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(Wooden Hat Records As broadcast on WVIA-FM 10/30/2013)
Back in the 1960s, there was a kind of novelty pop sound that came mainly from Europe from artists like Serge Gainsbourg that combined bits of rock and roll influence as seen through the eyes of artists and composers who did not grow up in the style, along with influence from soundtrack composers. The movies of the day, especially those from Europe, had a distinctive sound. On this side of the Atlantic, the Mexican-born composer Esquivel created a bunch of novelty instrumentals in the days of early stereo that had sound effects popping up on one side of the stereo field or the other. Also, there was a thriving "easy-listening" market for a lot of people who wanted as little to do with rock as possible but were not into either classical or real jazz.
That kind of music faded away with the end of the 1960s, thankfully, in the eyes of many, though easy-listening radio stations carried on with the sound for quite some time after that. But like most once-trendy things that lost their popularity, there have been occasional revivals. Some years ago, there were a bunch of reissues of the music that was marketed as "swinging bachelor pad music" or "space age music." Every once in a while, somebody tries to revive the style, usually with the kind of playfulness that was part of the best of such music back then. Ben Vaughn, a rock & roller who created some soundtrack music, did an album called Designs in Music that were reviewed on this series in 2006.
Since then another retro variation has appeared often called "electro swing," as personnified by the CD by the group Good Co. that we also reviewed here. That combines samples of old swing recordings with electronic beats in an often clever mashup.
This week we have one of the most entertaining of these retro electro Euro-pop swinging bachelor pad conglomerations. It's by a group called Intended Immigration, and their CD is called La Demoiselle du Fonque.
Intended Immigration is the brainchild of Thomas Feurer who is an international character -- born in Switzerland, educated at the American School of Modern Music in Paris, then here in the US at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He also studied law back in Switzerland at the University of Zurich. He currently lives in New York. His brand of music has proven to be something that TV and film producers have taken to, with his work appearing in TV shows like "Ugly Betty" and "Accidentally on Purpose," and in films and advertisements for Macy's among others. He also has done remixes of music for long-time artists like Herb Alpert -- who was part of the 1960s instrumental pop sound with his Tijuana Brass -- and even Quincy Jones, who Feurer describes as musical heroes.
For La Demoiselle du Fonque, a fair portion of the instrumentation is played by Feurer himself, but most tracks have some guests, including some significant jazz players such as bassist David Finck and trombonist Michael Davis. In keeping with the international nature of the CD, and the group name, there are some lyrics in French as sung by a very good pop chanteuse who goes by the name Fatiha, and English. The influences range from swing-era jazz to the 1960s instrumental pop of people like Esquivel and Herb Alpert, to more contemporary funk, to a bit of tango here and there, and one tune with a klezmer sound. It's all done with tongue in cheek and mostly with a very danceable beat. The arrangement have the kind of sonic idiosyncrasies and downright wackiness dropped in from time to time that was Esquivel's trademark. But Intended Immigration's music is hipper and faster paced.
The CD opens with an appealing Euro-cabaret-swing thing called Tout Tourne, which features vocalist Fatiha. I would call this electro swing, but it's all acoustic. <<>>
More "electro" in its swing is a track called We've Got What You Want. The novelty tune mixes the swing with the frenetic altered sonics of a dance mix. It's a lot of fun. <<>>
Another tune that evokes some of the quirky pop of the 1960s is a track called Red Hot. It's got the wacky sonic effects of an old Esquivel record with the faster pace and production values that 21st Century computer-based audio makes possible. <<>>
The title track La Demoiselle du Funk lives up to its title with a good-natured hip-hop funk beat plus French lyrics. Feurer describes it as "trop sexy," as in tropical. <<>>
Out of left field comes the track Chair in the Air which is a mixture of the Wedding March, Hava Nagila and Simon Tov. It's a fun electro-klezmer collision that is done strictly for laughs. <<>>
My favorite track on the CD is a great instrumental called St. Tropez. It's got an irresistible dance groove with lots of fun sonic ingredients like the accordion. <<>>
The other track featuring vocalist Fatiha is called Mon Gateau which also recalls 1960s European novelty pop. There's a bit of a salsa beat in there to give another facet to the danceability of the record. <<>>
Another track that is pretty much strictly a novelty song, though a clever one, is called My Money. The lyrics are not exactly profound, but the track has a degree of charm. <<>>
The CD tends to lose a little of its sheen toward the end, with the more clever tracks positioned earlier on the record. The closing tune before some remixes at the end is called Something Kind of Funny. It has lots of sonic interjections, but as a tune does not have much to it beyond the simple groove. <<>>
La Demoiselle du Fonque by Intended Immigration is fun new CD from the pen and computer of Swiss-American Thomas Feurer, who draws on his Continental background to evoke novelty pop from Europe, updated for electronica and funk. The music and arrangements are ingenious and quite entertaining as well as danceable, but the record is anything but profound. It strives to be quirky and downright wacky at times. So this is not the kind of record that you are likely to want to listen to every day.
Our grade for sound quality is close to an "A." The sonic manipulations on the record, with all the added elements and left-field sounds are well-handled and fairly impressive. And the audio clarity is pretty good for such a sonic pastiche with all the effects.
If you are looking for music that could change your life with its keen observations, La Demoiselle du Fonque is definitely not that record. On their website, Intended Immigration describes their music as "a charmingly cheeky neo-retro border-crossing musical extravaganza." That's not far off the mark, as far as I am concerned. So if you want some fun from a danceable, lighthearted and thoroughly clever musical mashup, then you can't get much better than Intended Immigration's new CD.
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