The road to Shanghai
‘If you can make one heap of all your winnings, and risk it on a turn of pitch-and-toss, and lose, and start again at your beginnings, and never breathe a word about your loss.’ 1
Two years, two continents, coming to terms with ones’ desires and heeding the call of adventure. In retrospect, Électriciennes’ new album is an attempt to capture all of these emotions – gone rampantly wild – and, if it feels at time eclectic and moody, this should be seen as a testament to its success.
The album contains five tracks, each a story in its own right, each enhanced and transformed by the voice, the charisma and the personal contribution of one of five incredibly talented ladies. In conversation with the multidisciplinary artist Makin Jan Ma, he has suggested that the final result could be interpreted as each of the stages of a duel in the Kübler-Ross method: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
‘The winters, the morning light, the thousand nights that you drove me wild – it’s all gone now’GONE – Électriciennes ft. Anne Evenou
‘I will be back again at this place, with its familiar faces and its old disguises’ (Polaroids)
Polaroids is an indictment of the permanent dissatisfaction brought about by social media and over communication: the ‘fear of missing out’. Constantly chasing the shiniest new moment, we neglect to live the one we currently have. Elle Blink brings mystery and sensuality to this electro-pop anthem, which tampers with hints of Mediterranean flair.
‘You never know how it crushes me, to still hear the words that you will never speak to me.’ (To Be The One)
To Be The One and Gone work as the obverse and reverse of the same coin. The topic is old as the arts – the loss of love. But To Be The One calls attention to the often uncomforted pain and solitary courage that it takes to leave someone you used to love, but no longer do. The double-edge sword of rejecting a future that is yours to lose, while hurting someone you care for. ‘But it’s too late, too gray, too far, too messed with and too fucked up’ (To Be The One). Alyöna Lee dresses the part impeccably, with the right amount of pain and regret. The music owes its share to the darker 80s in spirit, and the early years of Trip-Hop in its sound.
‘Fine. I was a bitch, last time. I was an arrogant and senseless kid.’ (This Time)
This Time stands out as the rebellious and ambivalent child that dispenses with all the moodiness of the album. With an infectious bass groove, an upbeat synth line and techno-reggae roots, the track shines through thanks to the limpid vocals and refreshing delivery of Tina Zygura. Tina expertly navigates the juvenile attitude amidst denser themes with impeccable self-assuredness, and the song has the rewarding effect of a frozen cocktail in the heat of Summer.
‘Standing in the hallway, looking out, you see its face – the ghost of lovers past.’ (Gone)
Gone is the best known, most-referenced twin in the ying and yang of lovers’ parting. But not because of it being sang about and written of, has the pain ever subsided. Anne Evenou, a sublime French chanteuse of Jazz accolades and Operatic beginnings, slides the dagger further in with velvet hands. The song is pain and pleasure in an intoxicating mix. Musically the sounds evoke the soundtrack of the first Blade Runner, and the words of Rutger Hauer are never far away: ‘All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain’. Or as Anne sings in Gone: ‘The winters, the morning light, the thousand nights that you drove me wild – it’s all gone now’.
‘I woke up this morning with the sundown, shining in’. (Just Dropped In)
Like the hero’s quest, the album ends triumphantly, and it’s the soul of Denise Mininfield that lights up the fireworks. Électriciennes’ version of The First Edition’s Just Dropped In is a tribute to the psychedelic nature of the original, but also to the affinity of Charlie T with the European Surrealism of a century ago. Co-produced with Benjamin L’Hotelier, the song is an exhilarating finish to the condensed tribulation of two years that brought change in every imaginable way.
So it is that perhaps, sometimes, you take a risk on all your winnings, and you don’t lose.
“If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run, yours is the Earth – and everything that’s in it.” 1
1 Rudyard Kipling – If…