Vargo – Beauty

Vargo - Beauty (2004)

Vargo – Beauty (2004)

I don’t have a problem when an album tends to drift through a romantic note for the most part of it… Such albums are not my cup of tea, but this one had a little something going on, and certainly it is a major shock when said album comes from Germany. I always had a hard time trying to understand Vargo’s Beauty, simply because the last place you would expect an album with such characteristics would be Germany. Now, prejudice and bias aside, let me try to make it some justice, because I believe it deserves it.

Ok, maybe I’m being a little bit unfair here. It’s not like Germans don’t have a right to have an album charged with happy vibes and nice feelings, actually I’m still surprised at how good this album is, and the wide range of emotions it portrays. It worried me a little bit at the beginning the fact that 85% of the tracks (12 out of 14) are a mix of some sort, and it was not until some time later that I learned that Vargo had one successful hit (Get Back to Serenity), and then spend a couple of years assembling this compilation of songs that would of course include said track. That explains all of the bizarre mix titles, I guess…

The fact that this album is a compilation disrupts any kind of continuity you would expect in a normal studio album. One minute you are listening to some reggae /electronic influenced track, and the next you are busy with an ambient one. It isn’t as bad as it sounds though, is just that you might find yourself lacking that feeling of unity and cohesion that an album usually has. That being said, I don’t want you to believe that this album is a collage of completely unrelated songs, I just want you to expect a few subtle changes of pace through it.

Beauty never attempts to disguise its completely electronic nature. There are a few tweaks and some experimentation, thanks to the freedom a mix compilation gives you, but once you’ve heard the first couple of tracks you can be sure that the rest of the album won’t fall far away from that. Once you get past style conventions though, you will be greeted by some really warm and surprisingly refreshing moments, which is what caught me off guard at the beginning.

Maybe I’ve been exposed for far too long to the well-known electronic / chill out / ambient formula that it is a little bit difficult for me to accept the fact that there can be some really emotional moments buried under the formalities that the genre implies. Last time I experimented something like this was with a Worldwide Groove Corporation album, and even there I had some paradigms to break before fully embracing this approach to the genre. Once you overcome that, you stop thinking of albums such as Beauty as the same sound and formula recycled over and over again and you start to finally uncover the secrets that lies beneath.

My stint with Beauty wasn’t that long, probably less than a year since I got it, but it surely was more than enough to get myself used to it and feeling comfortable talking about it. Considering the fact that usually it takes me way, way longer than that before I can start thinking about talking about an album, I believe that it’s safe to say that we have some easy listening material in front of us. Not in a degrading way of course, just letting you know that whenever you want some chill out vibes with some nice female vocals on the side you can always pick this up and enjoy it right away. It won’t be a complicated and puzzling experience, that’s for sure, so you can just relax and enjoy it.

 

Air – Talkie Walkie

Air - Talkie Walkie (2004)

Air - Talkie Walkie (2004)

Talkie Walkie is a backwards trip for me, as it represents one of the early electronic-influenced albums that I had the chance to get my hands on. To this day I consider Air’s Talkie Walkie, Röyksopp’s The Understanding and Daft Punk’s Discovery to be the culprits (in a good way, of course) of the change in my listening habits towards electronic music, a journey that began about 6 years ago and have brought nothing but incredible and amazing experiences, as well expanding my mind to new and exciting horizons.

I don’t know if this is just me being biased, but every Air album has this inherent frenchness to it, something that I believe can be found on many other french artists work (Lisa Papineau, Shine, just to name a few), but something very particular about Talkie Walkie is that it features a certain amount of japanese inspired moments. Most of it has to do with the fact that Air decided to provide a few tracks to the soundtrack of the movie Lost in Translation, which as many of you may know and without going into much detail, takes place in Japan, but wisely enough, the album isn’t a collection of cheesy japanese sounding tracks just for the sake of an otherwise completely unrelated movie. Just to set the score straight, the songs where you will notice such influence is Cherry Blossom Girl and Alone in Kyoto, and even in the middle of those songs you will realize that it’s just Air being clever, they stayed true to their style while at the same time gave us something to imagine what would be like to have a couple of french musicians doing music inspired in Japan.

Taking a closer look at the album as a whole, I find it to be very well balanced. It has its share of instrumental tracks, as well another good portion of vocalized tracks. Truth to be told, this isn’t the type of album you look for if you want some deep and inspiring lyrics, as Talkie Walkie tends to use lyrics just as one way to adorn the songs, they don’t seem to have a meaning on their own other than fill the gaps in between songs. Of course, this doesn’t prevent us from enjoying songs like Surfin’ On A Rocket, which is quite amusing and is almost like if it forces you to sing to it every time you stumble upon it.

The biggest achievement though, is this kind of trance, this induced mental state that very few artists are capable of. Air’s music is know for being elegant, unafraid of incorporate their many diverse influences and wrap it into this electronic attire that anyone can enjoy. I know it sounds silly (and even elitist), but Air music gives you the impression that you’re actually acquiring better taste in music just for liking it, and I know that it is a dumb statement, but I had that thought a couple of times in the past.

I struggled to come across other bands that could evoke the same set of feelings this album happens to touch, but I have to admit that I came up short. And while Air purists will disregard Talkie Walkie in favor of the mighty Moon Safari, this isn’t by any means an inferior effort. I’ve heard before complains about this being just another cheesy french album, but oh boy, you will be surprised when you realize what is in front of you.