05. A magical mixture
Take equal parts Sinatra circa Watertown, Beach Boys circa Friends and Broadcast circa The Book Lovers and you’re starting to get a taste for The Ocean Tango. Or actually, no, scratch that. Take that back and wipe it. Instead take equal parts morning mist clearing to reveal Berenice Abbott’s Manhattan, a shaft of afternoon sunlight on a 1958 San Remo beach and strolling sedately through Highgate cemetery in a golden hour of 2010.
Alternatively just consider The Ocean Tango for the delicious cocktail it is: a magical mixture of London-based Louise Philippe and secretive Malmö-based Swedes Testbild!.
But hey, you know, let’s rewind again. The Book Lovers. That was no accidental reference, for there has always been a certain bookish literate charm about Louis Philippe. He has, after all, made a record with Jonathan Coe (indeed Coe crops up again here providing lyrics to “The Munich Train”) and has always managed to skirt the right side of the line that for too many crosses into weary intellectual worthiness. So whilst the overall feel of The Ocean Tango is one illuminated by instrumental passages rather than those constructed of prose it still feels luxuriously bookish regardless. That’s bookish in the sense of settling into an armchair and losing yourself in another world. Bookish in the sense of the scent of worn leather in the afternoon with a warming cup of tea or of dripping from words into dreams beneath a midsummer sun.
You could say something similar for Testbild!, whose intriguing avant-garde adventures into sound have included a record that traced the careers of the inventors of the ENIAC and UNIVAC computers and a tribute to explorer Isabelle Eberhardt. Who said such subjects should not be the foundations for exotic Pop? Who said such topics should remain in the domain of the tedious intellectual and the irritatingly obfuscating art student? So Testbild! don their masks and play, Spirit and Clinic-like, as Pop pranksters. Who could ask for more?
And yet The Ocean Tango is so much more than what one would expect from all of the aforementioned concoctions. Triumphantly so, indeed, for it is a record that slips from the confines of time to kiss the lips of classic style and beauty whilst being simultaneously cloaked in the elegance of the contemporary. And that is no mean feat.
As a result The Ocean Tango has established itself in my heart as one of my favourites of the year, where it joins records like The Clientele’s Minotaur (with whom Philippe has worked in the past, of course) and Withersins by Smoosh. I recommend you let it charm its way into yours.
More writing from Alistair: the Unpopular blog.
Listen to and order The Ocean Tango here