ELECTRELANE with TENDER FOREVER at Lee's Palace (529 Bloor West), Friday (May 18). $13. 416-532-1598. Rating: NNNNN
Now that the members of all-girl avant-rock outfit Electrelane have dispersed from their native Brighton, England, with members sprinkled across several continents when they're not sharing a van on tour, it makes perfect sense that the arty quartet would organize a working group holiday for the express purpose of writing their new No Shouts No Calls (Too Pure/Beggars) disc.
But considering the atmosphere of intense creative productivity Electrelane wanted to cultivate in order to wring gems of genius out of their makeshift writers' retreat, you have to wonder what on earth the ladies were smoking when they decided to hole up in Berlin in the summer of 2006 - that is, at the height of World Cup insanity.
"Well, we chose Berlin because it was so cheap to be there," guitarist Mia Clarke begins. "Rent costs nothing, and we could take three months off to write. And Verity (vocalist/keyboardist/guitarist Susman) was already living there, so it seemed like a good place to reconvene.
"Before we went, we knew the World Cup was on and thought it'd be horrible," she admits. "Just a crazy ruckus the whole time. But as soon as it started, we got really into it. We began organizing our schedule around the matches and watched all the games."
Clarke and her bandmates are the last musicians you'd peg as closet football fans. Electrelane's music is nothing if not heady; it's evolved from their early haunted post-rock instrumentals to sprawling, textured art-pop that mixes Susman's hollow Nico-style vocals into atmospheric songs that can reference everything from Nietzsche to Siegfried Sassoon.
Still, if the No Shouts No Calls track Five, which unfolds around a sampled match between Hertha BSC and FC Moskva, is any sign, the foursome's FIFA fever took a long time to break.
That's not to say the disc as a whole is all fist-pumping choons for hooligans. If anything, Electrelane's fourth album is a surprisingly delicate collection of Farfisa-bolstered explorations of swooning romance and heartache. Aside from the gut-churning midsection, which builds tension through heavy, urgent guitar tones and bleak melodies, No Shouts No Calls is probably the band's most accessible pop album in years.
Rumour has it that their label, Too Pure, complained about the art on Electrelane's last disc, 05's Steve Albini-produced Axes, insisting it was too dark to be marketable. So did the label's gripes extend to the music, too?
"It was quite complicated, cuz we'd never ever write a record that didn't come from exactly what we wanted to do," Clarke says carefully. "After we made Axes, we discussed that we wanted to make something more song-based, with more vocals. We did know the record company said Axes wasn't a marketable album, but it didn't affect the writing.
"I will say we did make one concession with the album artwork," she adds, noting the graphic red, white and blue pirate ship that sails across the cover of No Shouts - a total 180 from the moody blur of the Axes cover. "We figured if it wasn't 'sellable,' we'd hit 'em with a really bold, bright cover."
Music Clips from Electrelane's new album No Shouts No Calls
Cut and Run
Video Clips from Electrelane
To The East