Momus: Folktronic


By Matt Keppel

You Will Have Your Revenge
(Le Grand Magistery)
by Matt Keppel
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How I love a man who can’t sing! I say this with the utmost respect, mind you. From Lou Reed to Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant to, now, Momus and Baxendale’s Tim Benton, the talky delivery trait has been passed down like an unrespected torch. All of this off-key, weak, nasally vocalizing still holds a weird power that comes out of left-field. Momus and Tim Benton see to this fact with their hearts pinned on their synthesizers.

British ex-pat and current NYC resident Momus (Nick Currie) has been making odd little records for 15 years, taking on warped sexuality, Japanese pop culture, and technology in equal doses. His past few releases on the highly stylish indie-pop label Le Grand Magistery have been high-concept affairs and once again Folktronic sounds like another twisted grad school dissertation on the nature of electronics and…well, penises. This record is Momus’s take on “plastic folk”—Appalachian ballads, jigs and American country music played by analog synths and lo-fi drum machines, just as David Bowie’s Young Americans was Bowie’s take on “plastic soul”. Writing futuristic love letters/pop songs to an old art form, Momus pushes buttons (literally) to see how many songs about “Robocowboys” and the “Tape Recorder Man” is too many. He fares on the good side of “just enough”...this time. Momus’s brittle voice and roguish humor is an acquired taste, but for the smarty-pants listeners who gobble up high-concept art pieces, Folktronic is a “fake folk” masterpiece.

Baxendale, who shares the same American label with Momus, have the same love of synthpop and killer pop culture references (“lying on the tennis courts listening to the Boards of Canada”) as Momus. Lead singer and songwriter Tim Benton, possessor of the latest sweet off-kilter voice (think Jarvis Cocker Jr.), hasn’t raided folk music as a blueprint though. Benton has decided to take on his older sister’s early ‘80s vinyl collection; The Human League is a major touchstone, if that gives you a clue to the Baxendale sound.

Baxendale’s teen characters dance to the cream of the past two decades’ dance music in songs about video-game love and losing your sweetie at the local discotheque. The standout track is the album’s centerpiece “I Love the Sound of Dance Music (Parts 1 & 2)”, a nearly 10-minute ode to the power of electropop. On that track Benton takes us through several styles, from bubbly junior-level Pet Shop Boys to “cheesy Italian house” (as Benton puts it) and ending with high speed drum ‘n’ bass and trance, all the while driving through the night in a friend’s car, rushing with the power of “going out” and the allure of big city nightlife.

You’ll never think of dance music as faceless and cold again will you?

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