Caravan Palace – Caravan Palace (11/29/2010)

If this doesn’t at least make you smile, I can only imagine how cripplingly joyless your life is,  and how your bleak,  soulless shell of a body sucks happiness out of the very air of any room you are in.

Genre fusion isn’t anything new.   In the case of Caravan Palace, the disposition of the two genres aren’t even that in opposition: they’re both made to make people dance.  An unusual combination, almost directly, of Swing Jazz and Dance music, Caravan Palace would seemingly be at a limbo-hell between purists of either genres, and the general public, riding a small niche wave of flash-in-the-pan cultural vampires or the small people whose tastes actually converge somewhere between two genres separated by over 70 years of musical change.  But fear not. Starting with three Jazz musicians who had a love for Daft Punk, Caravan Palace eventually became a six piece, featuring guitars, double bass, violin, trombone, clarinet and… yeah, the DJ production.  There’s a great appreciation and dedication to both genres, and once again some people have proven that two different ingredients don’t have to mutually exclusive, and can even make some damn good music.

Despite being firmly routed in modern Dance and Electronic genres, Caravan Palace is extremely organic, full of dancing, luscious melodies that are full of rhythm and (oh yes) swing–managing to burrow themselves into your subconscious.  It’s infectious.  The instruments are in full… swing (I’ll keep this up), bobbing between each other in harmonious unison, violins, clarinets, guitars all twirling around the hard hitting beats of the production.   There’s a lot of character in the music, and it’s obvious the players and band are no foreigners to Swing Jazz in all its dated glory.

The production is anything but overbearing, sometimes being a little too minute to be a driving force of the music, but that’s rarely an issue, and not as common, as Caravan Palace has taken great care to find a balance between the two genres.  Don’t expect any crazy breakbeat or Jungle electronics; this is strictly a 4/4 affair, and to great effect.  Much of the electronic production provides a very modern, but compelling pulse to the music, rarely relying on overt sampling or looping–songs like Star Scat take a more literal approach to the electronic influence, as noted by the name, but there’s a definite Swing feel to the album despite the club beats.

There’s a very thick, or full bodied feel to the music.  It’s got a lot of meat, surprisingly, whether it’s the production or the amount of instruments being used.  Thick like a good soup.

Like I mentioned earlier, this is a hummable album.  Damnably so.  There’s something about the music that makes you sway, and those melodies get in your head–beats, instrument chords or vocals, sung in traditional fashion.  About half of the songs feature female vocals, and a few feature male choruses, so the album is dotted with instrumental and vocal tracks, though either work fantastically as their own songs.  They never get in the way of the music, nor do they act as a silly addendum because of an obsession with pandering to people who can’t listen to anything without vocals; they are well sung, placed and are a strong, useful component to the song, not the sole purpose nor an add-on.  This is one of those rare times for me where I probably would have enjoyed more vocals, seeing how well they worked.

The instruments are played wonderfully.  Not virtuosos by style, but definitely accomplished and full of passion.  The guitar playing is especially prominent, without being contemptuously overbearing or needlessly scaling the frets.  All of the instruments serve a distinct and important purpose, so despite the sheer amount, there’s no superfluous instruments dangling off the end of the sound–it’s all there, and all useful.  Violin and Clarinet provide some silky smooth melodies, meshing with the guitar or playing on their own.  The double bass does some simple, effective bass lines on top of the beats.  It’s all played well, and placed well.  Loops are utilized on occasion, and the samples do the players justice–it’s often hard to tell whether it’s sample or not.  Here, you’re going to hear the obvious Swing influence, down to passages and even songs that sound completely out of a retro Swing album.  Swing nuts will love it.

There are a smidgen of frilly interludes that really don’t add or detract–though one might wonder what they are doing there, as they don’t intro or outro anything.  Nothing serious, but enough to be notable, at least.

My opening sentence holds true.  This is infectiously happy music.  It’s certainly not traditionally Swing or Dance, but it’s sincere, good natured and fun music that is incredibly well done and danceable.  I can only imagine the coarse, splintered forest growing out of your ass if think otherwise.  Obviously Swing purists or boring Dance fans will probably take some sort of ill-gotten offense or condescension at it, but almost everyone else should find something to like about it.  This recommendation goes to everyone: fans of genres, opponents of either or both, people who don’t have a clue and good old fashioned music fans.

Modern Swing music with a soul.




7 Responses to Caravan Palace – Caravan Palace (11/29/2010)

  1. This is REALLY weird timing. This was pimped months and months ago, and I just listened to it yesterday.

    I don’t like country, at all, but this kind of Gothicana is right up my alley.

  2. Oh, right. I got them confused. I listened to about 9 albums back and forth over 4-5 hours. Yeah, both were excellent.

    • fuckyournames says:

      Awesome, either way. Trying to keep things spread even so everyone can find something they like, or find something new.

  3. Agapitus says:

    Cannot stop listening. God I’m loving my discovery of the neo-musical movements.

    • fuckyournames says:

      Good, no?

      Their next album is supposed to focus on 40s and 50s Jazz, so lots more brass instruments and Bop influence, so I expect great things–hopefully not too far in the future.

      • Agapitus says:

        Ah… Yes. My ears have had an itch that I can’t scratch and this and related bands are definitely proving to be an effective balm.

        I’m interested to hear their take on that. In my mind, the heavy use of brass instruments would revamp their sound quite a bit, so hopefully it will be a pleasing indulgence to their style.

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