I’m Scared of Vinyl

Vicarious Bliss – Theme From Vicarious Bliss

Posted in Albums by Catriona on March 31, 2009

The second part of my Vicarious Bliss odyssey, a review of his E.P…

Having only ever heard the Justice remix, encountering the original “Theme to Vicarious Bliss” came as quite a surprise, with its unexpected influences of both rock and punk, considerable use of guitars and the tongue-in-cheek theme tune rip-off during the chorus, which was reminiscent of a pseudo-Nineties TV soap or cartoon. Coming from such a creative DJ, it’s hardly surprising that this song has such a huge potential to be remixed and the E.P. includes three remixes of the song, one by Busy P on the A side, then versions by Justice, and Lifelike Goes to Disco on the B-side. The latter two remixes are the best known versions of the song, and sound far more familiar than the original. Although it’s the more laid back Justice remix that’s the most prevalent form of the song, the disco beat and drawling robotic vocals make the Lifelike Goes to Disco version eminently more danceable and definitely one for downloading. Make sure to keep an eye out for the Ed Banger artist’s upcoming debut album, Enfin, which although a release date has yet to be confirmed, should be well worth the wait.

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Vicarious Bliss at Trinity Ball

Posted in Interviews by Catriona on March 27, 2009

Vicarious Bliss is no stranger to Dublin, since his appearance at the Trinity Ball will be the third time that he’s played here since September. His two previous appearances at Transmission, in the Button Factory, drew crowds of people to hear his legendary DJ sets. Since he’s signed to the famous Ed Banger Records, you’d be forgiven for thinking that he’s French, but Vicarious Bliss, aka Andy Gardiner, is actually from Manchester, although he’s pretty acclimatised to the French electro scene by now, having moved to Paris in the Nineties. Ironically enough, it was when he was back in London in 2003, that he met Pedro Winter, better known as Busy P, and soon after became part of the Ed Banger crew.

Having released the “Theme from Vicarious Bliss” E.P. several years ago, Vicarious Bliss is currently working on finishing his own album, according to his MySpace profile. The “Theme from Vicarious Bliss” E.P. marked the beginning of Vicarious Bliss’s breakthrough as a DJ of note, with Justice contributing a remix of the track. The “Theme from Vicarious Bliss” draws on numerous influences, from punk to rock, and also incorporates elements of hip-hop and metal to produce a song that veers into a chorus that is a cheeky take on a theme tune that could almost belong to a Nineties TV soap or cartoon. Due to the number of remixes, though, it’s quite hard to track down the original version of the song, although you can currently find it posted on YouTube. As well as this, Vicarious Bliss has also remixed songs for the likes of Ladytron, N*E*R*D, Human League, Mystery Jets, Kid Loco, Cazals, Teenage Bad Girl and Sebastian Tellier, while his own productions have been remixed by Justice, Busy P, Dave Clarke, Lifelike Goes to Disco and Paul Woolford.

France has long been the home of electro and house since the emergence of Daft Punk, and Paris is a base for a significant proportion of the most prominent artists and DJs in this genre. The tight knit group of musicians who are signed to the prestigious Ed Banger Records are a pretty elite bunch, including artists such as SebastiAn, Justice, Uffie, Mr Oizo and the aforementioned label founder, Pedro Winter. The current status of Paris as the hub of new wave electro and pop is partly thanks to Winter, who, as well as managing Daft Punk for twelve years, set up Ed Banger in 2002 as a division of Headbangers Entertainment. Speaking of Busy P in a recent interview, Vicarious Bliss said: “He’s one of the only people I know that actually truly deserves the credit he receives. All of it. He’s just so interested in the real aspects of making and, obviously, selling music. He has a total respect/understanding for & of musicianship, showmanship, marketing, packaging and whatever else that generally fits together to get stuff out coherently. His attention to detail is amazing.”

It’s not surprising then, that Ed Banger have represented some of the most memorable electro artists around, as can be seen from their compilation albums, which rival the Kitsuné Maison compilations for their exciting remixes and innovative sounds. The other major French label of note is Record Makers, which has an eclectic mix of notable artists, representing, amongst others, Sebastien Tellier and Kavinsky. Vicarious Bliss has also worked with another Record Makers group, I Love UFO’s, when he produced their debut album Wish, back in 2005.

With his only working rule in the studio being “if you can’t hum it, bin it”, his DJ sets like his productions consist of no rules, mashed up, electro psychedelia, girly harmonies and plenty of dirty moog. Playlisted by the likes of Erol Alkan, 2 Many DJs and Mark Moore, he DJs regularly at such highly regarded international clubs such as Fabric London, Nitsa Barcelona, Glasgow Arches, Volar Hong Kong while running his own Soiree night in Paris.

Working to a tightly packed schedule, Vicarious Bliss is here, there and everywhere, jetting between Europe and Asia to play sets. His partying habits are also legendary: during one of his Dublin visits, he played at the Button Factory, before taking over the decks at an impromptu rave in a house somewhere near South Circular Road. After playing there for most of the night, he didn’t let the impending daylight stop him, instead bringing a group of people back to the Arlington Hotel, where he attempted to persuade the two extremely suspicious receptionists to allow everyone back into his room for some early morning drinks. When this didn’t work, he then offered to pay for seven rooms, in order to allow everyone back into the hotel, but to no avail. The party, therefore ended sometime around 7.30am on Dame Street, but still, Vicarious Bliss certainly knows how to keep a night going, so it’s well worth watching out for him at this year’s Trinity Ball – you never know what might happen.

*I originally wrote this piece for the Trinity Ball Guide 2009

Peter Bjorn and John

Posted in Interviews by Catriona on March 8, 2009

I can truly say that Peter Bjorn and John know how to party. I have the hangover from hell after running into them backstage at the Button Factory last night. After managing to collar them for an impromptu interview, they headed out to hit the drinking establishments of Dublin. Four hours later, as I tried to leave the Button Factory (it was Saturday, so I stayed around for Transmisson), I ran into them coming BACK IN, considerably the worse for wear. They practically dragged me back to the bar, where they somehow managed to extract free Guinness from the unmanned side bar. It all got a bit blurry after that, but the interview with Peter Moren, preserved on my ever-reliable voice recorder, is thankfully crystal clear…

So how do you feel the gig went?

I think it was really interesting, it was funny – a lot of weird things happened that didn’t happen in the other places, so that was fun… like climbing up the amps and some weird guitar solos and Nicolai guesting and not knowing the song.

You’ve got a new album, Living Thing, coming out very soon?

Yeah, and we’re doing seven of the new songs in the set, so it’s kind of weird for everyone who doesn’t know it, but that’s how it is, because we want to play it and we need to practise, but people seem to like it pretty much.

The last album you did was an instrumental album, Seaside Rock, which was released quite recently. Were you working on songs forLiving Thing at the same time, or did you just take some time out to do the instrumental album?

We had been touring for Writer’s Block, our breakthrough album, the third album, and we toured forever, because it was released in different territories one after the other, so it took such a long time. Seaside Rockwas recorded in 2007 in-between tours, like a tour break, but we started on the new album in January 2008. It was kind of an intense touring period and our first [album] with a budget and proper studios. We used to do everything in our spare time and as a more of a hobby, so it’s great to do this as a living now, it’s amazing.

What was it like after “Young Folks” got so big? It must have been quite a change for you, suddenly getting so famous.

Yeah, it was a really big change. We’d put out two records before that and we’d played some gigs in Sweden and Norway, and all had jobs. I went on and off to university for ten years and never became anything. But it’s hard to concentrate on other jobs when you’re always thinking about music. So, obviously after Young Folks took off it’s been a big change, as now we live off the band, it’s our jobs. We didn’t expect that really, because we’re a bit older. We never wanted to be rock stars, we just wanted to make great music, and that’s what we’re doing.

What did you work as before the band became a full-time job?

All kinds of things. We were working quite a lot in schools, substitute teaching, teaching small kids music, or trying to – it didn’t work very well, I’m afraid. I also worked a lot in second hand bookstores, which was kind of nice, and as I said, on and off at university. At the time the record started to break through I was studying information science to become a librarian, but I didn’t finish that, obviously! (laughs)

Do you feel like your new album has progressed from Writer’s Block?

Yeah, it’s a huge difference. I think it’s our best album, I mean we always think that way with our songs, but we were able to pay more attention to the details and talk it through and make it properly, so to speak, a bit more expensive. It’s funny, because in a way it’s our most accessible record, the most “pop”, and it’s less like indie-rock, it’s more like classic pop or synth-pop or whatever. A lot of influences are from when we grew up in the Eighties, the things that were on the radio then, so it’s kind of more luxurious, more like champagne and less like beer. But at the same time, we achieved that by experimenting a lot, we didn’t take the expected routes, we kind of played on bottles and knives and matchboxes and all kinds of stuff, instead of a drum kit. The guitars and the piano are played in a more percussive way too, it’s more rhythmical. So it took quite a lot of talking and figuring out how to do it. Because we want to surprise ourselves, and that’s not really about the songs, because the songs are classic pop songs, it always has been, so they can be played in any kind of way. So it’s more about how you put space around them. It’s a blue, kind of cold, melancholic album in a way, but it’s also very melodic and has all kinds of influences.

I noticed that with Seaside Rock – you were really innovative with the arrangements and your choice of instruments.

That was really important for this new album too, just to let loose in the studio and play around. And in that one [Seaside Rock], we played on a lot of instruments we can’t play –like violins and saxophones – we can’t really play them, but we played them anyway, so it was kind of like children in an orchestra. So with this one, we went even further and played stuff that isn’t instruments. It’s funny, we’re more naive and childish now than when we started, even though we’re older as people, so it’s kind of interesting.

How do you write the songs – is it a collaboration between all of you or does one person do most of the writing?

We all write separately to begin with, so we sit at home with a guitar or a keyboard and write songs. Then we make demos for each other, and then we arrange and produce it together. It’s very democratic, almost painfully democratic. It’s three bosses, there’s not one who has more to say.

What have been your influences for this latest album?

We listen to a lot of different music. For me, somewhere in the background are classic pop songs from all ages. But for this new album we listened to a lot of hip-hop and old synth, African and Brazilian music, rockabilly and even some funk, so it all goes into the mix. It’s like this show now, it’s like a musical history, that goes from the Forties and Fifties to the present, we go through everything.

What are your plans for the next few months?

We’re going home tomorrow, we’re doing some more promo in Swedenand then we’re going to New York the next Sunday. We’re playing at the SXSW festival in Austin and then we’re going to do some more dates inEurope. And then another American tour, it’s never-ending, but I think we’re coming back here in the fall, hopefully.

Handsome Furs – Face Control

Posted in Albums by Catriona on March 3, 2009

Handsome Furs

Face Control

Sub Pop: 2009

The second album from husband and wife duo Handsome Furs sees the Montreal band looking to Eastern Europe for inspiration. Face Control got its name from the somewhat bizarre practise in Russian bars of admitting people based on whether or not the bouncers like their appearance, even though they might have booked and paid for their tables in advance. Thank god the bouncers in Dublin don’t have similar powers, given the fact that they’re quite obnoxious enough already. But anyway, the entire album is loosely based around the idea of living in a Soviet state, although several of the tracks sound undeniably American, especially “Talking”. The album also explores the idea of life in the 21st century as being irrevocably enmeshed in a panopticon culture controlled by the internet.

Wolf Parade’s Dan Boeckner and short story writer Alexei Perry have placed travel – whether it’s the extensive touring or location-themed albums – at the heart of Handsome Furs. After their 2007 debut album, Plague Park, which was named after a park built over an eighteenth century mass grave in Helsinki, they decided to develop their sound in the process of writing Face Control, creating a more upbeat album, that has far more instrumentation and fuller arrangements than its predecessor.

The low-key dance beats and melodic tunes make this album very easy to listen to, with several tracks really standing out. The opening track, “Legal Tender” fuses cold, metronomic electronic beats with jagged dissonant guitars, as does “Radio Kalingrad”, another unmistakable highlight of the album. Another song that’s strangely addictive is “Officer of Hearts (It’s Not Me, It’s You)”. The track is short, clocking in at just over a minute and a half, and is purely instrumental, with the bold anthemic synthesisers pushing the track closer to trance than the indie-rock sound that dominates throughout the rest of the album. The release date of Face Control has been delayed to March, due to band referencing a New Order song on the track “All We Want, Baby, is Everything”. The album is well worth the wait though and has certainly been one of the best things to arrive in the Publications postbox recently. Thank you, Sub Pop.

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Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz

Posted in Albums by Catriona on March 2, 2009

Everything that the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s release is just fantastic. Show Your Bones was still getting pretty frequent play on my ipod before this beauty came along and gave me a new Yeah Yeah Yeah’s fix. I don’t even know where to start… “Zero” is the most obvious, I suppose, since it’s currently being played just about everywhere at the moment. It’s a good introduction to the album, but I do like the way that there’s a nice balance between the more energetic/dance friendly songs such as “Zero” and “Heads Will Roll” and the more delicate, laid back tracks – “Soft Shock” and “Hysteric” are two of my particular favourites.

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