We’ve been monitoring the global music scenes for nearly four years on The Recommender. What we’ve come to notice is that cities and sometimes entire countries seem to randomly peak at the top of everyone’s attention from one year to the next, like an ever-changing economic graph of music. When we started music was buzzing on the back of France, and particularly Paris’, dominant electro scene. That was swiftly followed by Australia’s outpouring of electro pop bands. Scandinavia seems to spout new bands at an alarmingly high rate and New York is never far from the top but both of these places have enjoyed a real bulge over recent years. In 2011 our spotlight has regularly visited and re-visited Canada, and particularly Toronto.
We’ve given plenty of blog inches to the likes of Freedom Or Death, Grimes, and Austra, among others, throughout this year. The quality of these Canadian artists has been very high indeed, in a year where the bar was unattainably sent skywards. If 2011 is anyone’s then it surely belongs to these North Americans. What ties them together, if anything, is their ability to write at the sharpest edges of pop whilst still being accessible. Sometimes they’re experimental, sometimes the melody has you flowing with it’s every shift, but as ethereal and expressive as they are, they’re often-electronic productions are enjoyable and employable. Their music feels like it’s directing an intelligent future for pop music, mixing class and traditional boundaries up as every new artist drops anchor. Today we are showing the latest act through the arrival doors.
Au Palais are a duo. A brother and sister duo, Elise and David Commathe, who call London home and the buzz around them in recent months has been impossible to avoid, as they’ve played shows in key venues for emerging artists, such as The Shacklewell Arms, Camp, or Cargo, upon bills that included other hyped bands, like Outfit and Zulu Winter. As gooey as this makes the London crowd go, the pair actually come from – yes you’ve guessed it – Toronto, Canada. Bright spotlights such as NME and Pitchfork have waded in with coverage, as well as the blog world’s cornerstone commentators. Comparisons with Zola Jesus or the aforementioned fellow-Canadians Austra have correctly bounced around, as Au Palais dice elements of this year’s repeated penchance for electronic pop.
Next week they’re releasing their four-track EP, Tender Mercy, which arrives from the hot UK label, The Sounds Of Sweet Nothing on November 28th. Like their fellow countrymen, they’ve designed a set of tunes packed with sophistication. It turns many corners and around each one is a delightfully presented piece of pop architecture, with rigid edges and curves that draw you in. Beats throb like a pulse that sometimes races and sometimes relaxes, but what ever the track is doing it always carries you along smoothly like riding aboard a red blood cell. The title track is as arresting as a beautiful face emerging from the dark, taking in it’s features one at a time, patiently observing each perfect element one by one, before the full image is lit up at two minutes in. Waves of diaphanous synths glide over each other as if weightless, as Elise’s vocals move alongside, as if in a singular, perfectly-rehearsed dance move.
Pathos feels Canadian, in a way that would have Katie Stelmanis nodding with approval. All the signature moves are there, with similar instrumentation that’s equal parts heavy and light, particularly with the synthetic melodies. The beat is once again addictive, giving them a familiar special move, a trick that also appears on a remix they recently completed for The Golden Filter. That band’s Syndromes EP delivers us a set of songs designed as the soundtrack to a Kristoffer Borgli-directed short film. Within it is the track, Mother, of which Au Palais provided their exceptional remix. Like all the best remixes it maintains the key elements of the original, including the vocals, whilst introducing an electro funeral-march beat. It’s a very fine example of Au Palais’ craft and skills.
What strikes a note with us is that Au Palais decided to re-locate from Toronto to London, as no matter which place the music appears from, it’s the UK that has open minds and readied ears for it’s output. Canada’s loss may ultimately prove to be our gain, as we walk the duo’s first steps alongside them, but overall the lesson is one that teaches us not to reflect on the wonderful locations spawning emerging music, but to in fact ponder how lucky we are in the UK to be a culture of receptive people that act as a sponge for every new experience. Which ever city or country eventually dominates through 2012, one thing can be assured, if it’s good enough then the UK crowd will welcome it with open arms. We’re not suggesting that the homes of these artists shouldn’t be proud to be associated with the roots of music such as this, but it’s in the discovery that the pleasure’s been revealed, and this year we’d like to thank Toronto, although in all honesty the pleasures been all ours. (MB)
AU PALAIS – TENDER MERCY
AU PALAIS – PATHOS
THE GOLDEN FILTER – MOTHER (AU PALAIS REMIX)