Psychedelic Journey

Moodoïd
Photo by Fiona Torre

“It’s a pornographic episode of Teletubbies mixed with Lord of the Rings.”

“Moodoïd is a laboratory project,” wrote songwriter and bandleader Pablo Padovani in a recent email. “I want to have fun and make music just like my eclectic tastes. The EP [a dazed and festive four tracks released last year] was a presentation. Now this is the first trip. We discover the different facets of Moodoïd.”

It’s a trip in both senses of the word—an omnivorous journey, moving outward from Paris to embrace a global cross-section of sounds; and a psychedelic experience, with outlandish imagery and uncanny music. Moodoïd’s first full-length, Le monde Möö, embodies its title. For nearly fifty minutes, we are brought into Padovani’s weird world, a sonic and visual wonderland. Perhaps one of the band’s music videos from the EP gives some indication of that vision:

In the album’s opening track, “Les garçons veulent de la magi” (The boys want magic), we get a tour of Möö, as Padovani whispers incantations atop an electronic shimmer. The music is at once laidback and tightly constructed, but consistently gregarious.

“I think you may like it if you like childhood, sex, dreams and surrealism,” Padovani told me. “It’s a pornographic episode of Teletubbies mixed with Lord of the Rings.” That perspective is audible on the wide-eyed “La Lune,” in which his female bandmates coo an ode to the moon. The album’s soundscape, however, is broad; prog-rock riffs flit in and out, adding an edge to the luminescence (the ’70s French prog band Gong was a major inspiration).

Where did this bizarre world originate? Though Padovani is only 24, his artistic voice feels fully developed. He is best known as the guitarist in Melody’s Echo Chamber, another psychedelic French pop band; and he draws inspiration from his father, the established saxophonist Jean-Marc Padovani, who can be heard on the album. He studied cinema and has a day job directing short films and music videos, and that visual acuity informs the iconography of his music. “Moodoïd arose from the need to express a lot of emotions,” he wrote. “It was a lonely time, I started writing full songs, and I told myself that I had to sing those every day if necessary. I wanted to share this experience with girls. So I looked for musicians all over Paris.”

Moodoïd
Photo by Fiona Torre

Padovani cited influences as wide as the Brecker Brothers and the Dirty Projectors. Inspired by the writing process of Steely Dan co-founder Donald Fagen, he wrote out instrumental parts for all of his bandmates. “I was able to invite people I greatly admire and the studio was a thoroughfare where we took the time to choose the right sounds. All the songs were ready, we just had to sublimate.” Nicholas Vernhes, who has worked with indie bigwigs like Animal Collective and Deerhunter, produced and mixed the album, except for “Yes & You.” This track marks the return of Kevin Parker, who shaped the original Moodoïd sound on the first EP. “Yes & You” begins as a straightforward but heartfelt love anthem, closely whispered atop strumming guitars. Halfway through it takes on a punkish roar, with Padovani’s bandmates snarling in the background. It makes a perfect transition to the rapid-fire hits of “Bongo Bongo Club.”

Then there are the album’s fantastical and jazzy moments, like the opening of “Les chemins de traverse,” a thoroughly Sun Ra minute of wordless, meandering vocals and rustling saxophones. “I am very inspired by the surrealist movement,” Padovani said. And “Heavy Metal Be Bop 2”—the track title speaks volumes—begins with a classic free jazz freak-out before settling into a thick groove.

The Moodoïd world might be best represented in “Les oiseaux,” with its sinewy instrumentals, chanting voices atop tricky meters, and straight-ahead blues sung by Padovani.

“The disc is a walk in the world Möö. This is a soft world made of cream hills and Turkish delight mountains. There are also Camembert mattresses and waterfalls of wine. This is a great, epic adventure,” Padovani wrote. “Les oiseaux” is richly textured and concludes with a guitar fade-out that is best described as, well, trippy.

Humble Pie

Michael Cera

“I just wanted people to know that I don’t expect anyone to consider this anything more than a humble effort. None of the songs were born of any particular ambitions. They’re just sketches I’ve made that I felt I wanted to share with anyone who’d want to listen.”

Earlier this week, someone called Michael Cera posted an album to Bandcamp. Confirming this was the Michael Cera, the amiably awkward, witty, and dapper dude from Arrested Development, Youth in Revolt, Superbad, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist and Juno, was no easy feat. But thanks to Cera’s persuasive emails, a call from his management, and a Jonah Hill tweet, we established that this was not the work of an attention-seeking crackpot.

True That is a lo-fi and eccentric outing of 21 tracks – many of which are instrumental guitar and piano doodles. There are some sweet, folksy-leaning songs, too. It sounds exactly like the reflective, occasionally melancholic, and introspective music that would accompany a movie like Juno. This is not Cera’s musical debut. He has previously played and collaborated with Weezer, The Long Goodbye, and Mister Heavenly, and has had a hand in creating and curating the soundtracks to his films.

Cera was kind enough to eek out some time for a quick interview between day-long rehearsals for his Broadway debut in This Is Our Youth, which starts this September.

Bandcamp: Where and when did you find time to record this album?
Michael Cera: Basically, hanging out at home over the years and goofing around.

BC: Do you ever see yourself performing this music live?
MC: I don’t think so, the makeup of much of it is in the spontaneity of the moment I made it, and most of the tracks are not something that I would call real songs.

BC: The piano pieces remind me of being a kid, listening to the sound of piano drifting through the house as my dad tried to lull my brother and me to sleep (thanks for the memory). What inspired you to record those?
MC: Just sitting at the piano and trying to see something through. There were hardly any sleepless children involved in the origin of those songs.

BC: You tagged the album “modest music.” Can you explain what this means – did I miss a sub-genre?
MC: I just wanted people to know that I don’t expect anyone to consider this anything more than a humble effort. None of the songs were born of any particular ambitions. They’re just sketches I’ve made that I felt I wanted to share with anyone who’d want to listen.

BC: Most people, I think it is fairly safe to say, “know” you through your films. Is it important to you that recording music gives you a different way to express who you are?
MC: That’s not important to me. I just enjoy having music in my life.

BC: Who have you been listening to recently and do you get to see much live music?
MC: I hardly see any live music, and I’ve been listening mostly to the Kinks for the last 4 months.

BC: Did any artists in particular influence the album?
MC: Alden Penner, Paul McCartney, and KMD.

Michael Cera

BC: Kudos to you for doing so, but why did you DIY this release?
MC: There wasn’t much thought put into it other than wanting to share these songs I’ve been working on.

BC: Will there be more?
MC: I’m sure I’ll keep making songs, I enjoy it so much.

BC: I want to apologize for the hoops we had you jump through to prove you were the real you. Does this happen much?
MC: No, mostly when I tell people who I am they just say “ok, that’s great.”

BC: Can we ask what is happening on the album cover?
MC: I’m laughing with my friend.

Africa Special

BBrave, aka Benjamin LeBrave, is a regular contributor to Fader, runs the Akwaaba label, and is a DJ whose sets reflect his wide knowledge of African music – from hiplife to afrobeat, kwaito to azonto, and beyond.

Benjamin Lebrave
Benjamin LeBrave

A combination of easy access to the internet and affordable digital tools is liberating music production in Africa. Armed with a laptop and a 3G modem, anybody can take part in the creation of music. There is no shortage of talent willing to create catchy tunes on this continent where dancing is a significant part of social life.

My picks below reveal a couple of trends in African music. First, the overwhelming majority of pop music in most African nations is comprised of vocals laid over sequenced instrumentals that have been assembled on a computer. I call this Fruity Loops music and from Dakar to Durban, Fruity Loops is the music production software of choice. Second, there is a lot of independent music being produced in this very DIY way, without the input of a major producer or funding entity, like a label.

Waga 3000

Art Melody Waga 3000

Waga 3000 is comprised of seasoned MCs Art Melody and Joey le Soldat, along with French beat maker DJ Form. On this track they decry the Ouaga 2000 urban development in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso.

Fouma System

Fouma System

Another great collaboration between continents: Senegalese vocalist Mustaf Mbaye and Danish producer Exampler have been cooking up tunes for a few years. On Xamal Sa Bopp, the two merge their worlds to create something unique – and Dakar is all over it!

Noura Mint Seymali

The combination of Seymali’s voice and the guitar, played by her husband Jeiche, make me melt. Tuareg music has received its share of visibility, but somehow the Moorish music of Mauritania (which shares similar aspects of African and Arab music), is not quite as well-known.

Fredy Massamba

Masamba is an open-minded musician who grew up on Congolese music. I see his name everywhere. He’s taken part in so many projects, I can’t count them all. He is the quintessential African diaspora artist and he is kicking serious arse!

Dumyarea

Back in 2011, this song was a national anthem of sorts in Liberia. It was even used by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf during her campaign. Politics aside, this song exemplifies gbema, the computer-sequenced adaptation of traditional Liberian rhythms and melodies.

King Ayisoba

King Ayisoba

A one-of-a-kind musical hero from the north of Ghana, Ayisoba plays the kologo, a one- or two-stringed fiddle from West Africa. However, he is the only one I know who sings with two distinct voices, and he sports the inimitable Frafra swag.

discobox

This is a UFO. I have no idea where it came from, but it landed in my Bandcamp recommendations and I love Congolese guitar in any shape or form.

Oscar Neves – Mabelé

Toward the end of colonial times, Angolan music was unbelievably prolific. Semba, the Angolan evolution of traditional music with guitars, became popular in the late 1960s and early 1970s as it carried pro-independence messages. Oscar Neves is a key figure of this golden age of Angolan semba.

DJ Balani – Balani Sanga

Coupé décalé is a dance genre that emerged from the Ivorian scene. In the past decade it has taken over most of Francophone Africa and has inspired the emergence of local equivalents, such as balani music in Mali. Balani refers to the energetic environment of a street party.

FOKN Bois

Fokn Boiz

Ghanaian MCs Wanlov the Kubolor and M3nsa team up as FOKN Bois to humorously challenge – and often shock – Ghanaian society. This song is from their fantastic soundtrack to the Coz Ov Moni 2 pidgin musical.

Onyenze – Ogidi (Djeff & Silyvi Remix)

Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe was a legend of the Igbo Highlife genre (a fusion of jazz and traditional music). Osadebe’s nephew, Onyenze, bears a voice reminiscent of his uncle, and is now heir to his uncle’s musical throne. The Ogidi Inwelu remix was produced by Djeff and Silyvi, top afro-house DJs from Luanda, Angola, and became a huge hit there, even though it is unusual for a Nigerian artist to make his voice heard in Angola.

Skeat

The sound of Botswana is nestled between South African kwaito and the permeable guitar melodies of the Congo. Skeat draws from both worlds in what he calls kwaito kwassa. Dumelang means “welcome” in Tswana, the main language of Botswana.

Just a Band

Just a Band are the leaders of a new school of African artists. Their music reflects Nairobi’s cosmopolitan and tech-savvy nature.

 

Tweaking and Shaping: Adult Jazz

Adult Jazz

“You aren’t the best judge of anything you are currently playing. Although we were very keen to allow scrappiness and humanity into the recording, we don’t see those preoccupations as mutually exclusive.”

“Hum,” the first track of Gist Is—the full-length debut from the Leeds-based band Adult Jazz—is also an accurate description. The song opens with a drone in the reedy style of 1960s LaMonte Young, before an airy male voice enters, subtly echoed and then strangely doubled. The music takes its time to build, as little electronic murmurs begin to peek into the fabric. The drone endures. Four minutes into the seven-minute tune—the songs on Gist Is are nothing if not extensive—we get a percussive beat and the vocals finally settle into a regular rhythm. A tight trombone lick echoes and responds to the vocals. There is a stunning variety to the timbres presented, acoustic and electronic.

It isn’t easy to discern the provenance of any of the sounds in “Hum,” but perhaps that’s the point. The new album is the result of a three-year writing and recording effort that took place alternating between Leeds and the Scottish Borders. “Each summer was a process of consolidating and reimagining what we had recorded more scrappily throughout the previous year,” the band wrote in an email interview. They fleshed out vague song ideas together and used recording as an “intervention”—constantly tweaking and shaping until things settled into their final state. “Generally, if an idea sticks for longer than a couple of sessions, we are keen to mold it until it works, rather than generating and discarding half-formed [attempts],” the band explained. “Hum” and most of the other tracks on Gist Is bear evidence of this approach; they sound as if the band fleshed out a core idea in every imaginable direction, and then subtly removed the core itself.

Fortunately, the results don’t sound overly polished. According to the band, “you aren’t the best judge of anything you are currently playing. Although we were very keen to allow scrappiness and humanity into the recording, we don’t see those preoccupations as mutually exclusive.”

Adult Jazz has been brewing for some time. Harry Burgess, Steven Wells, and Tim Slater played together as a trio in their teens in Guilford and reunited at university in Leeds; they met Tome Howe through a mutual friend, and formed the band. The album has always been the band’s main focus, with live performance on the side, and its sound informed by the Leeds scene. “The good thing about Leeds and the people there is that they are prepared to take risks on smaller, weirder bands—people are generous with support slots when bigger acts come to town. As a result, we ended up playing with some bands we loved early on,” the guys said. “People are pretty supportive and interested, and actually go to [gigs]. Cheap rent helps artists. Humanities students have lots of free time.”

There’s something of the humanities student present in the broader themes of this album. “The record title, Gist Is, is based on the tension between transcription and more unformed, intuitive expression. That tension works out aesthetically in the music and thematically in the lyrics. Often, some uninhibited vocal expression will extend beyond formal words, or there will be an uncompromising union between an instrument and a voice,” they explained. Toward the end of “Spook,” Burgess sings atop a driving beat and layered, postminimalist guitar, tilting constantly between clear words and syllabic ululations. It makes a clean transition into “Idiot Mantra,” in which the vocals at first consist entirely of warbles that ricochet in uncanny stereo (headphones recommended).

The closest sonic parallel might be the Dirty Projectors or Grizzly Bear, especially in the tension between verdant orchestration, frail vocals, and electronic noise. The band cited Björk, Joanna Newsom, Arthur Russell, and Meredith Monk as important influences. There’s also a lot of early minimalism: in the melody of “Am Gone,” in which motives build additively in the style of early Monk or Philip Glass; or in the hiccuping, wordless background vocals halfway through “Spook,” evoking the “doot doots” of Steve Reich’s classic ensemble works. And in the band’s insistent doubling of voices and instruments, there is a hint of Olivier Messiaen, recalling the French master’s bizarre groupings of sounds that move together in swift, rhythmic unison.

Adult jazz

Though most tracks are lengthy, Adult Jazz’s music is not expansive. It’s locally focused; there aren’t really any typically indie, anthemic builds. Instead, you find moment-to-moment explorations of timbre and rhythm. The first minute of the concluding track, “Bonedigger,” is laid-back and bluesy; then the music transitions to entirely new, hiccuping material; the third minute is a duet between vocals and trombone. The music continues in this manner, weaving together disparate materials for an effect that is intellectual and a bit playful. The band describes their approach this way: “In some songs, it’s the consideration of moral or religious ideological maxims versus an internal, personal understanding of those things. The spirit versus the letter. In others, it’s about securing meaning or truth—between people, internally within a person, or between a man and his dog!”

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