Sasse

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A band called Antiloops appeared on the Crotchety Radar recently. I liked what I heard and added Luna from their 2014 Electroshock album to my list of tracks to feature in these pages. Then, two days ago, I played Luna again to refresh my memory of the music and to think what I might say about it. But I found it intensely irritating.

Puzzled and disappointed, I swung the radar dish around and probed the Electroshock album again. The first three tracks gave good strong blips so I replaced Luna with No Question About It and, reassured, went about my non-Crotchety business. Until yesterday, that is, when I listened to No Question About It once more and found … it, too, offended the ears.

Fearing for my sanity I set the radar for a wider sweep in the general direction of Antiloops. It picked up several bright spots a short distance from the Electroshock cluster, the brightest being Sasse, a track from their Lucid Dream album released on 3rd February this year. That one hasn’t faded away, at least not yet. (The curious among you, and I hope that’s everyone, should follow the link to Sasse on Spotify now and read the rest of this post as it plays.)

band members

Antiloops is a French band led by the jazz flautist, Ludivine Issambourg. That’s her in the picture here and looking sassy in the photo at the top. This ensemble, though, has done something I’ve never heard before – they have fused jazz with hip hop. The result is Quite Interesting (as Sandi Toksvig might say on the BBC TV programme, QI). Sometimes it works pretty well and sometimes it just grates on Crotchety Man’s increasingly sensitive ears. It even depends on Crotchety Man’s mood, which changes from day to day. That, presumably, is why I found it so hard to pick a Track of the Week this time.

Antiloops has a website that gives a potted history of the band and describes the music they play. Unfortunately, it’s in French – a language I haven’t studied since my school days – so I turned to Google Translate for some assistance. The resulting translation is quite fun to read; here’s an extract:

Viscerally organic, the group chose Lucid Dream to explore the voices of the machines, absorb them and make them a new driving force. Creation of hybrid crosses between classical instruments and digital emulators, Nicolas Derand, Timothée Robert, Maxime Zampieri and Julien Sérié have rethought their way of sounding, keyboards, bass and drums to begin to reason like samplers, sampling their own riffs and beats To knead them, to triturate them, and to replay them in a loop on themselves. Agitated and illuminated by the scratchings of Dj Topic, colored by the realization and mix of Mr Gib. 

Infused in the compositions through plugs, cables and connections, the machines switched their switches in the groove position, letting the creative energy circulate, injecting deeply this electro fluid that would permanently jam the tracks between them and the men, Without denying the influences acid jazz, new jazz, trip hop and hip hop. 

. . .

Mistress of hostilities, the flute of Ludivine Issambourg has also infiltrated the heart of the circuit boards, winding between processors, dressed in effects and distortions until sometimes forget its natural sound. But still knowing how to extract sound cards and software to come out to twirl in freedom, in and above these grooves become mixed areas where analog and digital have merged their DNA. 

If the reference to the scratchings of Dj Topic leaves you scratching your head in bewilderment this YouTube video, recorded in 2015, contains sections of several of Antiloops tracks and provides a good overview of the band’s material. It doesn’t include Sasse, though – that was written later (I assume).

According to several dictionaries the French word ‘sasse’ means ‘sieve’. Knowing that, though, didn’t improve Crotchety Man’s appreciation of Sasse one iota. It starts unpromisingly with a deep house bass beat and gibbering vocals but it soon settles down to a comfortable groove and at around 24 seconds the flute comes in with a refreshing tune. It then ambles along contentedly for another three and a half minutes, the deep bass keeping it grounded while keyboards and electronics fill out the sound, a drum kit injects jazzy beats and the flute puffs out a balmy breeze that gently ruffles our hair. This is cool modern jazz with a subtle hip hop influence and the overall effect is really rather pleasant.

The Lucid Dream album ends with two more cooled-to-ambient jazz tracks, neither of them having discernible hip hop ancestry: Castor and Titan. If you really don’t like hip hop and you can’t get past the first 30 seconds of Sasse, try those instead. The remaining tracks on Lucid Dream borrow a lot more from the hip hop scene; they are not really Crotchety Man’s cup of tea but, if you like that sort of thing, by all means give them a whirl. The whole band are highly accomplished musicians and their individual skills are something to savour whether you like the style of music or not. (I don’t count the DJ as a ‘musician’.)

All of the Antiloops tracks I’ve mentioned here are listed in this YouTube playlist but none of them seem to be available here in the UK. So, Crotchety Man recommends listening on Spotify instead. Here’s the Sasse link again.

What do you think? Sassy or not?

Dirty Harry

Dirty Harry - Clint Eastwood

There is a comedy slot on BBC Radio 4 at 6:30 p.m. weekdays. One of the programmes is called “I’ve Never Seen Star Wars”. In it the comedian, Marcus Brigstocke, talks to well-known people and encourages them to do something they’ve never done before, especially if every other Tom, Dick and Harry on the planet seems to have done it, loved it and tweeted incessantly about it.

“You’ve never … seen Star Wars/tasted sushi/flown a kite?”, Marcus asks incredulously. “Why not?”. The answers are varied but mostly amount to “I wouldn’t like it”. Ignoring their protests Marcus invites his guests to have a go at several things they have never tried and interviews them again afterwards to see whether they enjoyed their new experiences.

Now, I must confess I’ve never seen Dirty Harry, the famous film starring Clint Eastwood as the tough cop Harry Callahan. If I was a celebrity and Marcus Brigstocke wanted to talk to me for his radio show I’d be glad to watch it – it’s certainly a gap in my education – but, for now, it remains on the growing list of things I missed. Someday, perhaps, I’ll watch it.

Dirty Harry - Demon Days (wide)

There is another Dirty Harry: a track from the Gorillaz album Demon Days. This Harry I know much better. He sits rather awkwardly, though, in the Crotchety Man collection. The album is the only one roosting in the Electronica/Dance pigeonhole tucked away at the back of the dovecote. It’s one of those CDs that only ventures out on high days and holidays but, when it does, it sparkles like the flash of a white dove’s wings in the sunlight.

Demon Days is one of the most original albums I own and originality is the first thing I look for. Well, the first thing I look for after a beat. And a tune. Dirty Harry has all of that. [rap mode ON] There’s a hip hop beat that propels the feet [rap mode OFF] but over the jaunty keyboard rhythm a choir of children sings a simple melody.

I need a gun
to keep myself from harm

What’s this? Cheery kids extolling the virtues of carrying a gun? It would be frightening if it wasn’t so surreal.

The beat plunges on through an instrumental break.

Then some Bootie Brown rapper unleashes a stream of lines that barely scan, words that hardly rhyme and phrases that make little sense. Dirty Harry himself is speaking but he is contradictory or just plain incoherent.

You can’t conceal the hate that consumes ya.
I’m the reason that you fill up your Isuzu.

The rap stutters and splutters over the dulcet tones of viola, cello and double bass, as if classical instruments can give the words some meaning, or perhaps even some genuine profundity. It’s a delightful trick.

When Harry’s gibbering subsides the children return with their message of hope and reassurance. We need guns. Guns protect. Weapons are only for our defence. It stands to reason.

I need a gun
to keep myself from harm

Crotchety Man doesn’t buy that argument. But the music is a work of art, a juxtaposition of utterly contrasting styles that together create something new, stimulating and exciting. A dancing white dove among a flock of cooing grey pigeons.

Dirty Harry - Dove

To wrap up this post, here’s a Wikipedia nugget: In 2008 20th Century Fox conducted a poll of 2000 film fans asking for their favourite weapon from the silver screen. The .44 Magnum, as used (contrary to regulations) by Dirty Harry, came second. Marcus Brigstocke would, I’m sure, be delighted to know that the most popular weapon of all among filmgoers was the lightsaber from the Star Wars movies.