Les Amis au Pakistan

les-amis-au-pakistan

Recently, a reader named Jérémie (ça va, Jérémie?) wrote to us with a list of weird bands to check out from his hometown, Montreal. And as we were going through them, we came to a startling realization: The Weird List has zero Montreal bands on it! Clearly this is not acceptable state of affairs, so we’re remedying it tout suite with our favorite of Jérémie’s suggestions: a freaky electro-pop collective called Les Amis au Pakistan.

Les Amis au Pakistan (Friends in Pakistan) have been around since at least 2007, when they released a candy-colored romp of a debut album called Espace Libidinal. Its trippy tracks bring to mind the sampledelic electronica of Avalanches and the avant-pop chansons of Lætitia Sadier and Stereolab, but there’s a surrealist quality to the music and vocals — sung by a quartet of female vocalists — that makes the whole thing delightful and fresh.

Their music videos are, if anything, even more far out than the music, despite being shot on what appears to be a zero-dollar budget. Here’s the clip for “Un p’tit tour de minoune.” I’m not sure which of the singers this is — there are now five of them, named Solange Lavergne, Jacinthe Fradette, Caroline Fournier, Evelyne Mireault and Katia Cioce — but she’s my favorite, for reasons I don’t think I need to explain.

In 2009, Les Amis returned with a sophomore album called Cosmetic Cosmic that was sleeker but no less trippy. Here’s the video for “Nobodée,” which to me sounds like hitting the goth club on ‘shrooms but to Les Amis apparently sounds like a bacchanalian afternoon of yard work and light bondage.

This is where I should mention Les Amis au Pakistan’s two male members: Simon R. Tremblay, who writes and produces most of the music, and Joël Chevalier, who does most of the lyrics and directs the videos. I wish I knew more about them and the group’s beguilingly weird singers, but hardly anything has been written about them in English and not a whole lot more in French. This review of Espace Libidinal from Canadian music site Exclaim is one of the few things I had to go, and about all I could really crib from it was the Stereolab comparison — which, frankly, is a stretch, especially once you get to the much more beat-driven productions on Cosmetic Cosmic.

After Cosmetic Cosmic, it looks like Les Amis au Pakistan went on hiatus. Tremblay released a solo album under the name Native Cell that might be even weirder than Les Amis. But they returned in 2015 with their third album, High Apothéose, which I think is my favorite LAAP album yet. Musically, it’s all over the map — the title track is bhangra meets breakbeat, “Muffin Top” is sad disco playing through blown speakers, “Jésus, Mon Ami” mixes Jersey club with Empire of the Sun-like synth-pop grandeur. But the craziest moment probably comes on “Black Circles,” a full-blown disco punk freakout made even freakier by its video, which is probably what the orgy scene in Eyes Wide Shut would have looked like if Fadades had shown up.

So thanks for introducing us to Les Amis au Pakistan, Jérémie! I’m sure they’ll be the first of many Montreal bands we’ll write about — but for now, I think they represent your city quite well.

Links:

Advertisements

Weird of the Day: The Godz, “Contact High with the Godz”

The Godz

We rarely post entire album streams on this site, for a variety of reasons: a.) Most of the full album streams on YouTube are of questionable provenance, and we don’t wanna get sued; b.) We have very short attention spans; and c.) Most albums are, let’s face it, not compelling enough to listen to from beginning to end. But The Godz’s 1966 debut, Contact High with the Godz, is too amazing not to share in its entirety. So with apologies to the great ESP-Disk label, which reissues all sorts of great half-forgotten freakery from the ’60s (including the tribal noise pioneers Cromagnon), we present Contact High with the Godz in all its glory. Enjoy!

A bit of backstory as you listen: The Godz emerged from the same underground New York folk-rock scene as The Fugs. They went on to release three more albums before breaking up in 1973, although they did reunite a few times in recent years. As the ESP-Disk website says, “There was no precedent for what they did. The weirdest and most far-out bands around at that time were the Monks and the Mothers of Invention. The first albums of the Velvet Underground, the Stooges, and the Grateful Dead all lay in the future.” They also pre-dated Cromagnon and The Shaggs by several years. So whatever you want to call what they’re doing—freak folk, psych-folk, avant noise-rock, proto-punk—they were pretty much inventing it out of whole cloth.

A tip of the hat to reader Lowell Brams for suggesting we do a Godz post. Lowell, incidentally, runs a fantastic label called Asthmatic Kitty that many of you are probably familiar with. If you’re not familiar, please check them out.  The new My Brightest Diamond video is especially stunning (not in a weird way, just in a lovely way—think of it as a palette-cleanser after 25 minutes of Godz).

Friday night jam: “Mad Hatter’s Ball” by Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin, featuring TommyTopHat

Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin

It’s the freakin’ weekend! And I don’t know about you people, but I’m ready to celebrate like a Mad Hatter with a belly full of special tea.

Two of our favorite web buddies, Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin and TommyTopHat, have joined forces for a new track called “Mad Hatter’s Ball.” It might be the most festive tune we’ve heard yet from Ms. MacPumpkin. I guess using Alice in Wonderland as source material just does that to people. And that Tommy fellow seems pretty festive, too. His manbehindthecurtain blog is chock full of cool shit.

Anyway, here’s the track. Fire it up and let’s get this ball a-rollin’! Or something like that.

Hey look, it’s Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin’s first music video

Petunia1

Our friend and former Weird Band Facebook Poll™ champ Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin has been bugging us all week to post her first-ever music video. So here it is finally! Sorry it took us awhile, Ms. MacP.

The song in the video is called “Carnival (Introduction’s Aside)” and it’s the first track on her album Fish Drive Edsels. It’s a pretty cool visual representation of the funhouse world that is Petunia-Liebling’s music. Hope she’s got more trippy visuals in the works.

Cromagnon

Okay, we really went into the vaults for this one, kids. Cromagnon was a project formed in the late ’60s for the influential ESP-Disk label, which put out some of the wildest, most freeform music of the era, including albums by the Fugs, Sun Ra, Ornette Coleman and even the godfather of the psychedelic era, Timothy Leary. The official story behind the band is that it was started by a pair of successful pop songwriters named Brian Elliot and Austin Grasmere who wanted to do an experimental album. When they approached ESP-Disk founder Bernard Stollman about the project, he allegedly asked what their theme would be, and when they replied, “Everything is one,” he gave them the go-ahead.

At this point, the story gets a little murky. Supposedly, Elliot and Grasmere decamped to some kind of hippie commune to record with a group of musicians known only as the “Connecticut Tribe” that may or may not have included future members of The Residents and Negativland. Whoever they were, the Tribe helped Elliot and Grasmere record a single album under the Cromagnon name. Originally released in 1969 as Orgasm and later reissued as Cave Rock, it’s an absolute mind-fuck of a record, a dadaist/tribal freakout combining primitive percussion and musique concrète; creepy non-verbal groans, grunts, chants and shrieks; bagpipes; Hendrix-esque blasts of psych-rock guitar; Brian Wilson harmonies; sampled radio broadcasts; and a whole host of other sounds whose origins are impossible to discern. At the time of its release, it must’ve been enough to send even most the tripped-out “Revolution No. 9” enthusiasts scurrying back to their parents’ Johnny Mathis records.

The mystery of the Connecticut Tribe’s identity, and the complete lack of any further Cromagnon releases, has helped fuel the myths and rumors surrounding the group. Even the identities of Elliot and Grasmere have remained somewhat enigmatic. Who were these alleged bubblegum hitmakers turned hippie/freakout psychonauts? And why have we heard nothing further from them since 1969?

Well, we can’t answer that last question, but thanks to the crack team of researchers here at TWBITW, we can shed some light on the true story behind Cromagnon. Turns out the “Connecticut Tribe” wasn’t a hippie commune at all, but a bunch of dudes from a ’60s pop-rock group called The Boss Blues (plus various friends, guest musicians, and even people who just happened to be passing by the studio when they needed an extra pair of hands to bang on stuff). Elliot was the band’s producer and Grasmere was their lead guitarist; you can see a picture of the band’s full lineup, including the late Grasmere, on this guy’s page (you’ll have to scroll down a bit, but it’s there). In 2002, the three surviving members of The Boss Blues–Sal Salgado, Peter Bennett and Vinnie Howley–gave an interview with Connecticut radio station WXCI where they talked at length about Cromagnon and the recording process for Orgasm (which was in fact not recorded on a hippie commune, but mainly in a makeshift studio in New York City). In 2009, some kind soul transcribed the interview for the ESP-Disk website, so the band’s history is now laid out for all to see. (Sorry, everyone who was really, really sure The Residents were actually behind the whole thing.) The interview is long but well worth reading for anyone who’s at all interested in the band; it also features MP3s of most of the tracks from Orgasm, so you can hear for yourself just how off-the-deep-end these guys got.

Sadly, both Grasmere and Elliot–the latter of whom, the other guys admit, was the principal architect of the Cromagnon sound–have passed away, so despite the occasional reunion-tour rumors, we’ve probably heard all we’ll ever hear out of this strange little footnote from the psychedelic era.

This is probably Cromagnon’s best-known track, “Caledonia.” Trippiest use of bagpipes ever? We’re gonna say “aye.” (There’s about 40 seconds of introductory horns and radio noise before the song gets going, so give it till then to get going.)

P.S. Special thanks to WTFmusic.org and their deliriously exhaustive catalog of weird music for turning us on to these guys.

Links: