Musette: Drape Me In Velvet (CD, Häpna, February 2012)

There is a strangely determined, and determinedly strange, brilliance to this. The sleeve sums it up: a man (presumably Joel Danell himself) in a flamboyant suit with a light-entertainment grin poses awkwardly behind a cheap-looking synthesizer and in front of a soft-focus backdrop — but his eyes are demoniacally glowing white stars. The music is largely Bontempi-style easy listening with dreamy smooth trumpets and silky brushed snares, touched with a subtle wonkiness (apparently introduced by recording onto “cassettes and reel to reel tapes from the 1950s and 1960s, many inherited from relatives” which were then “treated and mistreated with tools and violence”) which I found gently but insistently sinister. Tracks like the aptly-named Wuzak, in particular, make me feel like I’m sitting in a cheesy cocktail lounge, surrounded by friendly faces and twinkling lights and grinning helplessly, unable to shake off a nagging feeling that my drink has been spiked with something more than a colourful umbrella, and that something, somewhere, is terribly wrong, if only I could focus for long enough to remember what. Reviews have described this work as playfully ironic, which makes me think of the smug and shallow lounge indie covers of Nouvelle Vague, or the oh-so-studenty resurrection of Andy Williams around the turn of the century. I’ll give you playful, but I don’t see this as ironic:  to my mind, the processing adds something new to the source material without ever seeking to subvert it, and the results are all the better for it.

I bought this from Amazon, as it was out of stock everywhere else.

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