Joakim Bouaziz Explores the Milky Way(s)

 

Groundbreaking mixmaster
unveils third album in September. This has gotta be our favorite album cover of
the year. Can you say “sleeve face”?

 

By Blurt Staff

 

Joakim Bouaziz, in 2007, issued the
album Monsters & Silly Songs, and
its fusion of disco, post-punk and pop that became something of an instant cult
classic. You may know him for his remixes
of artists like Cut Copy, Simian Mobile
Disco, Annie, Alter Ego,  DJ Mehdi, Royksopp and Poni Hoax. You may
know him from his years behind the scenes at Tigersushi, the iconic Parisian label at the crossroads between
post-punk, dance music and the avant-garde.

 

Now, over the course of his third album, Milky Ways (due Sept. 15 from the good folks at !K7), Joakim and
his band mates fold together bits of psychedelia, old-school computer music,
exotica, electro-pop, blues, new wave, New Pop, Krautrock and more into an
expansive, remarkably coherent album that refuses to be reduced to a single
genre, much less a single idea. This is no pastiche: these are proper songs,
and the whole album follows the kind of overall arc that’s rare in a
contemporary longplayer. “Spiders” is the first single off the album,
with six delirious minutes of Italo arpeggios, fluid vocal harmonies,
acid-house snares and an extended Afro-pop breakdown that perfectly sum up the
record’s madcap, magpie spirit.

Where Monsters & Silly Songs reflected its tumultuous circumstances, making Milky Ways was a lot more leisurely. Having honed their act on the road, Joakim and his
bandmates – formerly the Ectoplasmic Band, now dubbed “the Disco” –
returned to the studio to jam and flesh out fleeting ideas into fully-fledged
songs. Joakim spent the following year editing and arranging the songs and
album into their final shape. A few tracks – “Travel In Vain”,
“King Kong Is Dead” – remain essentially unadulterated, capturing the
live band in full flame. Others, with their complex, interlocking layers of
guitars, synthesizers, beats and vocals, reflect Joakim’s role as architect –
but the final form is as surprising to him as anyone. “Whenever I finish a
record, I always think, Ok, this is what I don’t like, let’s do something
different next time. This time I was thinking of doing something simpler and
more direct than the previous album, but I don’t think it turned out that way.
When I was doing the mastering, I thought, Whoa, this is quite intense. It’s
like at one point the creation process escapes my control.”

Much of the album takes its shape from the band’s experience as a live unit,
having limbered up and liberated itself from excessive fealty to the
recordings. “I never like to play the song exactly as it is on the
record,” says Joakim. “We try to have a way of adapting the songs
that gives us more freedom to improvise, or allow us to improvise, depending on
the situation. Most of the time the live versions are simpler and more rock –
it’s quite noisy sometimes.” That would explain the origins of “Back
to Wilderness,” whose flailing power chords sound like a tribute to Earth
or Sunn 0))). What the squeals of feedback don’t warn you is just how tuneful
the record is. Loping grooves give way to scraps of melody that recall Captain
Beefheart or Durutti Column, and “Spiders,” “Medusa” and
“Little Girl” all feature billowing, ecstatic vocals that explode
like dandelions -“Crystal
choruses,” Joakim calls them, citing his admiration for Grizzly Bear and
Animal Collective.

“The basic inspiration for the album was the idea of youth and teen spirit
in our consumer-based society,” explains Joakim, “put in parallel
with the idea of wilderness, or lost paradise. As if these two things –
wilderness & youth – were mythical states.” But the album – eager,
starry-eyed, a little impish, stubborn and shy in equal measure – hangs
delicately between nostalgia and its refusal. With his grounding in post-punk
and disco, Joakim’s music has always made clear its debt to the past. Still,
Joakim’s approach is almost curatorial, sifting through the archives to find
inspiration in false starts and detours, outmoded methods and outdated
technology.

“I think that most (young) artists today are like archaeologists,
especially in graphics and contemporary art,” says Joakim. “You can’t
compete with history, with what’s been done. You need to use that, in a more or
less disrespectful way, to make new things. You can’t just say, let’s do
something new and forget everything before, it’s impossible and very
pretentious. Especially when all that music is available everywhere all the
time. I’m addicted to music and I listen to a lot of very different things, and
whenever I hear something interesting in a song I think, Let’s try it, put it
with something completely different and see what it does, like a mad
scientist…”


Track listing:

1. Back To Wilderness
2. Ad Me
3. Fly Like An Apple
4. Spiders
5. Glossy Papers
6. Medusa
7. Love & Romance & A Special Person
8. King Kong Is Dead
9. Travel In Vain
10. Little Girl

 

 

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