Grace Notes is a weekly exploration by Jason Morehead of signs of common grace in the music world. We hope to alert you to wonderful music, some of which will be spiritual in nature but all of which will be unique and worthy of your attention. Each week we will share brief reviews of albums worthy of your attention and maybe a video or two.
Clive Tanaka y su orquesta
It’s tempting to approach Jet Set Siempre 1° reductionistically, to break it down into the myriad artists that it sounds like: a little Avalanches and Daft Punk here, a little Talking Heads and Beck over there. But to do so would miss the forest for the trees. In other words, that the enigmatic Clive Tanaka et al. have crafted a kaleidoscopic, genre-skewing — and simply fantastic — pop album. The first part of the album, titled “For Dance”, is, not surprisingly, the more upbeat material. But don’t expect to hear this stuff in your local discothèque any time soon. There are undeniable grooves in tracks like “I Want (You So Bad)” and “Neu Chicago” — grooves achieved with trance-y synthesizer crescendos, steel drums, e-bows, and vocoders — but they are fairly subdued and chilled out. The second part, “For Romance”, takes an even more relaxed, even sensual vibe as befitting its title. Again, variety is the spice here: “Skinjob” lounges around with spacey synths and bossa nova-esque rhythms and “The Fourth Magi” conjures up slinky ’90s R&B with the help of sleigh bells. On paper, it shouldn’t work. If anything, it should feel like some sort of disposable mash-up. But there’s a heart beating beneath all of the genres and styles, and it makes Jet Set Siempre 1° far greater than the sum of its parts.
If French Curves — aka, the British duo of Ian Boffin and Andy Lowe — ever make it to your record store, you’ll probably find them tucked away in the “Electronica” or “Techno” section, and all because they compose their music on synthesizers and software. But those genres come with certain assumptions, i.e., such music is for dancing the night away in the clubs, and that doesn’t describe French Curves’ music in the slightest. Like Boards of Canada, Marumari, or Solvent, Boffin and Lowe’s take on electronica in EP and EP 2 is more atmospheric and introspective, their analog synth washes and simple beats looking to a different era with a sense of bleary-eyed nostalgia. Good examples of this include “Wrapped in Plastic”, which features pensive synth noodling, staggered beats, and keytar-esque solos, or “Amethyst”, with its array of interweaving analog melodies that grows increasingly evocative over the course of the song’s nearly four minutes. EP2 moves into even darker territory, such as “Overmatter” with its eerie vibes and tones, or “Failure Rate”, in which ominous atmospherics serve as a backdrop for a reading of Richard Brautigan’s “All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace”. All in all, it’s nothing that blows your mind or aims for the bleeding edge, but I suspect that’s not the duo’s goal. Rather, this this simply solid, well-crafted electronic music, and therein lies the beauty.
You can download or listen to French Curves’ EP and EP 2 on their Bandcamp page.