Saturday, 8 October 2011

AU/PALAIS: dark synthed electro talent

Let's talk about Sonic Youth, Bruce Springsteen, minimal techno, and London...

Meet AU/PALAIS: Paramedic/ Techno DJ David and Designer/ Songbird Elise Commathe. They make music you can dance or cry to. Pitchfork calls their music “throbbing.” This Canadian sibling duo is going to be massive. Here, have a listen (or do it after the interview)
Last week, I invited them round the boat cabin for their very first interview, veggie hotdogs and Ting soda pop. (An offer impossible to refuse, obvs.)
M: What is the ideal situation to have Au/Palais as a soundtrack?
D: Wandering through a city, alone, after dark, with your headphones on.
E: It’s definitely night music. Dusk until dawn.

M: What are your musical influences?
D: I grew up listening to a lot of post-punk, particularly when I was in high school. My biggest band was Sonic Youth. I was obsessed with them. When I first heard ‘Androgynous Mind’ I didn’t even know music could do that. It opened up a universe places music could go.
E: He has a guitar signed by Thurston Moore.
D: Then when I was in my early 20s I had another re-awakening, with dance music, particularly with minimal techno.
M: That’s a mystery to me. Why do people like minimal techno?
D: (laughs)
E: We went to a minimal techno night and David was like, “This is amazing!” and I was like “Is it?”
M: I’m not saying it’s not, because I love a lot of electronic music, I’m just trying to understand why people like minimal.
D: You have to understand it’s dance music. It’s not like people are going to sit around listening and say, “Oh, this is a good melody.”
M: I love dance music. I love electroclash.
D: But this is specifically to dance to, like house or techno, it’s supposed to be part of an hour-long mix. It’s part of a composition. You have to go to an event to experience it. You’ll never see people so enthusiastic and in love with the music. The whole experience of it was so much more total than anything I’d heard before.
With minimal techno there is a very specific feeling. House music and techno focuses on the ecstasy of dance, joy, raising your hands in the air and feeling the moment. The atmosphere is joy and release. With minimal techno the atmosphere is anxiety and discomfort. It doesn’t sound positive but…it’s like the difference between Roxy Music and The Talking Heads. Roxy Music is really sexy. Talking Heads is really anxious, nervous. People love the Talking Heads because they’re really anxious. For me the tension in minimal techno, that feeling in your chest, is really exciting. That’s what drew me to it. Lately we’ve both been really into…
E: This Mortal Coil. That’s a big influence right now. Other than that, I’ve got morestraight-up pop sensibilities than David. Kate Bush is an obvious influence. And Patti Smith, from her personal style to her lyrics. Everything about her. And Bruce Springsteen.
M: If you could do a duet with anyone, who would it be?
D: Elise will go on record to say that her ultimate goal for the band is to have Bruce Springsteen invite her onstage to -
E: (laughing, interrupting) sing Nebraska.
D: Nebraska!
E: I didn’t tell you about my Bruce Springsteen time machine, did I? It’s basically a time machine built specifically to go back to 1985 to be with Bruce Springsteen.
M: Maybe you should make a song about that.
E: I would f-ing die. Or the ultimate- I can’t even fathom this- would be Bruce and Patti and all of us singing ‘Because the Night.’
M: David, if you could have a duet?
E: It’s probably Ricardo Villabos.
D: My other favourite band is Wire so maybe with them.
Is there vaseline on the lens?

M: What do you like about living in London?
E: I really like the moodiness of London, the dark side of it. I’m such a history nerd. I like how it’s old and dirty. I love this city.
M: I like the weeping willows by the canal.
D: Mmm.
E: I love how the sky gets this colour every ten days or so when it looks like it’s gonna rain but it’s not gonna rain. It’s gray with a tinge of yellow. I get excited about that kind of weather. It makes me feel nostalgic. And I love cobblestone alleys.
D: I’ve always loved cities. I have no interest in the country. I love the overpasses in East London. There’s something distinct about those that I find romantic. It reminds me of Tokyo. You can figure out where you are when you see the train go overhead. The arch beneath…
E: There’s something romantic-
D: Darkly romantic-
E: There is an underlying romance, and -
D: There’s a bit of dirt there.

Come to their first U.K. gig at the Shacklewell Arms in London on October 10th, 2011.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

The Kneeling

Photograph by Rasha Kahil

The piano was playing. She bowed to her leg, almost touching the barre. An arch, a gesture. The muscles kept repeating a rhythmic prayer. Pointed toes orbited over the floorboards. An hour passed. The piano stopped. She passed through rooms, picking up her bag, changing into tennis shoes, brushing loose strands off her damp forehead.

Outside the sky was a canvas. Clouds dissolved into swathes of bleeding violets. Her bicycle was waiting, locked up chastely. She hopped on the red frame and pedaled home, enjoying the wind singing around her face. The road ahead dimmed during the long ride and the hair stood up on her arms. The trees hid in the dark waiting for the moon. Turning left, she was home.

The house was quiet. A mound of grey fur napped in the corner of the kitchen. She reached for an apple and a knife. The apple was peeled and sliced at the table, devoured and finished.

Tomorrow’s our last morning, she thought in the shower, adjusting the faucets. She traced a picture of his face in the steamed glass. One night, they had sat in the green tub with the shower running, pretending it was raining, kissing between mouthfuls of cava. When he complained about the drink she poured the rest over his head. He tried to fold her like paper but there wasn’t room so she leaned back and leapt out and ran laughing to the next room, leaving a trail of wet footprints…

Washed, rinsed, dried, wrapped in a big coarse towel, she retreated to bed. Alarm set, she curled up in sheets like peach skin.

It was still dark when she slipped on the white cotton dress, clean tights, a holey blue sweater (the one she never washed) and boots. Her reflection was pleasing. She approached her bicycle in habitual steps. The pedaling woke her up.

This day had happened so many times. They liked to meet early. At first it was under the pretence of having company whilst running. Then they ended up walking in the bluish light, exploring the woods, and eventually pressing each other against the bark under the trellis of branches. Her mind roamed down familiar paths.

Hopping off the bike, she led it to the clearing where they met. The air smelled of wet dirt. Faint from excitement and a hunger that hummed in her belly she advanced. He was there. He looked fitting among the trees, shadowy in dawn, a Pan with dark locks brushing against explicit cheekbones. His lips were crimson and his eyes shone as if he had been enjoying wine. Smiling, speaking, their hands melded together.

He took a kiss and they began to walk over crisp leaves. The day was emerging. This was where she wanted to be and yet she couldn’t savor it. Already she felt his absence weighing on her, carving up their embraces. Anticipating the loss, she was distant. A small nausea and a swallow in her throat distracted from his words and warm hands. Some fingers were adorned with cuts: gifts from his guitar strings. His music had inspired first her admiration and then resentment.

They paused, looked at each other, cheeks flushed, lips biting. Faces close like blades of grass; they sunk down to become entangled one more time. Cottony arms surrounded her, pulling her near. His heart was beating against her chest. Forgetting the futility of nostalgia, she tried to memorize the kisses. He smelled like clean laundry and maybe he had frosted flakes for breakfast. These details were silently collected. They rolled over and she wandered into his eyes. Touches silenced the thoughts.

Soundless they lay there, waiting for the sun to warm them. Giving up, the couple stood, adjusted themselves and returned to the clearing. Shivering a little, there was not much to say now. They wheeled their bicycles to the road. She held him for some time, drowning in the minutes, breathing him. She drew away, said goodbye. One last fever on the lips. Dazed by the parting, she climbed over the metal and rode away. A song played in her head.

-Margo Fortuny

Photograph by Ryan McGinley

Tuesday, 10 May 2011


Broken Fall (Organic) © Bas Jan Ader. 1971/94 All rights reserved.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Is this what the Beach Boys were talking about?

I’ve been gone for a while.

A window in San Francisco

First stop was New York, snow city. After spending time with my mother- who has a dry comment for everything I put on ("Where are you going? Lunch in Corsica? In August?"), my father- pusher of carta de musica and host of exhausting seven-hour dinner parties, my brother- jovial and recently sleeved in Chinese gang tattoos, and my sister- who bluntly and correctly told me the internet was making me less intellectual, I packed up all the books and cardigans I received for Christmas and flew to California.

The dreamland. Welcome to lazy afternoons conducted by the sun, people drunk with foliage and space, and delicious hideaways from another era. There are no piazzas here, historic refers to midcentury, and blue skies are taken for granted. Everyone is floating.

Griffith Park on January 6, 2011

When I arrive the warmth hits me like a song unheard in years. I step onto the street and peel off my black leather jacket. Palm trees and faded pastel bungalows, hand-painted signs, and the scent of a Salvadorian lunch greets me. There are things I have to do: climb trees in Pasadena, wander in canyons, hunt for the perfect grilled cheese sandwich, gather material for articles, pick up some 1970s dresses, see all the people I love…

Miss Native Fauna's house in Echo Park

On New Year’s eve, my friends Larissa and Liza and I went to Ryan Trecartin’s party. There were many rooms including dark dens of dancing, a long hall filled with rows of identical green-blanketed beds, (soon covered with more kissers than a Roman fountain) and a wide porch where smokers convened and alternated the endless vodka with Margaritas.

In the basement, skinny naked creatures hopped in and out of a Jacuzzi while a man played piano two feet away. Was he wearing a top hat? I expected Ryan McGinley to be there, documenting the grinning undressed, but he was relaxing upstairs. Eventually the police, suspecting fracas, tossed everyone into the night. The wet, the confused, the laughing, and the rest stumbled to cars.

A few days later I got a ride to San Francisco in a truck with a man I had never met before. Giotto was a friendly character who taught me about dharma and told me of his travels. He was like a character in a black and white movie that looks at you whilst driving and gesticulates instead of steering. To compensate I watched the empty road ahead. “Fear is fiction,” he divulged. The machine chortled at the pace. We passed snowy hillsides. The sky darkened. We pulled over for strawberry milkshakes and “animal style” French fries.

What would happen in San Francisco? Would it be like a Blondie song? Parking and necking? Would the beach call, the bridge beckon with vertigo, or would I be content to walk and walk and walk?

Driving north

A sign outside a restaurant in San Francisco