Bandcamp Daily did a great profile on the Paris-based rock group Dead Pirates and how it transformed from a fake cartoon band into a real band. I recommend reading the entire profile as you check out the music video for “Ugo” below.
The group began as musical accompaniment for a music video by French illustrator Matthieu Bessudo (known as Mcbess). At first Mcbess did all the music, but soon he recruited other members and began touring the music. A side project turned into a full-time gig.
“It was strange,” Mcbess tells Bandcamp. “I went to South America to do an exhibition, and a friend of mine there was into some good music and said it would be easy to set up a tour. He landed us like six or seven dates.”
Highmare is the group’s debut LP. The “Ugo” music video features Mcbess’ trademark Max Fleischer-inspired artwork as the video is some sort of twisted adult spin on the classic animation.
I always think of the ’50s as an innocent and square time (think Happy Days). But classical music in the ’50s challenged the restraints of its romantic past to confront a less romantic modern world. The US was fighting Russia in a Cold War, a conflict that was affecting most other countries still coming to terms with the devastation caused by two back-to-back World Wars. Surely the world was going to end in fire or nuclear radiation. This reactionary movement among artists was happening even before Schoenberg and the atonality movement, but several new composers throughout the world came into their own in the ’50s to challenge the notion of classical music’s place in modern culture.
One such artist was Pierre Boulez, who passed away earlier this year at 90. For his famous piece “Le Marteau Sans Maître,” the French composer took the surrealist poetry of René Char and used its words as the focal point for a chamber ensemble to create an unsettling, random sounding composition. Except everything was in order. The piece took two years to write and incorporated flutes, xylorimbas, and a contralto, a classical female singer with the lowest possible vocal range who provides the only sense of human life. Everything else sounds cold and calculated. It’s long, but random hits of the bongo and crashes of instruments keep you engaged. It’s a piece I’ve come to enjoy in a certain mood (if you encounter me in such a mood, run away from me).
As with any classical music I write about, I encourage you to read the master Alex Ross for more details into the life of Boulez.
Sounds like 2013 Daft Punk, or should I say 2013 Daft Punk sounds like 1997 Air. Either way, the French House sound is undeniably cool. With auto-tune vocals, space invader keys, downtempo pacing, tasteful horns, and, hardest of all, a proper use of a wah-wah pedal, this song has everything you could ever want for your French alter ego.
Premiers Symptômes was Air’s debut EP. Collectors and obsessed fans argue that this collection of the band’s earliest singles and B-sides was the best thing they ever released. I don’t listen to enough Air to know or care what place this EP has in relation to Moon Safari. I do care, however, that a song like this exists, something that is so humble and moody for any nighttime occasion.
I was at the perfect age for Adult Swim, which premiered its first original shows in September 2001 (unfortunately the same week as 9/11). Adult Swim is still going strong, but it’s hard to beat those few years that included Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Robot Chicken, and the rebroadcasting of FLCL, Dragon Ball Z, and many more international shows that essentially found its American audience through AS. It also saved Family Guy and Futurama from cancellation purgatory and was resurrected on Fox and Comedy Central respectively, no doubt by its popularity on AS. MTV had already transformed into a reality channel, and MTV2 would premiere the occasional My Chemical Romance music video to keep me interested, but to me Adult Swim was the great TV inside joke that MTV was to the previous generation.
Aqua Teen Hunger Force might have been the definitive AS show (if you don’t believe me, read Tim O’Neil’s excellent profile of the show’s history), Samurai Champloo is how I’ll always remember AS. Never before had I seen a show that so perfectly blended cool music, violent animation, and taboo topics (sex, drugs, and hip-hop music, all things my sweet Midwestern mom did not want young me to know about) and made it fun and enlightening to watch.
Samurai Champloo, directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, the same director of Cowboy Bebop, follows two samurais and the girl who hires them to help her find “the samurai who smells of sunflowers.” But I don’t remember the show for its plot – it’s the music that made me care. The soundtrack features only DJs and hip-hop producers who created tracks to accompany the show’s sword fights and other settings. It was a seemingly unlikely marriage that worked, and it recreated Japanese history in a playful way.
I went back recently to watch Samurai Champloo and was disappointed with the show’s weak plot, but the music still made me smile. Long live Samurai Champloo, and long live Adult Swim.