A few months ago, I made the acquaintance of Pim Juban via MySpace. We bantered back forth via e-mails, mostly about bands we both liked. He later told me he was a member of Van Diamond, and I checked out the music of this indie French band via their MySpace. Being as shameless as I am, I asked him to send over his music to me. So many thanks to Pim and Julien Casterllan for sending me over their music and their patience.
I have this belief about geography and language and music. Musicians in English speaking countries do not have the exposure to other music scenes; from Vancouver to Auckland, the Anglo language is the predominate language of contemporary world music, and seemingly the only one that gets played on major stations. Rare is the occasion that a non-Anglophile, who might sing in English, ever get the exposure he/she deserve. However, what is coming out of places like France gives any of it a run for the money. Unlike their Anglo brethrens, the French (along side the rest of the Continent and South America) have their own rich traditions in modern music while having all the exposure to the Anglo music scenes. This mix of musical references makes for rich musical fodder. Van Diamond is another example of this.
Below are brief reviews of their discography to date. Of course, when most people think of indie rock, they do not think of France, and this is a mistake. Anyone who knows me knows that lately I have been addicted to French indie music. Van Diamond’s music is a hodgepodge of various musical references, a jamboree of soundscapes that are riveting. There is no hint of revival, nor is their any hint of festival ready music, which is becoming too prevalent. What you have with these two brilliantly crafted albums are tracks that are raw expressions, not tainted by studio gimmicks or passing trends. From the sound quality to the interesting arrangements, there is a sense of timelessness to these tracks. My advice, after reading, head over to their MySpace site (link below) and check out their music; reach out to the band and/or label about getting the music assessable here in the States or wherever you are.
“Andiamo” [“Go” in Italian] (2009)
The album opens with “Focus the Glance,” with an almost “Max Headroom” feel to the dialogue, the Spanish-esque rhythm guitar that chime in at the dropping of the beat is not expect but more than welcome. The pairing of the male and female vocals brings out the sultriness of the song. By the second track, “Stong Mimetism,” it is obvious that the musical references are broad, crossing decades and genres. No strumming but closer to an 80s electro sound, the track’s vocal recording gives it an old style feel in texture. Then “Wonder” marches in; a duet, stuck along a 90s alterna-rock feel, with vocal arrangements that are a new twist to late 60s / early 70s styles. Three tracks into the album, and the lovely schizophrenia of style is more than enchanting.
The rest of the album continues the adventure through genres and different soundscapes. From the 60s-esque “Badmilk” to the dark take of new wave in “The Attic Life,” Van Diamond plays with different musical themes. When they boldly state that they are influence from “1957 through 1989,” they are not kidding. Think of albums like “The Head on the Door,” the album does not congeal so much through musical motifs as it does through moods and the visceral journey. For instance, the slow and methodic “Raindrop” sets you up for the Britpop feel of “Seek Again.” The album flutters to its end with “Salutas Ambitus,” which I can only compare with “Sylvia” by Eurythmics in concept (and this is a very high complement!).
1. Focus The Glance
2. Strong Mimetism
4. Flat Iron
5. The Attic Life
7. Seek Again
8. The Separation Motion
10. Salutas Ambitus
“End Up Komedie” (2010)
The sophomore album, much like the debut, easily glistens through various different musical references. “The Flying German,” the opening track, has that late 80s guitar-rock pop feel of bands like Echo and the Bunnymen. Then “The Rays” slips in with a more noise pop / shoegaze feel to it. This time around, the songs are briefer, but continue to pack the same visceral effect as the first album. The third (and titular) track is the shortest on the album, clocking in at under one and three quarter. Though centered on an acoustic rhythm, the song is a new twist on noise pop.
Again, you journey though one musical landscape to another, but this time there is more diversity in the “density” of each song. Think of it like this, when the feelings the song is projecting is fleeting, the music is more minimal, such as in “Tale in Gold,” but when the music is projecting a viscerally heavy powerful feeling, then the music is dense, such as “Rumble / Jumble.” What I should state is that all of the “feelings” are not always weighty or gloomy at all; this album can be very playful. For instance, “Jack” is musically carefree and whimsical, while “E2E2,” which borders on synthrock, is very introspective without being broody or gloomy. Regardless, Van Diamond is able to generate undertow in their music.
1. The Flying German
2. The Rays
3. End Up Komedie
5. Tale of Gold
6. Rumble / Jumble
7. Wake Up Lucy
9. Happy Knees
Keep up with Van Diamond at their MySpace.
Here is Van Diamond’s video for “The Attic Life” from their MySpace Video Page.
The Attic Life by Van Diamond
VAN DIAMOND | Myspace Video