Concert le 22 septembre au Trianon

En promo le 22 septembre 

“You’re my secret, and I am yours” Defeatist Anthem

Maybe after a couple of decades, things start to become clearer.

They certainly weren’t clear when twin brothers Amedeo and Simone Pace and Kazu Makino first found themselves playing and writing together back in the mid-90s. At a time when the musical landscape was defined by the sullen, narcotic rage of grunge, and counterpointed by the purist, politicised undergrounds of Olympia, Washington and Washington D.C., Blonde Redhead simply did not fit in anywhere. This indivisible trio of aliens - decorous, poetic, hermetic; dedicated to espresso and tea and a glass of red wine with dinner - were out of place in New York City, never mind the rest of America. It was only when, in 1997, they were invited to tour with Fugazi – who showed them a thing or two about being a band – that Blonde Redhead even saw the rest of the country where they had impulsively ended up living and working. Perversely, the experience helped to define them, and the long process of carving out a niche for their singular music began.

And they’re still here. It’s almost too obvious to mention that Blonde Redhead have never made records for fame, or for money, or to ape their teenage heroes, or to indulge any of the dumb, ephemeral impulses that clog up the blogosphere with dumb, ephemeral music. They make music, simply, because they have to. Over 8 increasingly distinctive and assured albums, they have developed a sonic language of their own: rapt, wistful, plangent, with melodies coiling like smoke through thickets of whispering electronics, anchored by nuanced, sensual rhythms. The liquid grace of their output redeems and resolves the precarious circumstances of its creation.
After a trio of releases as potent as Misery Is A Butterfly, 23 and Penny Sparkle, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Barragán sounds so confident. But it does, after all, mark the beginning of a(nother) new phase. Blonde Redhead’s relationship with 4AD has drawn to a close, and so the band’s 9th album emerges through a refreshed network of business relationships. There is continuity, however, in the presence of producer / mixer / engineer Drew Brown, who was a key member of the team during the making of Penny Sparkle, and who made a number of telling suggestions along the way this time around. It was Drew who persuaded the band to head out to Key Club Recording in Benton Harbor, Michigan, where they encountered an amazing trove of vintage synthesisers – it was, in Kazu’s words, “analogue heaven”. And the absence of distractions quickly paid creative dividends.

“The street outside the building was completely deserted,” she says, “there was literally tumbleweed rolling past – it was like being in some abandoned town… I slept a lot, and when I woke up I started playing all of these keyboards. When we realized we had a record I said to Drew ‘we got something here; it is going to be hard to fuck this one up."

They’re never overwhelming or obtrusive, but the otherworldly tones provide tiny zephyrs of texture throughout Barragán. And the overall impact provides a subtle contrast to the heavily-processed, studio bound atmosphere of Penny Sparkle – from the opening title track, where acoustic guitars sway lazily alongside the flute-like tones of a Chamberlin synthesiser, it’s obvious that these songs breathe. The melodies occasionally flirt with folk music; outdoor sounds, including a suite of field recordings that Drew made in London’s Kew Gardens, are woven gently into the mix; and there is the odd moment where the band lets down their guard and leaves a charming imperfection in the finished article. “Maybe we should work on it a little bit more” murmurs Kazu, midway through the spare, slinky “Cat On Tin Roof.”

This is not to suggest that Barragán lacks ambition. Tracks like “Dripping”, “The One I Love”, and “Defeatist Anthem” have all the emotional punches of previous high water marks like “Elephant Woman” and “23” – they just feel slightly less calculated, more serendipitous. And “No More Honey” has as much soar and swagger as anything else in the Blonde Redhead catalogue.

And that slightly enigmatic title? “In the end, I didn’t want it to mean anything – I just wanted it to be a word that people would really enjoy saying,” says Kazu. “And I was in Mexico City, and my best friend asked me to go and visit the Casa Luis Barragán. I went without really knowing what it was, but it was the most fantastic house, with beautiful walls, and the way that the light came inside. Right in the middle of the total chaos of Mexico City it was so serene, almost Japanese. And I just walked around it getting shivers.”

Maybe, then, it’s not too much to suggest that the album which, however obliquely, bears the architect’s name is also a kind of spiritual oasis; a zone of reflection, tranquillity and creativity – and a homecoming of sorts.