Pretending To See The Future #11
by Oliver Rose
Die Hunde Sind Los! – Bal Paré (1985) Track from the album, Metamorphose
Kicking off proceedings this week, a masterstroke in minimal wave, four or five years ahead of its time and fabuolously dancey. Hailing from Germany, the incredible Bal Paré (pictured) released only two records in their time, before the project’s ringleader, Matthias Schuster, returned in 2013 for Ein Tag Am Meer with a revised line-up and less analog hiss in the mix. If you’re growing at all weary of my obscure 1980s European cassette-culture offerings, you should know that Die Hunde Sind Los! is genuinely a cut above the rest. With a visciously modulatory saw-wave synth-bass underpinning the track, Bal Paré present four and a half excellent minutes of dynamic synthpop; quickly, the listener is moved from the eerie opening blare, to a fast-paced new wave anthemia, before a great coda shuts down operations with an emulated electronic trumpet melody shreiking madly through to the end. I haven’t a clue what the lyrics are, or subsequently, what they’re getting at – but it’s irrelevant. This stuff’s for dancing.
This Abyss – The Gothic Archies (2005) Originally featured on the audiobook of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Ersatz Elevator, Collected on the compilation, The Tragic Treasury
Little-known fact: Daniel Handler (the man behind the snarky Lemony Snicket pseudonym) played accordian on The Magnetic Fields’ 1999 triple album, 69 Love Songs_. _Stephin Merritt, the eccentric conductor of the aforemtioned band, gave his pal Lemony a morbid mention shortly before performing on Good Morning Atlanta in 2006, a performance which you should _really _check out. In his only appearance on American breakfast television, a sleepless Merritt conducts an awkward interview and plucks drearily through the two-chord stomper, Smile! No One Cares How You Feel, a song he penned with Handler under his Gothic Archies side-project for the audiobook version of The Hostile Hospital, book eight in the world-famous _A Series Of Unfortunate Events _saga. The grim throb of This Abyss, Merritt’s offering on the audiobook version of boox six (The Ersatz Elevator) is, as ever, accentuated hauntingly by bruised baritone and hilarious idiosyncrasy. Detailing the Baudelaire orphans’ decent into an empty lift-shaft, Merritt, with all the deathly charm of “night unbound”, delivers a Kraftwerk-indebtted ode to oblivion whose ecclectic mixture of disdainful poetry and synthesiser arpeggios are simply wonderful. If you’re as taken with this as I was, the songs from all thirteen books (plus outtakes) are available on the excellent Tragic Treasury compilation, which I’d heartily recommend.
A Place Called Space – The Juan MacLean (2014) Track from the album, In a Dream
What an exciting find this was. Composed of James Murphy’s old pal John MacLean and Nancy Whang (keyboardist in Murphy’s recently resurrected and seminal LCD Soundsystem), The Juan MacLean make exceptionally squelchy synth-pop records with the buoyancy of Vince Clarke and the self-indulgent run-times of Tangerine Dream. They are the synth-nut’s synth nuts, with compositions boasting some of the best analog programming I have ever heard. Think of LCD’s bounciest synth number – you’ve probably got something like Someone Great or Tribulations right? Multiply its energy by a million – you’re still not even close. Again, the lyrics are largely nonsense here, but that’s simply not what you’re paying for. The real attraction here, is in the flange-affected drum machine, the foray into minor notes around the 5:30 mark, the orgasmic arpeggios and perfect post-disco flavours. If sex has a sound, it’s surely this.
Not Above That – D∆WN (2016) Single from the album, Redemption Heart (The Red Era)
I’m normally pretty hesitant when it comes to EDM I read about on the Official UK Chart’s website; not least since Robyn & Röyksopp affirmed my dance-pop athiesm with their self-reflexive commentary on repetitive synth-hits on 2013’s Do It Again, whose throbbing re-iterations and remixes served only to underline the irony of the track. Not Above That, has however, bowled me right over. It lifts off in a way with which you will be painfully familiar: ethereal, atmospheric digital synths and, thick, bassy drum hits. Immediately though, D∆WN pulls out the stops in making this a more unique work of chart-bait – it’s faster than you might be comfortable with, an element that really comes into its own at the drop, a cataclysmic and glassy tornado of razor-sharp edits. Sadly, you lose this jagged effect in the more radio-friendly haze of the second drop – but purely for its first dip at 1:30, this track gets a mention.
Le port du masque est de rigueur – Essaie Pas (2016)
Track from the album, Demain est une autre nuit
DFA records are getting a hefty promotion on PearShaped this week in the form of my posts – alongside an upcoming feature I’ve planned on the surprise reunion of LCD Soundsystem, I’ve also managed to drop label-mates The Juan MacLean into this week’s Pretending To See the Future. What can I say? I’m a real sucker for James Murphy and his wonderful, wonderful ears. I don’t know how involved he was in their signing, but Essaie Pas, with their stabbing synthesiser sequences and pretentious appropriation of French in a predominantly English-speaking market, are one of my new favourite acts. The male vocal on this track is monotonous – foreboding in its dull depth, a highly stylised (almost clichéd) juxtapostion against the super clean blips of the electronic mix. Without a doubt, this is the best-mixed electronic music ever released. You will not find a thing as pounding, as immaculately analog as this band’s new output. I won’t say much more about this one; you get the idea – it throbs like a glorious bitch. Now go hither – listen, fall in love…