Monday, September 21, 2009

Saint Etienne. Fox Base Alpha (1991/2009).

While the Beatles are getting a great deal of attention for the reissue of their remastered recordings, Saint Etienne is also in the process of re-releasing their entire recorded output with additional discs of supplementary material, starting with their first CD, Fox Base Alpha.

One can only imagine artists such as Springsteen or Dylan receiving such special treatment in the States. Saint Etienne's fans are often completists, so the band will most likely have no problem selling scads of these repackaged gems. Despite the seeming homogeneity of pop music worldwide, Saint Etienne is recognized in the UK as a marvelous and sublime entity, while being only a rare delicacy around these parts. But true fans anywhere are inspired to an almost religious level of unconditional devotion. Lucky folks in the UK are being treated to
concerts during which they will perform the entire Fox Base Alpha record.

While the trio produces their own dance-pop masterpieces, they have occasionally covered other tunes, most notoriously, Neil Young's "Only Love Can Break Your Heart." Here's a live performance on Top Of The Pops of a hit single originally recorded in the 70's by Jigsaw. Anything Saint Etienne touches they make their own, so it ends up sounding like something they would have written anyway.

Who Do You Think You Are:

One of the (many) things I appreciate about Saint Etienne is how they maintain a profound level of chic while being kind of surreal and whimsical. And they've never been too cool to be a little silly. The royal getup that Pete is wearing during this performance is the same costume he wore in the official video
(unavailable on YouTube), in which he portrays a king with Elvis glasses. A very recent and fascinating interview with Bob Stanley is here, if you're interested in his thoughts on the history of pop music.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Keiichi Sugimoto (Fourcolor, Fonica, Filfla). Interview.

I'm fairly obsessed with Keiichi Sugimoto's music. Keiichi is a Japanese laptop composer/guitarist with a highly refined sense of taste and style.

He records under various project names such as Fourcolor, Fonica, and Filfla, collaborates with singer Moskitoo, and is part of the band Minamo. Except for his last release, Frolicfon, which presented live, exuberant drums upfront in the mix, his music sounds pretty much the same: delicate electronic textures interweaved with layers of simple and attractive guitar parts.

Keiichi is also a graphic designer and runs the Cubic Music label. He writes music for TV advertisements in Japan for McDonald's, Ritz crackers, and Häagen-Dazs, and has released music on such uber-chic labels as 12k , Tomlab, and apestaartje. His music epitomizes what I would identify as one particular slice of contemporary Japanese aesthetics: cool, intimate, delicate, sensitive, pretty, undemonstrative, detailed, and minimal. I appreciate work that can at once sound random and tightly controlled. That's a tough dichotomy to straddle, yet Keiichi makes it seem unforced and natural.

FilFla live at [F]luister:

FourColor/Filfla - Berklee College of Music - 10/20/08:

There is little available information out there about Keiichi, except for some reviews of his records, and his own blog. Motivated by curiosity and admiration, I contacted him for an interview. He very quickly agreed and sent back his responses. Although he expressed an insecurity about his grasp of English, I felt his answers were clear and precise. (I did a slight amount of editing just to clarify tense in some cases, or for singular and plural agreement.)

When you compose, do you have a sound in your head, or do you improvise until you find something interesting?

yes, mostly i have imagined sounds in my head when i compose.
some times, i do make sounds by improvisation.

Do you have a goal in composing music? To quiet the mind? To create a fictional space?

maybe i don't have the goal.
because, i have to develop all the time.

How do you know when a new song is finished and doesn't need any more development?

mostly i have a plan for making tracks.
it's like, compose --> recording --> mixing --> mastering.
i just make along like that.

What influenced you to create music in the beginning?

it happens suddenly.
for example, when i saw an interesting building or when i heard
interesting sounds in town...

What record are you most proud of?

very difficult question.
every work is special for me.
so i can't choose anything.

Your last cd was a Filfla release. Will you release any new music on cd soon?

yes, i will.
maybe next is me and other members of the project "minamo" for release.
also, i have some idea for new works.

What kind of guitar do you play?

electric guitar: fender jaguar
electric acoustic guitar: morris
and 12 string gibson guitar, no brand classical guitar

What software do you use when you perform live? Do you use loops, or linear arrangements? What kind of digital processing do you use? Max/msp, Pluggo?

i use ableton Live when i perform.
i use both loops and linear arrangements.
i have used pluggo before. but recently i just use default
plug-ins of ableton live.

What guitar effect pedals do you like?

delay, looper.

Are you busier with music or graphic design?


How did you get involved in doing music for television advertisements?

mostly, from music production.
some other advertisements are directly from clients of companies.

Will you come back to the United States for any performances?

i hope.
no ideas or offers right now.
but, i really want to perform in us as soon as possible!

That's great! Thank you Keiichi!

You can listen to some of Fourcolor's here.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Lene Lovich. Lucky Number (1979).

Another bit of nostalgia here from the end of the 70's. I was quite captivated with this tune when it came out, but I don't believe I ever saw the video.
Lene Lovich is truly one kooky chick. She makes Bjork look like Nancy Reagan.

The bald guitarist is Les Chappell, her longtime collaborator and life partner.

My favorite line is, "There's something in the air besides the atmosphere."

Lucky Number