Thursday, May 10, 2007
Cheveu and Tyvek played live on Freeform KDVS 90.3 FM in Davis last night during the "Bear Is Driving Car" program, and when you listen, I think you'll agree that it sounded great, and both bands put in a great performance.
To download the program, CLICK HERE (link is good for approx. 70 days).
To stream it, CLICK HERE before May 17, 2007.
And don't forget to see these bands on the "Franco-American Friendship Tour" on the west coast (now in progress).
Cheveu begins approximately 10 minutes into the program and played for nearly 30 minutes. Tyvek begins about 1:10:00 into the program and also played for about 30 minutes.
Thanks to DJ Mucky for giving up half his radio show for these bands to perform; thanks to Andy Pastalaniec for engineering (and pretty much nailing) the live sound; and thanks to Grace Voong for lending her bass amp to Tyvek!
I got a feature article published in Sacto's Midtown/Downtown Monthly about Sacramento serving as a sort of vortex for the best in French garage/artpunk. The story was edited down very thoughtfully, which I was quite happy with, but if you'd like to read the whole thing, here you go...
Cheveu: photo lavo, recyclart, bruxelles, 23/02/07
When Zima first hit store shelves in Sacramento and Davis two years early in 1992, it had become clear to me that the Sacramento area is frequently singled out as a test market for new products before nationwide introduction. According to New Products Management for the 1980s by Allen Booz, the reason for Sacramento's selection as a test market is that the consumers in the region are not regarded as future fadstarters or early adopters. The eastern counterpart test market was Syracuse, New York...hardly near the leading edge either. New products that test well in such markets are forecast to perform well elsewhere. If it can make it here, it must be able to make it anywhere.
But when it comes to new garagepunk and wonderfully weird artpunk from France, no one can mistake Sacramentans as late adopters with vanilla taste. To be sure, for the last couple of years, some of the most unique French undergound rock music has begun to find its way into the consciousness of American record collectors, bloggers, and critics via three discerning Sacramento-based DIY record labels: Ss recordS, Plastic Idol, and Weird Forest.
Finally, for the first time in three years since before this unusual trend began, one of these French bands is coming to the West Coast in May for a tour which will touch down twice in the area: in Sacramento at Fools Foundation on May 8 and on May 19 at the DAM House in Davis. The band is Cheveu, an outstanding raw electro/weirdpunk trio from Paris whose first 7-inch and vinyl LP appearance were released last year on Ss, the one-man operation based in a tiny nook of an office adjacent to the stockroom behind Time Tested Books. Cheveu's summer 2006 tour of the South, Midwest, and the Eastern U.S. and Canada succeeded on the strength of their Ss offerings and the enthusiastically positive blogstorm and indie press that they provoked nationwide, which was also buoyed by airplay at freeform KDVS in Davis and the highly influential WFMU in New Jersey.
Cheveu--that's "hair" en Français--are a band inspired by such diverse influences that they create a wholly other brand of music which is extremely difficult to classify, but has very wide appeal. The guitar is soaked in the raunch of garagepunk and occasionally dabbles in surf. Low-tech keyboards and drum machine recall the darkwave and electro sounds from the early 1980's. On their faster songs, the propulsive beats have the ornate snareshot patterns and hip hop-sourced double triplets of the drum 'n' bass/jungle arm of techno. The vocals trespass through African-American talk-blues and toasting traditions before hastening up to a nervous speed-rap in a husky and unmistakably French accent. Perhaps the most contemporary element employed by Cheveu is the vocal effects processing that is used famously by modern psychedelic groups such as Animal Collective and Gang Gang Dance; whereas these bands use vocal effects for enchanting and entrancing the listener with diffuse abstractions, Cheveu often use the Boss Line 6 pedal to push excitement into mania, much like the progressive trance genre of electronic music when its pioneers first turned melodies into unstable isotopes in liquid form. The fidelity, and attitude of Cheveu is still caked in scuzz and oozing sleaze, and so their fanbase to date has centered in certain circles of music that is still called punk rock, but the flavors of electronic music are still distinct.
"Euro rock & roll bands are much more likely to experiment with electronics than U.S. bands," explains Ss boss Scott Soriano. "Since at least Kraftwerk, electronics have played a part in Euro rock & roll, especially electro-punk. There also was a very big minimal synth scene in Europe in the late 70s and early 80s. And electro was much more of a mainstream music there in the 90s. All of that informs today's French punk or at least experimental punk bands, and plenty others throughout Europe."
While Krautrock bands from Germany, especially Neu!, Kraftwerk, and Tangerine Dream, are most often cited by rock historians as the leading edge of rock bands that incorporated synthesizers and other electronic devices into rock in the early 1970s, the pioneering efforts of French artists certainly reinforces Soriano's explanation for Cheveu's brave approach. Those efforts date back to the dawn of musique concrète in the 1950s and carry forward through the modular synth compositions of Eliane Radigue and the "space-age pop" of Jean Jacques Perrey in the 60s, and into 70's with the expansive prog of Magma and Heldon, and arguably the world's first synthpunk band, Metal Urbain, whom many critics and music-bloggers consider to be one of the most primary and singular influences on the new scene of French artpunk.
Soriano's releases of French bands on Ss began in 2004 with the Heavy Listening LP by Crash Normal, a Paris band he also chose to include on the full-length Babyhead album alongside Sacto locals such as Antennas Erupt, Klondike & York, and Sexy Prison. Blutt, a more traditional garagepunk band from France also appeared on the stylistically varied yet cogent compilation. Crash Normal's first splash on Ss vinyl was the culmination of excitement that first sparked locally when Soriano received copies of their second EP in exchange for copies of earlier releases on his Sacto/Loft-centered Moo-La-La imprint which predated Ss. An unseemly yet appealing amalgam or incendiary garagepunk and the most enduring elements of the then-expiring "digital hardcore" fad, The Nothing I Can Tell EP by Crash Normal was unlike anything Soriano had heard, and his enthusiasm for the record spread quickly through the shoppers of the carefully chosen stock of records for sale behind the counter at Time Tested's original location, and especially through many of his DJ colleagues at KDVS 90.3 FM in Davis thanks to the extra copy that he donated to the station's library.
Until Crash Normal began to infect Sacramento and Davis record collectors, the most visible French contemporary punk in America were by the No-Talents and Splash Four, whose records were brought stateside by the now-defunct Broken Rekids label from San Francisco. The tie binding those two bands was guitarist/singer Lili Zeller, whose husband and Splash Four bandmate and partner in her current duo Volt is Jacques Amsellem, the record trader who brought Crash Normal to Soriano's attention. After Heavy Listening and Babyhead, the next Ss release of French music was Lili Z's Leatherlution EP, a small slab of relentless, sultry synthpunk dancefloor oppression that became an instant KDVS classic. Meanwhile, Amsellem suggested that Soriano release an all-French follow-up to Babyhead, and in 2006 Ss recordS released the Tête de Bébé LP, featuring eleven French bands and one Walloon artist from Belgium. Tête was an instant success with garage/artpunk fans in the USA and France, where Soriano was an honored guest DJ at the Paris release party.
"I cherry-picked bands for Tête, so it really doesnt represent French bands as a whole," Soriano said. "It is just one small sliver of a scene. All of the bands on that comp knew each other, have played with each other, and even shared band members before that record was assembled. All in all, we are talking about maybe 25 people, three of whom are siblings. Go beyond that 25 and there are other microscenes in Paris and other French towns. Some of the music is similar; some is different."
With the nearly simultaneous release of Tête, Cheveu's debut Dog EP, and the second EP of Frustration from Paris, Ss became known in France as the foreign independent record label that is uniquely tapped into the French underground, making it known and available throughout North America and beyond. Other labels' titles on the ever-changing Ss distribution catalog have included many more French records since then, and most limited quantities of these are sold out almost immediately or in less than 48 hours. "The orders come from all over the world," Soriano said.
Although it is unfair to many other Ss releases, French artpunk affinity also became the identity of Ss here, replacing its former identity as the homebase for the music of the A Frames from Seattle just as that band made the jump to Sub Pop Records for the release of their third album.
"As for the France/Sacramento/Seattle axis, it works on both ends," said Jacques Amsellem. "Both A Frames I (technically self-titled) and II LPs (the best-sellers of the Ss catalog) are reissued these days on vinyl in France (on Born Bad Records). Lars Finberg (of the A Frames and the Intelligence) is a hero everywhere in France, you know."
While the uniqueness of Cheveu's music is immediately apparent, the sound of other French bands featured on Tête and other Ss releases has also struck many North American fans as an original group of adjacent styles which some have begun to regard as a trend that is endemic to France: atavistic synthpunk, clever guitar angularisms, a sense of humor that seems French if only to Americans, juxtaposition of raw punk sounds and electronic music.
"What you're talking about is just people trying to do it a bit differently," explained Amsellem. "Also younger open-minded people coming in and doing it their own way and refreshing it all. Some bands, labels, openminded stores, [and] go-betweens filtering it a bit and helping...spreading it out in their own directions like in every mutual appreciation network."
Another important part of that network in Sacramento is Mario Solis, a state employee by day who has run his own Plastic Idol Records since early 2004, when he began with the Hootenanny 7-inch EP by the local band Duchess of Saigon. Last year, Plastic Idol unleashed the first American vinyl release of the Anteenagers M.C., Let's Not Have a Party. The band includes drummer Laurent Bigot, formerly of the No-Talents, whose friendship with another Sacramento music figure, Dylan Rogers, singer of Sonic Love Affair, led to a memorable Anteenagers live performance at Old Ironsides in 2004. The Anteenagers' brief U.S. tour in 2004 only included four other cities: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. Sacramento stuck out on that list, but Rogers and Bigot's ties reach back to the 1990's when the two were briefly in a band together. Both the LP and EP of the Anteenagers M.C. sold out in Sacramento that night, leaving none for the Chicago and New York shows. Their memorable performance is still talked about today, and certainly the excitement built by that chatter in Sacramento helped influence the release of Let's Not Have a Party. A second Anteenagers EP is scheduled for Plastic Idol in 2007, and recently, Solis has issued the debut EP of The Remenbers [sic] from Marseille.
"I'm pleased that folks are warming up nicely to the Remenbers record," Solis reported. "They're a newer band and not necessarily part of the inner circle, [which is] almost Sacramento-like in nature, especially in terms of band membership; a strong case could also be made that Seb Normal (formerly of Crash Normal and currently in several stellar bands) is the Chris Woodhouse of Paris for his recording work of the French rock 'n' roll underground."
The Remenbers are an excellent but more traditional garagepunk band that stands out for their extremely blown-out recording fidelity and savage bludgeon.
"When I hear the Remenbers sing in accented English, it makes me smile," Solis chuckled. "Is it because it's an absurd line? The phrasing? Probably a bit of both. There's also a swagger in the Remenbers' music, a brashness, that I find incredibly appealing. I hear it in the Anteenagers M.C.'s music too. To these ears, it's the mark of a good band and not something that is unique to any given country, and it's something for which I listen when considering music to release on Plastic Idol."
In 2006, Sacramento-based Weird Forest Records released an LP by a French metal band called Eikenskaden which was also very unique as it is baroque-influenced black metal, a style that the band has proclaimed as "French Touch Black Metal."
The incredible fun of a groundbreaking band called Cheveu and an unprecedented mass-marketed clearmalt beverage in Zima: Neither were born here, but Sacramento has approved both of these for the entire world.
Posted by DJ Rick at 9:35 AM