn’t actually speak English until I was 7 years old and even now I sometimes have to translate a Welsh word to English in my head before speaking it! Speaking Welsh isn’t a political thing or something we force ourselves to do, it’s just a huge part of our lives and always has been, and we all speak to each other in Welsh.

 Do you write your songs in English and then translate, or just start from scratch?

 Geraint: Writing is an organic process. If the theme or sentiment is best expressed in Welsh, then it’s written in Welsh. If it’s more natural to say something in English, then English is used. We live fully bilingual lives and bounce from one language to the other and that seeps through to the writing process. Having said that, one of the main reasons we formed Clinigol was to get some Welsh language pop/dance out there, so the majority of the lyrics are in Welsh.

 Aled: We have gone on to translate some to English, but more often than not, when we’re writing, the music and the melodies come first…and they’re something that transcend all languages!

 Nia: There’s actually a great Welsh language music scene, there are rock, indie, hip hop and folk bands – a lot of talented people are making a lot of wonderful music.

 How would you say that your new album Discopolis compares to your debut, Melys?

 Aled: It’s bigger and bolder! It’s similar in that it’s a collection of synth-pop songs with guest female vocalists, but we are now much more confident in the writing and production, and I think this is clear in the overall sound. Discopolis also has a bonus disc, High Rise, which contains acoustic versions and remixes of our tracks. Apparently it’s the first double album of original material by a single artist in Welsh, ever!

 Nia: I agree, Discopolis is so much more confident. When I listen to it I think ‘Wow, language aside, the amazing tunes and standard of production could sit side by side with UK chart Music’.

 Geraint: To an extent we were finding our feet with Melys but I think Discopolis is the sound of a band that knows what it’s doing. Everything about Discopolis is a step forward in our opinion, the lyrics, the songs, the themes, ideas, imagery, the production, the journey… We spent two and a half years making the album – we wanted to make sure it was something we could be proud of!

 Why do you think there’s a Clinigol cult following by non-Welsh speakers?

 Aled: I always wanted a cult following!! It’s probably because you don’t need to understand the language to enjoy the music. I know for many people, lyrics are most important, but maybe they’re less so for pop and dance music. I’ve downloaded a lot of Spanish and French songs – I’ve no idea what they’re on about but I’m still moved by the music, be it happy or sad. To paraphrase Girls Aloud, you can’t speak Welsh, so you’ll let the funky music do the talking!!

 Nia: A large amount of the support we get is actually from non-Welsh speakers who just love this kind of music. A good tune is a good tune and a catchy hook is a catchy hook, so I guess it’s a credit to the song writing. Clinigol are also a lot of fun, people come to our gigs, dance all night and leave feeling good! Visuals and projections are incorporated into the set, which also helps people who don’t speak Welsh to understand what we’re trying to do or say. I’ve had so many people coming to see me after a set saying ‘I didn’t understand a word of that but it was awesome!’

 Asides from being in the band, what else do you all get up to?

 Geraint: I work in radio.

 Aled: I work for an international development charity which seems to take over my life. I love it though. I may even end up adopting a couple of Malawian kids one day.

 Nia: I’m a researcher for various Welsh language radio programmes. I also present from time to time – last year I presented a series tackling issues that affect young people in Wales with topics ranging from image, disability, sexuality, language and bullying. I love working in radio, it’s such a fantastic medium and hope to continue doing so in the future.

 Finally, where do you all stand on the issue of Welsh independence?

 Geraint: I’m a proud Welshman and a proud Brit, so for me, strength lies in unity. I have no particular desire for an independent Wales, at least, not at this present moment in time, I don’t think we’re quite ready for it. My aspirations lie more with the status and future of the language and dream more of a fully bilingual Wales than an independent Wales.

 Aled: I too, was against the idea because I like the idea of being a part of the UK but I’m starting to change my mind. Smaller nations tend to rate better with education and healthcare and even happiness – Norway and New Zealand, for example. There’s a lot of poverty in Wales, the most deprived region of the UK. Maybe we would be better at tackling that if we were free from Westminster, but then we also rely so heavily on the money the City of London brings to the UK. I don’t know. We’re a long way off anyway – politically and culturally. But it would be nice if one day, when you go on holiday and tell people you’re from Wales, they’ll know where it is rather than say “Oh, England. No? Scotland…?”

 Nia: I agree with Aled, we have a very long way to go before this is even a possibility in Wales. We have such a strong identity within the country, and a huge national pride – but we need to be better at selling this to the rest of the world. The true culture of Wales is often ignored – there’s so much more happening here than people realise! It’s packed full of brilliant music, food, film and theatre festivals, events that are rarely advertised on the kind of scale that would benefit the country. Along with what Aled was saying, this also plays a huge part in the matter of independence, these are things that make us unique and give the rest of the world a clear and strong understanding of who we are. But we have a long way to go before that happens.

Discopolis, Clinigol’s brilliant new album is out now. You can keep up to date with what they’re up to by following them on The Twitter.

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Another blast from The Past

Why not have something from Greece’s answer to Madonna, the iconic Anna Vissi?

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And the prize for best nose jewellery goes to…

GRIMES (with Hedi Slimane)

Her new album Visions was released fairly recently, a ghostly odyssey that’s her third release in the space of 12 months.

Check out her new single ‘Oblivion’ here.

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Rita Ora’s wig-snatching continues

Everyone’s favourite Rihanna replicant is wasting no time with this first “proper” remix of her upcoming UK debut single ‘R.I.P.’…

Written by Drake, produced by Chase & Status with Stargate and featuring Tinie Tempah, containing the apt lyrics; “R.I.P. to the girl you used to see. Her days are over, baby she’s over…”

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Steps reunion > S Club resurrection

There’s not just one problem with the prospect of an S Club reunion – there are seven:

Yes, call me a Debbie Downer, but S Club 7’s problem was always that seven band members were too many to relate to, let alone root obsessively for. Like an ensemble cast they worked well together, but lacked the dynamic individual identities such as “the sporty one” or “that one who looks a bit miserable and pouty…she must be posh”.

Steps, while also lacking such cartoon personas had identifiable roles, not just visually but also in keeping the strong harmonies of their songs together. Can you honestly tell me you can listen to ‘Reach’ and point out the strong vocal differences between Hannah Spearritt and Tina Barrett?

Admittedly the group have a solid repertoire of hits that should they reunite would draw in the nostalgia crowd, but anything more? As a post-Spice money-spinner for Simon Fuller they remain very much of their time, with little scope as to how 9 years since their last single what the “S Club 2012” sound would be like. Therefore it sees unlikely that they could tap into music of today while staying true to how they are remembered – not like Aqua’s terrific post-reunion album Megalomania. For the sake of  their own embarrassment here’s hoping the “2 new albums” bit of this new rumour turns out to be a load of cobblers.

As a final nail in the coffin of this idea – when bands reunite, it’s normally because they haven’t performed together for years. How could we all forget this?

“S Club 3”, touring gay nightclubs and university unions from 2008-2010 was one of the most tragic and desperate things I’ve had the misfortune to (accidentally!) see live on stage. Whatever legacy they once had was destroyed the night they started reworking their non-existent bandmates’ solos to accommodate these raggedy PAs. So Dear S Club, for the sake of the kids who idolised you in your prime – haven’t you done enough? Also, the longer this drags on for, the longer it’ll be until we get a follow-up to the masterpiece that is Come And Get It from Rachel Stevens

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Artwork win/fail?

I can’t really make up my mind on this one:

A bit like the cover art for Born This Way, it’s a ridiculous mess. But when did you last see the disembodied head of Beth Ditto floating around? Answer me that.

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ATTENTION – new Bright Light Bright Light single alert

Dear all, it may have escaped your attention that the following song is available to purchase now:

As I’ve been listening to his mashup of the single with Gat Decor’s classic anthem ‘Passion’ for the past few months which is possibly the greatest mashup of all time (you can download this for free here), never mind the greatest thing he’s ever done, I’m a tiny bit underwhelmed by this comparatively “good” bog standard version. Still, good news girls and boys:

1. There will be some “exciting” remixes released on March 30th.

2. He’s also announced that his long, long awaited album Make Me Believe In Hope is finally coming out on June 4th. It can’t be 100% guaranteed to make you believe in hope, but it will probably help restore your belief in male pop artists.

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Foreign language pop: Let the funky music do the talking

For the vast majority of the world, English-language music reigns supreme and people across the globe are quite happy to sing along to songs they don’t really know the meaning of…sometimes with disastrous consequences, but often resulting in cult followings in random countries. How else would it come to be that long after her star has dimmed in the UK, Sophie Ellis-Bextor is now revered in Russia? Her last album was even released over there months ahead of her homeland.

Maybe it’s just me being weird, but for me music has always been about the overall listening experience, not just about the literal lyrical. When I first started listening to Björk I couldn’t understand what she was saying half the time, so getting to know and appreciating her songs before consulting the slipcase lyrics became part of the ritual.

Since then I’ve grown to love amazing stuff from the likes of Sweden and France, or even the made up “Hopelandic” language by Sigur RósWhile I’d never say that knowing what a song you love means isn’t an advantage, a lack of language familiarity certainly shouldn’t put you off having a listen.

So, GET LISTENING TO:

Yelle -brilliant French pop. Their first album was basically a Gallic version of the Ting Tings, while last year’s offering Safari Disco is exactly how you imagine a record with that title to be – feral synth goodness. Seeing them live last weekend was testament to the widely-held belief that French is definitely the sexiest language in the world.

Spanish Shakira – Shakira was already a fantastic popstar before she was unleashed with peroxide and humble breasts on the unsuspecting Northern Hemisphere, but in her mother tongue she’s able to sing with that much more emotional honesty.  Her post-US/Europe breakthrough Spanish material is excellent, but for the cream of the crop check out the earlier Donde Estan Los Landores (“Where are the thieves?”).

Casiokids – This Norwegian band are odd, make no bones about it and understanding what they’re singing about would probably just complicate matters. They’ve been described as “the best thing to come out of Norway since black metal” and that’s probably not an exaggeration.

Linda Bengtzing  – This serial Melodifestivalen underdog is one of my favourite Swedish-language popstars. Why? Because she’s nuttier than a sack of squirrel shit and so endearing that she could be singing in Ancient Egyptian and she’d still manage to convey her love of Schlager. Check out her live performances as a starting point and soon you too will fall under her spell.

Clinigol – Welsh electropop? That’s right. I first stumbled across this lot a couple of years ago with their stunning debut Melys. I’m very unlikely to ever understand a single word of any of their songs, but let me tell you one thing – they can still make you dance. Their second album, the brilliantly titled Discopolis came out last month and it’s even better at getting bums off seats. Look out of my interview with them on Friday and in the meantime play the following extremely loudly:

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Gig review: Yelle, Koko, 24/03/2012

The act: Yelle.

The venue: Koko, Camden.

Why? :  As French presidential candidate François Hollande recently pointed out by visiting London as part of his electoral campaign, the UK capital has the 5th largest French population in the world. Having toured their last album Safari Disco all over France last year, including a stint supporting Katy Perry, it was time to bring Yelle magique back to the UK – this time as part of club night at the Koko featuring an amazing line-up of electro/house/trance DJs.

The music: An incroyable mixture of tracks from both the two albums. Recent single ‘La Musique’ went down particularly well with mental lasering effects. The only song that they might’ve thrown in which they didn’t was the spectacular Crookers collaboration ‘Cooler Couleur’.

The banter: Asides from occasionally yelling at us to move, frontwoman Julie Budet concentrated solely on managing to sing live while dancing like a maniac, wearing a dress with CDs glued to it. It was actually a small miracle that with her vigour and the heat of the stage lights none of them went whizzing offstage and blinded any revellers.

The crowd: Hundreds of French people, many of them young and beautiful. There was also a worryingly large amount of Gallic jailbait that looked like it had escaped the Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle for the weekend in an attempt to recreate Skins.

Any surprises? The amazing Tepr remix of ‘À cause des garçons’ that blew the roof off.

The question you all want to ask: Can French people dance better than English people?

The answer: Like most things, the French carry off dancing with nonchalant ease. Even when evidently twatted.

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