Here we go, let's take the Caravan for another tour. Same Palace, with a brand new customized flavor. On the shelves and on the road. The surprise breakout band of the last decade, the apostles of Electro Swing and precursors of a laidback yet terribly upbeat trend, is coming up with an evocative second album: Panic! This time, Caravan Palace takes us even farther than their first album (that sold more than 150 000 copies) and continues an amazing adventure almost started by accident.
Their strength lies in their common passion for electronic music. Charles, Arnaud and Hughes, the initial trio, dig swing, especially gypsy jazz, and try their hands at the genre's traditional instruments: guitar, double bass and violin. That's where this peculiar mixture of classical Django and new trendy electro comes from. And it's far better than those retro futuristic sounds… because it swings. A few myspace posts later and they have almost doubled in size, enrolling Chapi and the boisterous Colotis in the band.
They start touring long before they even think about releasing an album. And everything clicks in 2007, during the Django Reinhardt Festival in Samois. Terrified to be part of the gypsy jazz pantheon, they gather speed and steam and create a real posse (not unlike hip-hop) that follows them everywhere. The word is out, their breakout song, Jolie Coquine, is playing everywhere. The record is released a year later, and it's an immediate hit. They soon tour France and Europe. The show peaks at the Olympia. The room is packed, people go crazy… listening to swing. This has never happened before.
But during the autumn of 2010, they stop and take a month off to start thinking about the new album. How do they come up with new songs? Every member of the band works in his own musical lab before exchanging files at night. The same process starts over the next day. And when the others react instinctively, it's generally a good sign. The basic rhythm of the first album has mutated into sophisticated beats, less gimmicky, more varied and enriched with sounds flirting with the frontiers of trip-hop. They still love Massive Attack, they still dig the creative minds of Ninja Tune, Isolée's minimal electro vibe or Gorillaz's grand hip-hop rock bazaar. Only the best of the best. But they also rediscover thirties and forties swing jazz, artists like Fletcher Henderson, or the less mainstream musicians like Charlie Chavers and Mildred Bailey.
Six months later, forty-something titles pile up. It's time to regroup in the studio… where fifteen vintage keyboards are waiting. Tirelessly, the band tries new things, merges styles and makes creative decisions. Fourteen titles are soon emerging. The petulant voice of Colotis is booming again and the old friend Cyrille-Aimée is back on two songs. And don't forget to include Toustou in the Caravan.
And now, here comes the list!
It opens up on a… fun and raging note! A surprising mix of up tempo swing with a bunch of hacked-up sounds, technologic and flirting with rock's golden past, back in the day when it was called bop (let's forget all those labels!). From the get go, this sounds like a huge leap forward from Caravan Palace's first generation.
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A ballad with a deliciously slow yet vivid tempo, samples from the grand old age, the vibraphone and the spiraling springs stretching out time. Given the title, we know we're entering a new futuristic territory.
A frantic beat that takes its time, an amazing clash with a cascade of breaks to catch one's breath, barely… before the beat starts again.
A pop escapade showing the breadth of Caravan Palace's new horizons. An ethereal tune, flirting with weightlessness, and branded with a twist of swing, rooted in the tempo and the impulsive keyboards.
Yes, dirty, the dark side of the Caravan, frantic and frenzied, chemical, destroy… Listen to this borderline sardonic voice coupled with the mocking piano. And the Lionel Hampton vibe from the vibraphone. Enough to upset any musical compass!
Dear God, the Andrew Sisters are back. With synthetic glitter. This one is coming from Cyril-Aimée Daudel, a talent temporarily attached to the Caravan. This is clearly the song that bridges best the two albums.
Glory of nelly
A London promenade, another sweet escape from the Caravan, with a special song… eh, I beg your pardon… toast, from Sista Colotis. The unlikely and fleeting mix of swing and ragga, with a dominant background of brass and strings.
A hint of Gorillaz, a drawling voice, a few touches of seventies synthesizer (à la François de Roubaix), a pinch of Django guitar, almost included by accident. Mix up and listen…
Both new and bop. An acrobatic scat with a solid anchor, multiple breaks, like sturdy inviting steps. And don't forget the boisterous guitar.
It opens on a dramatic science-fiction dialog. And the tempo erupts in a minimalist environment, compressed, to pave the way for the suffocated chorus. But do not panic, you'll make it to the end.
Django's guitar lures us in, but we are promptly taken to other surprising landscapes. An experimental sound. The trumpet echoes pure jazz, the vocal harmonies explore other dimensions. And the charm of the mix bridges all the gaps.
A lazy beat, but there's no laziness here. Time ceases to exist, the dub vibe and Colotis's voice, far in the distance, provide to this down tempo tune an even more atmospheric quality. As if it was lost in the mist…
Rock it for me
Hey, isn't this rockabilly, this distant country cousin of swing? The thirties mixed up with the fifties. But this tune isn't from the past. This is the 21st century and those apparently distant genres can still coexist… with a guaranteed impact.
A colorful waltz to end the tour. Cyril-Aimée's voice provides the glamour and the back-up of watered voices orchestrates a swaying finale. Caravan Palace bows out in style.
So jump in the Caravan. Seeing the world upside down guarantees the best sound.
Rémy Kolpa Kopoul
Radio Nova - Paris