Wednesday, June 16, 2010
If you are resident in the UK, you may be familiar with Stefan Girardet's scores for prime time television. "Keeping Mum" for the BBC; the Melvyn Bragg executive produced "This is Not an Exit: The Fictional World of Bret Easton Ellis".
Of course. If your life is blighted by an untempered diet of "Britain's Got Talent" and Katie Price unleashing her breasts in an antipodean outback where even sugar gliders line up patiently for their screen test, you will almost certainly have missed "The Fundamental Gilbert and George". Obsessing over bodily functions and trouser creases in the East End's Spitalfields for almost half a century, Gilbert and George are plausibly the closest relative to San Francisco's The Residents this tiny island has fostered.
Myopic cousins, at the least. With a keen eye for the grotesque underlying the banal or merely repressed.
While Pascale Bussy argues in his book "Man, Machine and Music" that this odd couple partly inspired that mannequin rigidity adopted by Kraftwerk in their "Autobahn" phase, Gilbert and George maintain unbending distance as "living sculpture". Though their relationship with music stretches all the way back to their performance of Flanagen and Allen's "Underneath the Arches" - unveiled at Nigel Greenwood Gallery in 1970 as "The Singing Sculpture" when the pair were students at St. Martin's School of Art - their forays in making sound remain an adjunct to their Tate collected prints: "The Nature of Our Looking" through to the more recent (2005) "Fates".
1977's "Cunt Scum" and "Red Morning Trouble" every inch as provocative as anything produced by Jamie Reid during Elizabeth's Silver Jubilee. Ambivalent.
As curiously detached as always.
"We oppose collectivism," George stated in an article reported by The Independent in 2007. "Being Italian, Gilbert doesn't have a vote but I always vote Conservative."
Girardet redressed this reluctance to engage the ear emphatically in his collaboration with the pair on an electronic piece included on the Candy Records collection released in 1999, "We Love You". A concoction bringing together fine artists and musicians including Brian Eno and homicidal biochemist, Hugh Cornwell. The result, "Bloodlines", was understatedly celebrated in a Time Out review as the "sexiest slice of art ever". An unfettered moment of purple prose; the kind of partisan outpouring more commonly vilified as representative of bloggers. Blaggers.
Since then, Stefan Girardet has upped the ante. Graduating from television to the bigger canvas afforded cinematic release. The list of films he has been recruited to score is impressive, if not wholly exhausting. Co-writing and recording with Adrian Utely of trip-hop heavyweights, Portishead - among others - along the way. Generating more than his fair share of awards.
That he has created enough space in this schedule to accomodate his move into traditional songwriting testifies to an appetite to underscore the score. Essentially an out and out solo effort, "Are We Here, Yet ?" allows Girardet full reign on vocals, keyboards, guitars and programming. Only one track, "Move", resists the intention to brave it alone; a joint composition with Ian Dench, formerly of EMF.
The production on "Move" is undoubtably sumptious. On other tracks, too, Girardet balances the overlapping layers to good effect: the fidgeting intro to the album's opening number, "Chemical Sky" and its closing counterpart, "Reprise", especially. An ambient collage dripping with photogenic hooks. Textures.
There are moments when one is transported back in time through an ornate looking glass. Paused comfortably on "Born Slippy. NUXX" circa nineteen-ninety-something before the rewind button digs deeper to deliver one's oiled body into an indoor pool.
Hyde and smith's "Doot Doot" underpinning a cicada chorus.
Intoxicating as it is, there is the nagging sense at times of something amiss. A necessary tension, perhaps, or clear invitation to move past the itch. To work up a little sweat.
Regardless, "Are We Here, Yet ?" is a voice from the back seat of a luxury sedan. Something definitively European and well upholstered. For most of the journey the allure is hypnotic. To travel in comfort is sometimes an end in itself.
Churlish aficionados of Gilbert and George, in the long run, may prefer to arrive by bus. To do so negates a beguiling trip by way of a wildly scenic route.
"Are We Here, Yet ?", the debut album from Stefan Girardet, is available on general release from July 6th, 2010 through Unsound Records.
▼ STEFAN GIRARDET: REPRISE from "Are We Here, Yet ?" CD (Unsound Records) 2010 (US)