Wednesday, 7 September 2016

World Tour

l-r: Woodkid, Madretomasa, Mourn
There was a discussion recently over at CC's about topics he could adopt for a new series. Someone suggested countries of the world[1]. There are more than 190 countries in the world (the exact number is disputed), yet most of the music we ever hear comes from western Europe and North America. I thought it would be fun to travel the world (not literally) and discover some of the sounds out there that we might otherwise never hear. My research is not meticulous, neither is it even vaguely comprehensive. Here's how it works:

A 15 week tour (Wednesdays only) covering all the continents[2]. Each destination must be reachable by air, land or sea from the previous country. I'll feature at least one artist from each nation I visit. The only criteria I seek from the featured artist is that I like what I hear. I am not going to deeply immerse myself in that country's culture or music scene, I just find something then move on. Maybe I'll return at some point in the future and explore some more. In the meantime, I have the globe to cover and I must be home by Christmas! So... passport - check. MP3 player - check. Clean underpants - oops. No matter, I'll pick some up on the way. Off we go then...

Week 1: Westernmost Europe

I can get a direct flight from Cardiff airport to Paris. Now, at one point in my life I thought the only decent song to come out of France was Ça Plane Pour Moi by Plastic Bertrand. Then I bought Air's second album and realised I was wrong. Besides, Plastic Bertrand was Belgian. More recently, a few other French bands have come to my attention. Alcest is a very good shoegaze outfit who started out as a black metal band. The Plastiscines is an all-girl band whose first record was a wonderful mess of short, punchy, lo-fi garage punk tunes. They've become a rather hipster-sounding pop band now, sadly.

And then there's Woodkid. Yoann Lemoine is a French music video director, graphic designer and singer-songwriter. His music is of such a grand scale, I'm not sure the medium of the internet is big enough to contain it. As for his videos, well take a look at this clip for Iron, his first single, and see why it blew my mind.

Extraordinary. Nip over to YouTube and watch the follow-up clip for Run Boy Run if you enjoyed that. Right, now I've a train to catch. Next stop is the sixth smallest nation in the world - Andorra. Situated in the Pyrenees on the border of France and Spain, its capital Andorra la Vella is the highest in Europe. (Hard to believe now, but in the qualifying stages of Wales' Euro 2016 campaign, they struggled to beat Andorra, who haven't ranked higher than 198th out of 209 in the past seven years.) It also has a music scene. Madretomasa make Americana most American Americana artists would be proud of. A real surprise find this, can't recommend them enough.

A bus can take us from Andorra to the Catalonian capital of Barcelona. Now again, as far as Spain goes, Julio Iglesias was the extent of my knowledge of Spanish pop music for many years. Nowadays, we have the excellent Elefant Records to bring us some of the best indie music from the country (right Brian?). Not on Elefant, but brilliant nonetheless, are Mourn. This lot are ridiculously young - none of them have reached 20 years of age yet - but have just released their second album 'Ha, Ha, He'. If you like short bursts of fury in your pop music, then this is a band you'll love. Factoid: Their first song was called Boys Are Cunts...

Right, off to Barcelona airport as we're crossing continents for next week's leg. See you in Africa!

[1] I want to point out for the record that I haven't stolen that idea, I'd already planned this series long before that. Honestly, guv.
[2] Except Antarctica, obviously...


  1. Fantastic Robster - Americana from Andorra

    Looking forward to your travelogue stories

  2. Great idea for a series Robster. Woodkid doesn't lack self-confidence does he? Madretomasa is, as you say, good Americana, but I think Mourn are the pick of the bunch for me. I look forward to tagging along on your travels.

  3. A brave task, very clever to leave out Italy ... can't think of any halfway good band from there ... looking forward to Africa then!

  4. Brilliant. I look forward to reading this series.

  5. genius idea. indie-pop blogging finally has its own Alan Whicker

  6. Bonus points for mentioning mourn

  7. Executed to perfection, Robster. Tough to follow your Wales series, but this is a hell of a stab at it. I guess you have noticed my fondness for Elefant. Don't forget your shots before the trip to the Dark Continent.