Rime Salmi – Batwanes Beek

It’s always good to push yourself outside of your comfort zone and to embrace new things. As the years advance, it’s one way to stop yourself getting staid or stuck in your ways. There’s so much to discover in this wonderful world and precious little time to find out about it all. Why settle with what you know when around the corner there might be something that can give you even more joy and happiness – as long as you go into it with eyes wide open? 

That is, of course, so true when listening to music. Our tastes are formed young and we keep returning to those tracks of our youth (and songs that sound like them) because of their familiarity. They offer us comfort and it’s easy to see why they might provide our go-to moments.

Sometimes, I like to shake up my listening. I’ll deliberately find tracks from genres that I know next to nothing about and dig into what I find. To a degree, this is how I stumbled upon ‘Batwanes Beek’ by Rime Salmi. I’m very glad I did. A cover of an ‘Arabic classic’ by Warda, Rime has turned the tune into her very own Afro-pop anthem. 

 

In my ignorance, I know very little about ‘Arabic classics’ or Warda who first released this song. But the internet is such a rich encyclopaedia and Wikipedia such an extensive resource that things don’t stay mysteries for long. 

Warda, the Algerian Rose, was born in Paris to a Lebanese mother and an Algerian father. Her father owned a nightclub and encouraged her to sing patriotic Algerian songs from a young age. A ten year break from singing (her first husband forbade her to) was broken in 1972 when she sang to commemorate Algeria’s independence. After divorcing her grumpy husband, she married again and her career blossomed. She cooked with wine and became something of a superstar commanding a state funeral when she passed away in 2012 aged 73. Warda sounds like she lived a full life of pushing out of her comfort zone. 

Rime Salmi was born in Morocco but raised in Canada. For Rime, it’s clearly very important to both embrace the culture she comes from as well as the one she has grown up in. What we get in this version of ‘Batwanes Beek’ is a vibrant explosion of happy sound. It’s hard not to smile when listening to the spirited joy on offer here – and we all need to smile more now than ever. 

And then there is the video that features Rime and three well-known dancers from Montreal’s LGBTQ scene proudly using the city as an urban catwalk. Rime sums it up better than I ever could when she says that “this video is a scream. This video is a statement. This video is a manifesto. Arab LGBTQ+ people exist, love and love one another… and it’s something to celebrate.” 

Happy hump day – keep being curious.

Good Morning TV – Insomniac

I have laboured under the sweet misapprehension that cockerels do their ‘cock-a-doodle-doing’ at dawn. Their call doubles as an alarm clock for the jolly farmers around the world who then spring into action with clockwork ruddiness. 

The wild cock that has turned up in the vicinity of this villa hasn’t got that memo. It howls all night only seeming to keep quiet when it is actually time for most of us to begin the day. Last night (and through the night), Colin (let’s give it a name) was auditioning for a lead role in a rooster choir, such was the decibel of his doodle. Colin kept me awake for some time and under my breath I muttered that I was going to do fierce things to his neck. Then, I fell asleep and forgot my anger.

Restless nights are rarely something I struggle with. If the last year has taught us to be grateful for small mercies this is one of mine. Mostly, when I put my head onto the pillows, I’m out for the count within minutes. I have friends who are not as fortunate. They tell me about how they struggle to sleep and their insomnia truly sounds hellish. Sometimes, and largely for no apparent reason if you put the cock to one side, I find myself wide awake in the witching hour. It’s not a place I want to frequent regularly. 

Insomniac by Good Morning TV is a song for all who struggle with their sleep. This wonderful French act summon up their Gallic indie pop charms and mix in an ounce of shoegaze spirit to sweetly take us to that time when sleep won’t come. Their press release says it better when it notes that “Guided by the almost lullaby-like piano ritournelle, “Insomniac” evokes those thoughts that come troubling the mind when trying to fall asleep.”

(Ritournelle is my new word for the day)

Good Morning TV tell me that they have an album hopefully coming out in March. I’ll be eagerly waiting to have a listen to that if the quality of Insomniac is indicative. But, in the very best way, I’ll also try not to lose sleep over it. 

 

 

 

 

Iraini Mancini – Shotgun

I had a dream. We were younger and playful and driving across France. We’d just stolen some broccoli from the village stores simply because we could. We had the cents to pay for our veg but the dithering fool behind the counter tested our patience to the limit. And so we drove off in our 2CV, with not a care in the world. 

The car radio startled into a crackle and a song came out. It was Iraini Mancini’s Shotgun. I queried in my head how this could be – the song only came out two months ago and yet this dreamscape was from years ago, nay decades. I still had a full head of hair and you were full of smiles. 

I didn’t let the incongruity have time to settle. We were happier than you could imagine now, giggling more than we ever thought possible. We were young, crazy and in love and being accompanied by the most appropriate soundtrack. This was bliss.

And then I woke. 

 

Iraina Mancini is the epitome of cool; of that there can be no doubt.  An expert in Northern Soul, Funk, Vintage R&B, Ska and Garage Rock, she’s exactly the sort of person you’d want at your parties. She might spin some records whilst there or introduce you to her well-connected friends. She’d undoubtedly provide the street cred.

She’s always made music but she’s now turned her attention to her solo career. And on the evidence of Shotgun this is the stuff that Sonic Breakfast’s dreams are made of (see what I did there?). This is deliciously laced 60s French Pop; Serge Gainsbourg influenced-music for the 2020s.

It’s carefree and seductive; a chance for all of us to jump into our own road movie and to pay no regard to the consequence. We’re on the run and leaving it all behind.

Shotgun is a shot of fun. We need this now more than ever. 

 

https://youtu.be/33J08L8T4SE

Freyr – Avalon

I’ve never been to Marseille. I do think that I’d like it there though. 

Most Mediterranean port cities tend not to disappoint. Regular readers of Sonic Breakfast will know of my love for Alicante. Mad, Med  cities buzz with creativity, tolerance, historical relevance and cosmopolitan spirit. Overlook the cruise ships, the crime and the fact that Marseille is in France (joke) and I reckon you’d have a long weekend second to none.

 

It certainly sounds as if Freyr had a pretty neat time when visiting with a former lover – that’s how I’m interpreting the lyric to his new folktronica delight, Avalon. In a throwback to the summer months, we find Freyr and his friend in hazy mood and romantic waywardness as they explore the mean streets, the monuments, the rocky outcrops, the beaches and river beds together.

The feeling doesn’t last – these things never do as the utimate verse is at pains to point out (spoiler alert) but, whilst they do, why not revel in the warm bliss of that moment? The beat is fuzzy, the vocal toned, the backing organic and the guitar woozy as; it all comes together in a wonderfully reminiscent nod towards place and season. 

Freyr comments in a brief E-mail exchange that, “The melody for Avalon was inspired by all the Temples around Vancouver. But it needed some lyrics to go with it and this trip to Marseille was still very fresh in my mind. But I don’t like saying too much about lyrics. I like the audience to be free to conjure up their own vision.”

Your challenge for the morning is set.

Nuit Oceãn – Fire Divine

Hey Sean,

Hope your day’s still rocking! :), We have noticed that you have previously supported Elliot Moss and have a similar artist to share with you Downtempo Producer Nuit Oceān who released his  EP and  music video titled ‘Fire Divine’ via  ROUGE NEON RECORDS..

I like receiving mails such as this. Targeted and clear, you can be pretty sure that when you do listen there’ll be something within that appeals. It might now be six years since I’ve written about Elliot’s music but his influence still shimmers across Sonic Breakfast. The post about ALMA just this week (here) being a very clear case in point. 

So, I listen. And then I listen again. Steve Mesmin, the Bordeaux-based producer behind Nuit Oceãn has released one of those tracks that you like very much but you’re not sure why. The lyric, sung in an impassioned and vocodered falsetto soul, a repeating loop of verse and chorus, culminates in the stark word, Fool. It’s mournful and you wonder what dark place Steve might have been in when he created this. There’s a sense of giving your all and being let down and yet so beautiful and calming is the accompanying music that drawing any definite conclusions cannot be concrete.

Perhaps this ambiguity of feeling is exactly what Steve is looking to create in his EP? Content from the press release would appear to corroborate. 

“I always have this “mantra” in my head during the creating and recording process: “When there is nothing left. When you no longer have the strength to move forward. There he is, in each of us…” The FIRE DIVINE guides us to a better version of ourselves, towards a brighter future. Let it flow.”

A song about reaching rock bottom and then coming out fighting on the other side; an ambiguous breakdown that signals a rage of positivity. As many of us enter tougher and restrictive measures to our movement this November, it’s perhaps a tune that we can all take into the dark nights with us. 

 

Slurp, Attawalpa and Gladboy – The Shacklewell Arms – September 30th 2019

I realise that a mistake has been made. I’m standing here at a venue (which shall remain nameless) watching the second band of the evening. Two songs in and it’s clear that they’re slightly better than the first act but only marginally so. The first band were a sub-standard Biffy Clyro specialising in that dull, tuneless and turgid, exasperating Rock thing that tends to take itself far too seriously. I might be a glutton for punishment but this is simply foolish. 

A quick check on my phone reveals that there’s a free gig of interest on up at the Shacklewell Arms. It’s a taxi ride away at the best of times but tonight with the rain bucketing down that Uber is a necessity. On arrival, I immediately know that I’ve made a wise choice to abort on the first gig. 

Gladboy are playing. I only find out that they’re Gladboy after the event and only catch three of their songs but it’s enough to realise that this young bunch from Norwich are worthy of further attention. Mixing a punkish energy with a psychedelic and woozy doo-wop, they’ve got tunes and guile. The guitarist-vocalist takes drumming duty for the final tune whilst the fab backing singer stands centre stage, deliberately nonchalant in a red leather skirt. The crowd appreciate Gladboy’s efforts and you can see why. 

Attawalpa are up next. They take an age to get ready with front man, Luis (Attawalpa) hiding himself away in the toilet when the all-clear is given from the sound desk. I guess nervousness is a funny thing. Luis is engaging to watch, over-the-top black mascara highlighting the frustration and creativity at the sets core. Things start with a skewed nod to Pink Floyd before moving into a Brit Pop space. Luis’ lyrics excite and are conveyed with a mix of Cocker and Walker. He jumps out into the crowd loosely acknowledging friends and family who are looking on. Tall women, in all likelihood models, take to the floor to dance energetically. There’s a lot to take in and Attawalpa deserves further attention.

There’s some confusion over the name of tonight’s headliner. Advertised on the poster as Dragon’s Daughter, it would appear that this all-girl trio from France have now renamed themselves Slurp. CDs at the merch stall have the original name crossed out and the new name scrawled over in black marker. Slurp confess that they don’t speak much English but then proceed to introduce each song with fine diction. Jangly, bubblegum punk-pop is a genre of choice for Sonic Breakfast so this was always going to appeal but the lively delivery just adds to the pleasure. The songs might sound like three-minute throwaways but lyrically they’re taking on bigger issues; these women are hard, independent and not to be messed with.  I want to see more – and it appears that Slurp have more to play – but we pass 11 and I guess that Monday evening licence regulations mean that an abrupt halt ensues. 

September will shortly be over for another year. The rain still pours down. Shops begin to fill with Christmas stock; lights shimmer in the residue of drizzle. One constant remains – every night in this town, some fine bands will be playing (and some shit ones as well). 

Old School Funky Family & Mulvey’s Medicine – The Finsbury – August 19th

It takes something pretty special to get me dancing like a crazed maniac on a Monday night. In fact, I’m hardly known for my weekend strutting and so the sight of me bopping like a bad one early in the working week would have filled the casual bystander of a friend with all sorts of confusion. Fortunately, for me at least, I’m pretty sure that there is no video evidence of my flailing and failing extremities. And besides, it would have looked odder not to be dancing at the Finsbury to the French funk of Old School Funky Family. The whole room was up and at it. It was contagious.

Old School Funky Family are on a short UK tour. You can see that they’ll go down exceptionally well at festivals and it should be of no surprise that the good people of Chai Wallahs have snapped them up for Green Man last weekend and Shambala this. In between, they’re playing shows across the country. Go and see them if you’re going to Shambala or living in Bristol. They will not disappoint. 

In any other town, you’d pay good money to see musicianship of this quality. London continues to confound and delight in equal measure. I realise there’s a ton of competition out there every night but quite how this can be put on as a free show is anybody’s guess. “You’d be happy paying £15 for that”, says a punter, slightly gobsmacked by what he’s just witnessed. And he’s quite right as well.

There’s eight of them crammed onto the Finsbury stage. Brass heavy and brass led, it’s instrumental funk with more than a sprinkling of jazz. They’re from deep in the South of France – and it’s perhaps appropriate, given the nationality, that bass duties are not taken by a guitar but by a French horn. Between each song, one of the troupe takes a microphone and introduces what’s coming next.

At different times in the set, each member of the band gets to delight with an extended solo, to show off their musical pedigree with a spotlight slot. Other members of the band give way sometimes leaving the stage to signal what’s about to occur. In the hands of lesser musicians, such interludes might become little more than elongated wank-fests. But these guys are so talented that it’s always astonishing to watch. The clarinet player particularly impresses in his solo. It begins all seedy, backstreet nightclub (slow and languid) and ends with fireworks (explosive and illuminating). 

Whilst the core of this is jazz-funk, Old School Funky Family can also mix it up. They play a cover but mostly it’s their original compositions. They draw on their proximity to North Africa to charm snakes in one piece and take us on a tour of EDM styles in another. My short attention span never once wanes whilst my legs move; the dynamics on stage providing just enough to maintain interest.

Support act for the night, Mulvey’s Medicine, could learn from this. Indeed, I’m sure they are for many of their seven-strong number are lapping Old School Funky Family up dancing in the front row. Mulvey’s Medicine also indulge in instrumental jazz-funk and do so with fine musicianship. To move on to the next level, I’d politely suggest that they now need to give some thought to their stagecraft. They jam well – and it’s by no means boring to watch – but what might their gimmick be that can set them apart? 

The night (and probably the week) belongs to Old School Funky Family. This was no typical Monday.

L’Imperatrice – Heaven – May 2nd 2019

This is how it must feel to be waking up from a coma after five years out of action – or stepping into a parallel universe. 

I consider myself pretty well informed about this world of popular music. So, how can I possibly have been unaware for so long of the French disco phenomenon that is L’Imperatrice? The 1,600 within this sold-out Thursday night at the iconic Heaven know. They mock my ignorance from afar. Or, maybe they’re just mocking my suit. I’ve had to rush straight from a work function. 

L’Imperatrice descend from space to join us under the arches of Charing Cross Station. With their backs initially to the crowd, their opener draws on space travel imagery. Dressed in white with star-trek stripes, you’re immediately aware that this is going to be a spectacle. Lights draw you in. You recall your favourite time ever had in a festival field and observe the similarity to this. Daft Punk might not play live right now but here we have a ready-made alternative. Seriously, it’s that good. 

Maybe tonight is the night to figure out if you’re in heaven”, asks Flore, L’Imperattice’s impeccable singer. Many don’t need to be asked for we already know. It’s impossible not to beam from ear to ear with the joy being created here.

The incredible graphics are playing a part. Disco balls of light and strobe, the earth spins whilst hands are clapped in tune with the beat. And when L’Imperatrice play ‘Vanille Fraise’ we have a summer scene of tennis umpires, clay courts and dodgy moustaches. Sweat-laden headbands spin like golden rings as tennis racquets swipe in time with the beat. God, this is glorious- a show that doffs its cap to retro 70’s sound and imagery whilst still managing to be entirely modern. 

 

The music is timeless; tunes that have forever been part of your life even though the truth is that this is the first time that you’ve heard them tonight. The groove heads down tried and tested paths; funk, jazz, pop, disco and happy house – a nostalgic soundtrack to your happiest summer ever.

And the images keep on giving. Here we have a grainy collection from when Zidane lifted the World Cup for France. The vocal appears to repeat the mantra that this is your last chance to love. The ascension is glorious as we all proceed to the inevitable lifting of the trophy. Jacques Cousteau gets in on the action; we’re now diving in an underwater world, searching for lost treasures whilst sharks swim in synchronised fashion all around us. It all beats the day job for sure.

I return to earlier thoughts. L’Imperatrice are ready-made headliners of your boutique festival. This would be euphoric in a field as the stars glisten above. Beat-Herder should book them. They’d be a magical fit.  L’Imperatrice – previously unknown in these quarters will not now be overlooked.

Le SuperHomard – Institut Francais – April 25th 2019

London has so much to offer. It’d be easy to keep venturing out to the tried and trusted venues for my gig action but I’m keen to remain curious and to keep digging beneath the surface of this sprawling metropolis. Thus, I find myself on a pleasant Thursday evening in a stunning library surrounded by the very best French books.

This is not any library. The Denis Saurat Reading room at the Institut Francais is an architectural wonder; a dome at one end letting in stained and colourful shards of light . Ladders and wooden steps guide you to a book-laden balcony that runs around the outside of the room. I choose to sit down in one of the comfy modern pieces of furniture, a chair in beanbag shape. 

I’m here to see Le SuperHomard play a stripped-back set. This baroque pop is right up my street; their 60’s influenced bossa-nova tunes reconnect me with those days when I solely listened to Gainsbourg, St. Etienne, The Clientele and Air whilst dreaming of the life-changing romance that I was convinced was just around the corner. 

The romance never came and the cynical punk came out. But tonight it’s good to reminisce.

This gig is part of a monthly initiative, Music Rendezvous, within the Institut Francais, an effort to share the best of emerging French music with the British public and French ex-pats. But many of us here have already heard of Le SuperHomard. 6 Music DJs have picked up on some of the brilliance within their debut album, Meadow Lane Park, and have been urgently spinning key tracks. The fact that the record is released on the seminal indie-pop label, Elefant Records, evidently helps aa well. 

Typically a five piece, the library setting dictates the stream-lining. It’s SuperHomard first outing as a three-piece but you wouldn’t know by listening. Through a mix of electronica, acoustic guitar and sweet chanson action, the trio of Christophe, Julie and Benoit captivate all for 45 minutes with their Gallic pop. Dressed in a mix of denim, mod excess and blue and white striped fisherman shirts, the look screams twee and gorgeous cinematic hip. 

The music is dreamlike for the romantic poets gathered, a soundtrack to every holiday romance we’ve ever yearned for. It screams of sunny days in the park, misspent youth and nostalgic longing. When Julie dances with her arms locked behind her back we’re transported back to those days when indie disco had something to say, perhaps fittingly for an act named after a nightclub from a 1966 film.

We learn about the origins of the name (and all manner of other stuff) in a Q&A that follows the set. The trio are civilly interviewed; it’s polite, informative and engaging. Christophe is the main songwriter and Benoit the gifted producer who uses analog and digital methods of production to conjure up the fresh sound from a studio and music shop in Avignon. The lyrics are written by two of Christophe’s English-speaking friends because he wants to avoid any sense of Franglais. Julie’s voice is pretty English-sounding we all agree. Meadow Lane Park is (rather disappointingly) not an homage to Notts County, the oldest football team in the world, but rather a reference to a children’s park in the USA.

I make a note of Le SuperHomard impending date in Brighton for The Great Escape and add their set to my growing list of must-sees. “It’ll be livelier as a five piece”, promises Christophe to an audience that has already been converted. 

 

 

HelloLisa – Hundred Lives

I’ve always enjoyed E-mail conversations with Pat. Pat is the drummer turned guitarist in HelloLisa, a French band that I featured on Sonic Breakfast (here) back in the day. 

His E-mails are warm, chatty and convivial and when he got back in touch weeks ago to enquire if I’d be interested in reviewing the new HelloLisa record, I jumped at the chance. They’re a bright and breezy indie-pop band able to write magical tunes. The release of ‘Haunted Strange Parties’ in September had passed me by, gone under this radar, and Pat told me why. 

‘The saddest thing is a catastrophic sudden death of Julien, founding member of the band and co writer, co singer of the band at age 42, on July 22 just few days after we get our boxes of this LP from the factory. This is the main reason we didnt communicate so much on the release of this new album because we were in shock and we still are. After weeks of pain and questioning, we decided to continue the band.’

I sat and read Pat’s E-mail as a cluster of thoughts swelled. I didn’t know Julien aside from his art on record and yet still a morbid sadness descended. 42 – no age, younger than me, distinctly horrible. Revealing new material for any band has to be one of the moments they live for and, yet here was an example of extreme sorrow. 

Curiosity abounded (and I didn’t like to ask Pat) so I searched the Internet. To discover that Julien had had a cardiac arrest, that he’d left a young, grieving family just made matters worse. 

If I was feeling a certain shock for this remote loss, goodness knows how people much closer must be feeling. 

Tentatively, I began to listen to the record. It’s a masterpiece, the work of a band at the very top of their game. Lyrically, there are songs that hark back to our younger days; joyous day trips when we were half our age in cars that have long since been consigned to the scrap heap in the sky. It’s an album that grabs middle-age by the scruff of the neck yet makes you all fuzzy about what used to be. 

Clumsily, I cobbled words together to let Pat know how sorry I was to hear the news. I knew I was going to feature HelloLisa again. ‘Haunted Strange Parties’ is a quite remarkable record; one that makes reference to Neil Hannon and The Divine Comedy’s ‘Tonight, We Fly’ in opening track ‘First Black Bike’.

Yesterday. Pat sent me a video for ‘Hundred Lives’, one of the album’s stand-out tracks. It’s only recently been pulled together, a montage of video clips from the 1980’s featuring Toni Basil’s ‘Mickey’ prominently. The song, a nostalgic nod back to your early twenties when optimism is rife about what’s to follow, fits in with the images with eerie perfection. 

I feel so humbled that HelloLisa chose to share this with me. As awfully cliched as it is, life really is for living. We never know what’s around any corner and to not embrace it with every sinew seems like the most awful of cop-outs. 

It’s time to fall in love (again) with the joyful sounds of HelloLisa.