Monday, December 7, 2009

CD Review: JE SUIS ANIMAL - Self-Taught Magic From A Book (Lost and Lonesome)

Saturday, June 07, 2008 

If a band formed with the single idea of making music that depicts winter in a grand Parisian house in the 1920s, it may well be this band. Hailing from the verdant country-as-coastline of Norway, four-piece Je Suis Animal seem to be on a mission to make pop music that refreshes like a tumble in snow after a sauna, and the realisation that you're naked in the dark woods afterwards. In this world of increasingly messy musical cross-pollination, their commitment to holing themselves away from the formulaic and 'popular' and making a self-recorded aural postcard from a world built of their obsessions is a wonderfully realised thing.

Taking their musical cues from mid-80s Glaswegian bands like The Shop Assistants and sharing Broadcast's embrace of the warm ambiance of 60s psychedelic pop group The United States of America, Self Taught Magic... is, almost unbelievably, the 50th release from local label Lost And Lonesome, and it's another firmly thrust feather in their increasingly feathery cap. This one inspiring an odd mix of images; sepia-tainted travel photography, ouija board gatherings, tea parties and Paris between the wars. There is little else like it around yet you can hear sounds that have made it within the walls of the snowy hall in the forest where they recorded the album, glued together by some perfectly-judged and simple production. Teutonic harmonies, winding pocket watches and a penchant for story-telling; it's easy to see how the UK and Scandinavian pop fans have taken to them so keenly and how they stand apart on the festival lineups.

Songs like Amundsen, Rosseau World and the single The Mystery of Marie Roget evoke a world that has little to do with daily stresses and reality and a lot to do with intricately-arranged shadowy guitar pop. Even amongst the heartfelt pledges of love, milkshakes and secret notes of the ruggedly rocking It's Love, Self Taught Magic... is an album that, possibly unknowingly, makes for glorious Europhilic escapism. The overriding feelings here are ones of intimacy, safety and adventures indoors with windows onto cobblestoned streets - perfect for our increasingly north-European winter. With these harmonies, warm chords, combination of nationalities and sense of style, plus the news that they intend to tour later this year, it's unlikely any unrequited love will be unrequited for long.

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