A Journal Of The Dark Arts
A lot of us are inspired by old library records, ’70s soundtracks, exotica, but it can be difficult to tolerate the UNFUNKINESS of it.
Instead, Fourmi, a retro synthesizer outfit from Paris, use a pallet of Hammer horror organs, Atari basslines, and properly dusted Hammond rhythm machines, which are bent and skewed to do impossible, skittering things, to create a feeling of some casino in close orbit to Earth. There’s a hip-hop dance party happening in the ballroom, though, cuz Fourmi’s beats get down!
On Super Plastron, they choose an odd, but well-picked, combination of ’50s plastic organs and electric harpsichords, which are paired with tight and punchy beats. It’s all the sounds of a vintage groovebox, but programmed with intricacy. They’re making a kind of hypervivid ’50s bachelor pad music, where they’ve sucked out the schmaltz, and then portraying the whole thing through an aquamarine jello filter.
While this album is a no-brainer for people who like the harpsichord transmissions of Ghost Box and Hammer Horror soundtracks, i’d like to see it cross over into the hands of hip-hop producers and potential chillwavers, as 1.) These guys really do swing, and their beats are exceptionally polished and well-placed and 2.) these songs somewhat evince the feeling of swaying on a beach and, or potentially dance on a beach at sunset.
While these dudes are looking back to the ’50s, they also recall the days of vintage braindance, as Fourmi remind us of the thrill of well-placed, intricate machine beats blended with stacks of arpeggiators. They sound kind of like Aphex Twin taking stock of current hip-hop trajectories, and while their drum ‘n bass occasionally drills, everything remains relaxed, mellowed, dipped in reverb. Its busy, its convoluted, but its not aggressive, more the byproduct of an inquisitive mind.
Its that atmosphere that ultimately makes Super Plastron succeed as a transmission. Everything is well-picked and well-placed and well-mixed. Their funky organs rinkety-dink roller skate synths, and Atari basslines are very vintage, entirely harmonic, eminently hummable. These guys are cherry-picking the past, and picking the absolute best.
I think, ultimately, that Super Plastron is a strange vision, as it so clearly has yesterday’s sci-fi visions in mind, but are delivered as modern dance. Its both retro soundtrack AND club fodder. One can only conclude that Fourmi are attempting to transform modern dance clubs into dayglo, jumpsuited discotheques, and in that, i hope they succeed.
I am a huge advocate for the return of all manner of retrofuturism, from ’50s space age, to ’60s psychedelia, to ’70s sci-fi and ’80s synth, not to mention all manner of rave music, as pretty much all of these had some hope for the future, even if it were sometimes a bleak one. Sometimes we get too rooted in rust and decay, and while i enjoy post-industrial grit more than most, it is essential to have a bit of the other, to have some shiny chrome hope among the dust.
These guys seem like one to watch. Their beats are evolving, and they seem to be playing live a decent amount. I anticipate their rise.
Its sometimes easy to overlook hip-hop’s ability to uplift and unite. Hip-hop crawls through the streets, and talks about what it sees there, good and bad. Its not all anger and violence, but it is certainly there.
And i like my hip-hop more damaged and deranged and dirty than most, it can be easy to shy away from something so obviously positive as John Blake’s Your Light. It can be easy to shy away from the light. With its seagull cover and wistful gaze, you worry this could be some we-are-the-world moment, and there might be some hand-holding. Please don’t touch me.
But, instead, as soon as you press play on this single, you find John Blake means what he says, and is an honest and beautiful sentiment.
Much like the last album, this is because of the atmosphere. It’s so funny the subtleties you can pick up from music, and how there is a subjectivity in every attempt at criticism or review. Because some people, with some grand vision of how to save the world, if only you’d LISTEN TO THEM, if only you’d pay attention to them. They have all the answers. They’re screaming in yr face.
But Blake invites. He entices. The instruments are soft and gentle, classic-sounding. REAL piano, with a tight beat that’s solid, but not abrasive. And its all held together with a classic soul singalong tag. Elisa Polanco knows how to sing On Key and In Tune.
What’s surprising, is that, even with its cheerful disposition, my vantage point on life is pretty much the exact same as their’s, word-for-word:
“gotta represent for the god in me”
“just gotta change this world”
“don’t give up on yr life”
“my heart can’t be heavy/for the battle to come/for the king of the sun”
“we all want a world where we can live in peace”
So stop being jaded for a minute. Listen to something pretty.