From “Brand New Cadillac” by Vince Taylor (or by the Clash!) to Buzzcocks’ “Fast Cars”, and from “Warm Leatherette” by the Normal to Kraftwerk’s “Autobahn” (as well as the mechanical hymns made by all the producers from Detroit), cars and their mythology have always had a pride of place in music. But in 2010, as the mechanical reign is once and for all coming to an end, it’s safe to say that it has never been staged with as much reference and tribute, obsession and ambiguity, than in Bot’Ox. And it took no less than a symbol as powerful as the end of the industrial era, combined with the inherent nostalgia of the well and truly lost golden age, to bring together Benjamin Boguet (alias Cosmo Vitelli) and Julien Briffaz (half of Tekël). But what brings together the DJ and French producer- knighted by what must be called the French Touch between 1997 and 2002- and Tekël, an electro house duo in which Julien Briffaz glides as a drummer and sound engineer? Nothing or not much. If only a mutual curiosity, a passion for music in general and a fixed idea brought to life in Bot’Ox.
Two different paths, two generations, that yet seem to have captured simultaneously and backwards – in the rear view mirror of an old sports car or a large sedan- the relics of a time when roads, highways, driving and the curves of a beautiful car, were a common pleasure and not a destructive one. And it’s done! After a handful of heavily dented singles, released on labels as essential as DFA, I’m a Cliché, DC Recordings or Marketing, the improbable duo is releasing its first real album, with the prophetic title – a manifesto of the rushing end of the century – Babylon By Car. If the album brings together as edits, some of the duo’s original tracks: from “Car Jacked” to “Crashed Cadillac” and from “Rue de l’Arsenal” to “Tragedy Symphony” – in other words, the dark and slightly vicious side of Bot’Ox- another aspect of the schizoid personality of the duo is revealed as we discover new songs with a guilty pleasure. These tracks are mellower, but remain somewhat unsettling with their (false) monotony. Like “Tout Passe, Tout Lasse, Tout Casse,” sung by Judy Nylon, half of the cult band Snatch, from the No Wave New York of the late 70’s, or “Slow Burning,” at the end of the album, sung by Mark Kerr, also on “Tragedy Symphony,” as well as “Blue Steel” glorified by the toneless voice of Anna Jean, from the band Domingo. Behind the speeding and the screeching (“Overdrive”), the leaps and the acid rise – like post-punk bile- we find a new softness. A nonchalance made of contemplative tracks and moments of wild calm – before the inevitable crash, of course, that will surely change the image of Bot’Ox.
In the end, instead of the car cliché, we’ll keep the melancholy of a long tracking shot, both esthetic and timely. Because “Babylon By Car” is entirely in this ambiguity, between nostalgia and modernity, between pop and post-punk, electronic music and rock, past and future – it’s where Kraftwerk’s “Men-machines” celebrated an endless future with obedient machines. Bot’Ox summons the ghosts of the century, from Cybotron to Wire, from Fad Gadget to John Carpenter, to give birth to greatly personal music and, in all honesty, a rather unique sound in French electronic music. Bot’Ox doesn’t swagger to keep their motors running. Both melodic and fierce, “Babylon By Car” comes as it is. And it’s probably the best way to take it in.
(added: 2010-11-10 10:52:27 )