Monday, 30 August 2010

The Authentic Decadents

Whenever I find myself in a new country I always try to pick up some local sounds, and only having a brief time in Buenos Aires and not having the chance to either hear much radio or see anyone live, I had to resort to the suprisingly reliable method of picking a handful of albums based on the covers alone. So I was digging my way through the shelves in a little record store called The Cave in the pedestrianised shopping neighbourhood downtown when I spied a marvel - a dog in slick sportswear and killer shades mixing a couple of records on a pair of glittery decks. But it wasn't, as you may be thinking, a cartoon - it was a photo. So slightly cruel as it appeared, this was still an album that needed to be bought for the cover alone.

The disc was called Club Atletico Decadente by a massively populated act called Los Auténticos Decadentes. A quick flick to the back of the album displayed a rag tag gaggle of a dozen geezers, all in their thirties and upwards, and every one of them wearing the same kit as the poor pooch on the front of the cover. It didn't need to be any good with livery as cool as this, but what a treat it turned out to be.

The sounds on this collection were as lively as the picture of its creators suggested. A bonkers mix up of traditional Argentinian dance rhythms, pounding rock and roll with a little bit of sk punk thrown in for good measure, this would be what The Mighty Mighty Bosstones might have sounded like of they were all Boca Juniors fans with Diego Maradona tattoos - only with considerably more fluid hips.

There were slices of slinky Latino sounds that your mum could dance to, followed by pokey little punk tunes your little brother wouldn't be afraid to mosh to in public, and a bunch of other mutant hybrids that covered their local traditional musics like cumbia, merengue, canzonetta, murga and a whole bundle more that I'm not entirely sure how to spell.

They guy in The Cave insisted I ought to get their following album, Somos (El Vivo), as he reckoned it was much better - and I rather wish I did now, because these boys have got quite the track record.

It turns out that I'm stumbled across one of the country's most popular live acts. Formed right back in 1986, their first album came three years later, and featured their first hit Veni Raquel. As I was to later find out, their tunes have become ubiquitous on an Argentine night out, and have turned up in the background of practically every contemporary Argentinian movie that I've seen since I first picked up their album. They regularly sell out stadiums across Latin America, being perhaps surprisingly most popular in Mexico, where their anarchic dance tunes sit well within their own unhinged underground music scene.

I've since discovered that they've released ten albums in total, so I'm going to have to start picking my way through them all one by one. But which end should I start at? Now there hangs the dilemma! To my knowledge they've never made it over this side of the pond, which is a shame, because I reckon they're lively enough to clear up. They've fill that Ozomatli/Gogol Bordello/ Manu Chao-sized slot at the more worldsy tinged festivals a treat, and they've been going for so long now that it can only be a matter of time before we see them out this way - so keep 'em peeled for the Decadents!

All photos © lays with the owners
Videos from YouTube. Underlying © lays with the owners of the clips.

Friday, 27 August 2010

The Blue House

We followers of Eurovision have to plough through a lot of dubious ballads and lowest common denominator pop in order to drege out one or two pure glistening gems every year. Now I'm sure that most of you will be saying "why even bother?" or "it's all different shades of the same kak!". But when those gems do come along, they're usually pretty special.

Rewind to Spain in 2008. We've mentioned their ground-breaking open application process that debut that year elsewhere in this blog. But one of the acts it uncovered to we strange few Europop fiends was very special indeed. In fact it only just missed out on making it to Belgrade by a few small percentage points. Let me introduce you to La Casa Azul.

Having a quick click and flick through the untold hapless flamenco pop tunes and wrist-slitting ballads, a song called La Revolucion Sexual exploded from the line up like a glass of sparkling pop juice on a hot day. One part Japanese club pop in the style of Pizzicato 5, one part knowing indie pop and a half dozen parts the spaces inbetween the greatest disco pop songs you ever heard, this thing stood out head and shoulders above the rest. Surely it was too good to even make the final selection - I couldn't be that lucky.

But it gathered a head of steam, and in a neck and neck battle came in a close third to a mawkish sailor ballad and a novelty reggaeton song about the recent Spanish elections. And when I finally saw the video I was blown sideways by the pure pop joy of it all.

The conceit of the act is that it's staffed by five beautiful androids from space. That had been the gag all along, from their first album, El Sonido Efervescente de La Casa Azul back in 2000. But as potential international fame drew nearer, the whole thing was finally revealed to be the work of just one man - a prematurely balding and unassuming producer chap called Guille Milkyway.

Indeed, this was perhaps to be the end of the android schtick, as in his very next video, a bizarre clip for the song Esta Noche Solo Cantan Para Mi, he apeared to kill them all off, leaving their lifeless bodies beneath a bush as an array of girls did some nice ice skating on white vinyl records. I told you it was an odd one, but a gem indeed.

He's been known to make to odd appearance on an English shore - the last time at an indie festival in a railway station in Derbyshire last summer - so keep an eye out for him, cos he's supposed to be a pure cracker live. Get some pop in your life and move on in to the blue house!

All photos © lays with the owners
Videos from YouTube. Underlying © lays with the owners of the clips.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Like a bullet from Milan

Once in a while you stumble across a gig that leaves you struggling to remember the last time you had anywhere near as much fun. I had one of those nights a couple of May's ago in a little back room in Moscow, watching a delightfully positive and insanely danceable bunch of Italian squat urchins called Kalashnikov.

I suppose their name was apt enough for the city - even more so as the preparations for the big military parade were going on all around town - and I'm sure the idea for this gig started out as some kind of crazy pipedream for the band. But a couple of flyers scattered around town led us check them out on the web, and we reckoned there might be a half decent night to be had. But it was one of those rare nights where all the ingredients gelled into one heck of a night.

The venue was a tiny little club called Vse Svoi, around the back of the city zoo. As we walked down the dark side street that harboured the venue, the yelps of excitable punk kids mixed in with the squeaks, barks and growls from the other side of the wall to make an exotic runway to the evening's entertainment. But we weren't expecting the place to be quite so tiny. Not much bigger than your granny's front room, and sporting a similar decor, the Vse Svoi was rammed from front to back with wide-eyed 19-year olds nodding their heads to some earnest local screamo band. Every time my other half bought a booze flavoured drink, a gaggle of nippers flocked around her asking if they could have a sip. This wasn't going to be like a normal gig, we could sense it.

And when the headliners from Milan finally took to the stage, we were proved correct. In keeping with their name, Kalashnikov imediately belted into some turbo-fuelled Russian-style jigs, sending the place universally bonkers. Singer Milena had every last one of them (and us) in the palm of her hand from the outset. Despite being the oldest people in the building by some 20 years, we were compelled to dance to their punchy romantic punk and skittish high-speed ska retreads - partly because the place was pakced like sardines and we had no option, but partly because our feet commanded it.

Kalashnikov@Moscow 2 May 09

Kalashnikov collective | MySpace Music Videos

But the the real lunacy began. A young lad down the front had falled totally for Milena's charms, guarding her from all other invaders, and seemingly offering to marry her on a song-by-song basis. Puj the guitarist was being passed above the heads of the now-steaming crowd, walking his feet along the ceiling, while Don's keyboards were falling off their plinth and knocking the PA into the crowd at the stroke of each minute. By now the crowd and band had become one pulsating entity, and the only way it was ever going to end was by exhaution, invasion or explosion. It turned out to be the latter, as the bass amp finally gave up after being at the brunt of its operator Nino's constant flinging of water into the crowd. It was an apt end to the amplified noise, but the crowd just kept on whooping and hollering for a good twenty minutes.

Rarely do you see a show where every last person in the room is going absolutely batchy dance-o. There wasn't even the little enclave of cool kids at the back of the room nodding with their arms folded - which is perhaps what we were expecting of a city like Moscow. Before leaving we shared our love of the night with Puj, who seemed like he'd just had the best night of his life. It wasn't far off for us either.
Kalashnikov @ Moscow (RUSSIA) May '09

Kalashnikov collective | MySpace Music Videos

It's always then a worry when you track such a band down in the real world. You fear that the energy of the night has addled your judgement of the quality of the actual music. But there's no such fear with Kalashnikov. When I finally found their site, I found each of their tunes to be throbbing with the same scratchy power and all-round loveliness as we witnessed in that tiny backroom in Moscow. Go find out for yourself, 'cos every last one of their songs is free to download. A top, top band that Kalashnikov!

All photos © lays with the owners
Videos from YouTube. Underlying © lays with the owners of the clips.