Tuesday, 16 October 2012

TRICATEL 25CM CLUB #2: LADYTRON "COMMODORE ROCK" (2000)



Playgirl, why are you sleeping in tomorrow's world? Hey, playgirl
Playgirl, why are you dancing when you could be alone? Hey, playgirl
Playgirl, why are you sleeping in tomorrow's world? Hey, playgirl
Playgirl, choking on cigarettes won't get you along, hey, playgirl

Hey playgirl, hey playgirl
Northern lights catch you coming down
Sleep your way out of your hometown

Playgirl, why are you sleeping in tomorrow's world? Hey, playgirl
Playgirl, why are you dancing when you could be alone? Hey, playgirl
Playgirl, why are you sleeping in tomorrow's world? Hey, playgirl
Playgirl, choking on cigarettes won't get you along, hey, playgirl

Hey playgirl, hey playgirl
Northern lights catch you coming down
Sleep your way out of your hometown
Hey playgirl, hey playgirl
Northern lights catch you coming down
Sleep your way out of your hometown

Hey playgirl, hey playgirl
Northern lights catch you coming down
Sleep your way out of your hometown
Hey playgirl, hey playgirl
Hey playgirl, hey playgirl

Foreign coin on a telephone box
A question mark on a calendar
An empty seat on the alpha line
A sorting code, an account number

Hey playgirl, hey playgirl
Northern lights catch you coming down
Sleep your way out of your hometown


[From the lyrics of "Playgirl"]



Borrowing its name from Jacques Tricatel, a character portrayed by Louis de Funès in the 1976 movie "L'aile ou la cuisse" (The Wing and the Thigh) - this, in turn, ispired by Jacques Borel, father of the "Restoroute" restaurant chain - French label Tricatel was founded in 1996 by musician and producer Bertrand Burgalat.

Since its creation, the label has been focused on releasing music of a futuristic lounge, refined pop, downtempo easy-listening and retro-chic nature. Proudly independent, Tricatel payed homage to labels like The Compact Organisation and él Records, that have been a source of inspiration for Burgalat.

During the years the label has released music by April March, Eggstone, Count Indigo, The High Llamas, Etienne Charry and many other artists, including veteran composer André Popp, actress Valérie Lemercier, writers Michel Houellebecq and Jonathan Coe, and - of course - its founder and gran maestro Betrand Burgalat.

The label had an high profile in France and many of its releases received huge critical acclaims both there and abroad, sadly this was not matched by commercial success and sales. Coupled with distribution problems, Tricatel was forced to slow down its release schedule after a few years of frenetic activity.

Tricatel has turned fifteen in April 2011, the following is an excerpt taken from a feature/interview by David McKenna taken from The Quietus website, the complete version is available here.



Bertrand Burgalat in the late 90s / early 00s

What does it mean to have kept Tricatel going for 15 years?

"Not much really - I am not good with numbers. I'm starting to realize that I may spend the rest of my life doing the same things: struggling to finance projects and to release them, getting discouraged then trying again."

How have you responded to changes in the music industry over the past 15 years?

"The situation for Tricatel is much better now than 15 years ago. The crisis in music industry has been an excellent thing for people in the margins like us. Now that record sales are disappointing for everyone and not only for us it's more useless than ever to be calculating. You have to do the music you'd like to listen to - even if your music is super opportunistic it may fail too. A lot of people are not used to making records with low budgets while paying musicians and technicians decently, whereas it has always been our main concern.

In fact, the only thing that I don't like here in France is that most records that sell are not catchy, they are more fake quality for bobos [bohemians], and I have always preferred a good song from Britney Spears to a boring album from Björk."

Modelled more on él Records (which in the 80s was a home to Momus, regular Burgalat collaborator Louis Philippe, Shock Headed Peters and Marden Hill amongst others) than Factory, Tricatel was set up, in Burgalat's own words, as a "fantasy" label with its cast of backroom boys, muses (American singer April March, French comedy actress Valérie Lemercier) and even a proper house band in the shape of AS Dragon. Undoubtedly a post-modern project, it seemed as though it was trying to establish an alternative variété: an idea of what modern mainstream French pop could be if it was Boris Vian, Yé-Yé, Pierre Henry, Gainsbourg, Michel Polnareff, cool 60s film music, uncool 70s MOR, Marc Cerrone, the soundtrack to La Boum and French Touch all mixed up.




Daniel Hunt

In 1999 Tricatel launched a succulent initiative in the form a vinyl-only series aptly named "Tricatel 25cm Club". Initially, these 10" releases were only available by post and had to be ordered directly from the label, but sometimes later they also received a wider distribution through independent music stores.

Most of these records were pressed on clear vinyl; probably published in a limited edition, it is unclear how many copies of each release exist... The second issue in this series was "Commodore Rock" by Ladytron.

Liverpool-based producers and DJs Daniel Hunt and Reuben Wu met in the late 90s; mixing Synth-Pop, Shoegaze, and Indie-Pop into a sound all their own, they formed Ladytron taking their name from the famous Roxy Music song. Using this moniker, Hunt and Wu recorded their debut single "He Took Her To a Movie" with guest vocalist Lisa Eriksson.

"He Took Her To a Movie" was released on Invicta Hi-Fi in 1999 and was quickly picked up by British national radio, MTV2, and championed by the NME and other English magazines like Select, Melody Maker, and Sleaze Nation calling Ladytron "the most exciting new English band in years, by a long way".


Reuben Wu

Later that year Hunt and Wu met Scottish Helen Marnie through various DJ gigs, and Bulgarian Mira Aroyo through Helen. Marnie and Aroyo joined the band as vocalists and keyboard players.

Ignoring London to play their debut show in a Paris bowling alley, strange European dates followed in temporary spaces in east Berlin and to frenzied electrokids in Barcelona, slowly building a reputation as one of the most interesting new acts around, for lovers of the sounds and the songs alike. This skewed approach to crafting pop music has rewarded the group with overwhelming critical acclaim.

Previously, Daniel Hunt founded the record label Invicta Hi-Fi and a nightclub. Reuben Wu trained in Industrial Design at Sheffield Hallam University, before becoming a successful designer in a consultancy until finally going full time with the band. Helen Marnie studied music at the University of Liverpool where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Pop Music. Mira Aroyo was a postgraduate research geneticist in the Oxford University's Biochemistry Department.


Helen Marnie

In late 1999, Japanese label Bambini released the long EP "Miss Black and Her Friends", soon followed in 2000 by the "Mu-Tron EP" published by Invicta Hi-Fi. Most of the songs included on these EPs were later included on their first full-length album entitled "604" in 2001.

The singles "Commodore Rock" and "Playgirl" were released in 2000, pre-empting the nascent Electroclash movement, and drawing acclaim from the likes of Felix Da Housecat, who declared that Ladytron were a major influence on his hugely popular "Kittenz and Thee Glitz" album.

Ladytron soon enjoyed international success, thanks also to their extensive live tours, and their discography is an ever-growing galaxy of  electronic gems that incorporate pop instinct and melodic inspiration sometimes reminding of Blondie, Joy Division, My Bloody Valentine, Young Marble Giants and early Massive Attack.

According to Brian Eno, Ladytron are "the best of English pop music".


Mira Aroyo


The following text is excerpted from an interview conducted in November 2000 by Alexander Laurence with Daniel Hunt for The Portable Infinite online music and arts magazine. This is one of the earliest Ladytron interviews, the full-lenght version is available here.

[...]

AL: How did you meet the other members of the band? Are they all from Liverpool?

Daniel: Reuben has always been from Liverpool. I've known him for a long time. Mira is Bulgarian and she lives in Oxford. Helena is Scottish and didn't live in Liverpool till very recently. Helena introduced Mira to the band. It was all quite organic. We didn't put up any adverts. We just met people. We fell over each other at a bar. I was working on stuff with Reuben anyway, so it sort of became a band about two years ago. We started working as a band.

AL: Did you write all the songs on this album?

Daniel: I wrote most of this album because I was working on it first and I had built up quite a lot of material. So that everyone has equal input we will make the next album more evenly. It strikes me now why people's second albums are so difficult. The first album has been long since finished. Now there's a bunch of stuff we have to do, and there's a barrier for us before we can record again. We have stuff ready and I want to get on with it. The live shows are not that important to the band.

[...]

AL: Ladytron got the attention of the NME right away. How did that happen?

Daniel: It was the single of the week. It had actually been around for six months. It had been sent out and it didn't get reviewed or anything. It was sitting on the shelves for six months and it was re-promoted. Then it landed on the right person's desk, and it became single of the week. That got a lot of attention and we had a load of major labels chasing us. At first we were tempted because it would be an easy thing to explain to my mum and dad. They understand signing to a big label, but wouldn't know what an indie label is. So we resisted that temptation and hooked up with Emperor Norton. I think that if we went with a major label and a worldwide deal, they wouldn't have done as good a job.

AL: Are you more interested in the DJ scene or in being a pop group?

Daniel: Ladytron is supposed to be a pop group. I'm into the idea of subverting things from within. We want to make pop records and not records for pure collectors. The music were into will never come out straight. I think that you can make pop music out of anything. Any instruments. As long as it has a good melody and is regular, then it's pop music.

[...]



The "Commodore Rock" vinyl EP contains the following tracks:

01. Playgirl (3:51)
02. Commodore Rock (4:46)
03. He Took Her To a Movie (Bertrand Mix) (3:44)
04. Olivetti Jerk (3:24)

All tracks were remastered from the original 10" vinyl and are available in FLAC lossless format or high-quality 320 Kbps MP3 files, both formats include scans of the original item in PDF format. Please have a look at the comments for the download links.





Side A offers "Playgirl" and "Commodore Rock" which are better described in a review written by Mark Richard-San for Pitchwork in 2000:

"Ladytron are working the retro angle. They're two guys and two girls in love with the early 80s, a time when several flavors of pop music discovered electricity all over again and began to channel the machine pulse of Kraftwerk. And who can blame Ladytron for this love affair? We came of age in the 80s, after all, so we can expect the sounds from this era to cycle through our lives continuously until we all bite the dust. The 1980s were our 1950s, a statement that makes a lot more sense if you grew up watching "Happy Days" with your pre-Baby Boomer parents. So we may as well get used to it.

Fortunately, there's more to Ladytron than a moonwalk down memory lane. They slavishly ape ancient production techniques on Commodore Rock, but also apply them in the service of catchy pop songs. So while "Play Girl" cops the instrumental signifiers of early New Order (cheap drum machine, sweeping faux-string synth washes, prominent, bouncing bass), it also measures up in melody, and that's saying something. Helen Marnie's voice is perfect for the song; inviting and warm, yet just bored enough for new wave.

The slightly more original title track features the appropriately Rhinelandish speaking voice of Bulgarian Mira Aroyo. Somewhere behind a fuzzy 303 bassline and choppy electrified drums, Aroyo wields her commanding tongue in a way that will remind Krautrock aficionados of Kluster's 1970 debut, Klopfzeichen. But the oddest moment of this compelling track comes at the three-minute mark, when beautiful, ghostly sheets of feedback drift in and overtake the song completely, transforming it into epic drone music with cheap beats. I don't remember hearing that fusion on the early days of MTV. Bravo."


Side B opens with a superb remix of "He Took Her To a Movie" created by Tricatel genius Bertrand Burgalat, which is notable for the massive electric bass line and dreamy synths installed on the original. The instrumental and repetitive "Olivetti Jerk" is the last track on the EP, oddly enough it seems to be a mono recording...

The "Commodore Rock" EP was also released in the U.S. - both as CD and vinyl - by Emperor Norton replacing "He Took Her To a Movie (Bertrand Mix)" and "Olivetti Jerk" with the tracks "Miss Black" and "Paco", which had already appeared on the Japanese EP "Miss Black and Her Friends".

Another version of the EP, retitled "Playgirl / Commodore Rock", was released in the U.K. by Invicta Hi-Fi, also offering "He Took Her To a Movie (Bertrand Mix)" but omitting "Olivetti Jerk".



Ladytron, circa 2000, from left to right: Mira Aroyo, Helen Marnie, Daniel Hunt and Reuben Wu

The following credits appear on the back cover of the "Commodore Rock" EP:

Produced by Lance Thomas and Ladytron.
Recorded at Olivetti. Mix and additional production at the Motor Museum, Liverpool.

All instruments on B1 by Bertrand Burgalat, guitar by Peter Von Poehl.
Recorded and mixed at Tricatel Dome, Paris.

Artwork: Manel

Mastering: Alex Gopher (Translab)


Two videoclips of "Playgirl" are available here below, courtesy of YouTube, along with a live version of "He Took Her To a Movie" performed in August 2001 during La route du Rock festival in Saint-Malo, France.








More information about Tricatel and Ladytron is available here:

http://www.tricatel.com

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bertrand_Burgalat

http://thequietus.com/articles/06299-rockfort-tricatel-interview

http://www.ukulele.fr/dc/index.php/2011/10/07/1005-bertand-burgalat-et-les-anti-ukulele

http://www.ladytron.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ladytron

http://ladytronsite.blogspot.com/

http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/4632-commodore-rock-ep/

http://portable-infinite.blogspot.com/2005/05/blast-from-past-3-ladytron.html

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLD7D94C46EB32BE50


If you have any other useful information about Tricatel and Ladytron - especially corrections and improvements to this post - or if you spot any dead links, please get in touch with me at stereocandies [at] hotmail [dot] com or leave a comment in the box below, thank you!

3 comments:

  1. Ladytron - Commodore Rock (2000) [FLAC]

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  2. Ladytron "Commodore Rock" (2000) [MP3]

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