Track By Track: It’s A Fine Line – It’s A Fine Line
It's A Fine Line frères Ivan Smagghe and Tim Paris are releasing their debut eponymous album on their Kill The DJ label this month. Six years since their first release, they have pulled in their friends and neighbours including C.A.R.'s Chloe, Franz Ferdinand's Alex Kapranos and Olivia de Lanzac. This unbounded long player is a ride, sonic road trips through Europe and lo-fi Cerrone respectful bedroom discos. Psychedelic Peter Gunn escapades across the States, while Link Wray is dizzy, hijacked and bundled in a Buick boot. That was our first astonished thoughts. Tim & Ivan paint in their own stories behind the tracks, colouring it in with their unique words, hues and imagery.
Probably the most clinical and claustrophobic piece of the album. It could have a been a black colour all round, as when the cardiogram eventually plays its long final tone. The flatline. But that’s the album opener, a tune which could never find its place with the others in the track-listing. It may be the darkest moment of the album but we have turned it into the opener, driven with a desire to go further, to reach the rest of the album. One dies, and one gets reborn from the start. It’s a bouncy track, with our slight take on "urbanity”. It's also the light of the cardiogram or some scooter in the night. And Olivia’s voice makes it so peculiar. She’s one of those rare talents. Totally unique. This song will always have a special place in our discography. It's us but it is not. Or it is not us but is.
IN SLOWER MOTION
All the colours on this album are muddled in some way. You start somewhere and end up elsewhere. Convenient means of transportation or a way to get lost without intending to. This is Factory tank grey (am not sure the black & yellow lines fit it but it is waspy in a way too). It could also be "murky waters" grey, see Stephen Gill's work, another photographic influence on the album. This started as a song, almost a cover of a track that we won't let you know about. "Original" and vocals faded away. They dissolved in Turpentine. It often happens with us, hence the lengthy, almost opiate slow process, ideas are not fixed and we move like sloths. It was supposed to be outré take on pop-house, still kind of is. It has a 4/4 beat, it's kind of danceable and fluffy but then the live drums on the last part shatter the innocence, end of summer storm or the start of a riot (the picture is from an actual riot police car). This is a broken machine that works. "kind of" is a key phrase for us, it kind of applies to every track.
This is Ross’s track too, our drummer too soon departed, his moment of glory. We may as well dedicate it to him.
THE DELIVERY (INSTRUMENTAL) – REDELIVERED
I don't know if Alan Vega's death has something to do with it, but this is the black leather track. Both versions are in different ways – one is motorcycle grease (cambouis as we say in French), the other has an oiler texture, like a U-Boat captain jacket or something. With cracks please. Right, featurings on albums was always something we wanted to avoid but, hey, we are not singers and this one has too good a story. A couple of years ago, the house next to mine (that's Ivan talking for a minute) was sold and totally refurbished. The works lasted months and months to the borderline point of me getting my shotgun out, wearing a singlet and going to shoot the builders. Chloe finally rang the landlord, who was an extremely apologetic, nice Scottish gentleman. By the greatest coincidence, I learned two days later that Alex Kapranos was moving in next door. When he turned up with a case of wine and asked "is there anything else I can do"?… Well….
Then, as usual, colours and ideas get blurred under the rain, like when you get too close to your photographic subject (see image). Alex sang on THE DELIVERY (the first single) and he tells an amazing story. You'll have to listen, but this is social commentary not doo-wop. Or Doo-wop as social commentary. I love Alex, he's quiet rage all round. And he crooned like a black crow for us.
The idea of making two versions of what is the same song may be weird but it worked for us. Maybe it tells us we like complicated. REDELIVERED was like the worst birth ever. No epidural here. No pain, no gain. Like a slow suicide of a track, which suits us as this is clearly a non-conscious influence. It fizzes and hisses, this track is a snake. We picture them all from Vince Taylor to Smokey, from Vincent to Almond, one uptempo, one slower but it all comes down to the same shine really.
How about a black gold motorbike paint on this one? This track feels like an engine that was dismantled and re-assembled to ride properly. We released ‘Grease’, the original version of this tune years ago on Cosmo Vitelli’s label and it became some sort of It’s A fine Line’s sound signature, maybe even a bit of a ‘cliche’ of our music. But it has defined our collaboration in many ways, showing off our schizophrenic taste, our love for the dancefloor, old synths and echoes from the 50's and 60's. This is as vintage as we can get, even if this is a "new version" of an old track. “Revamped", we like that word.
This is a tricky one to describe. It's obviously Kraut. Very 2014-2015 but we started it so many years ago. Could not care less about its non-trendiness really. When slow became the new fast, we wanted to do fast anyway. Inner-contradictions that may make the album a bit of a patchwork but that's a complete will. Why would an album have a necessary strong unity. It's us anyway. First, there are two of us and we're probably 80% schizophrenic. This is a non-problem.
This is the race horse, brown and sweaty. We suppose it has a more organic feeling than some of the others but do we really think in these terms? Maybe after all. This is all about the pulse and Ross' toms. Le galop. Then there are bees, a lot of wind, crackles, thunder. It's a bit Wagner in watercolour, Epic as they say but once again, it's all about the layers of paint. Things are not always what they seem and we don't see any real aggression here. Let's call it The Charge of the Light Brigade with a wink. And yes, this is sweaty horse skin.
Our friend Harold Chlewicki took this picture at a party while we were playing. Disco Cluster is probably the more club friendly attempt of the album. It’s truly a take to try and gather some of our beloved influences: House music, Disco, Library music… But it’s still a serious tune, with a lot of work to it. It may start as a joke but it’s not, because that’s the way we are, we mean what we do, even in the party zone. It's kind of schizophrenic, like a fairground gone wrong. It's a trickster let's say. The color of vaguely fucked up red disco lights. Vision blurred by sweat. Some people can be quite disorientated by it but we think they'll get it by the end of the ride.
That’s a magnification of a magma rock, formed deep in the earth, deep in the crust and cooled slowly. Vaguement Froid can really be compared to that process, some synths here almost sound ‘mineral’. It’s a one of a kind, a melting of the warmth and asperities from vintage machine with an 80’s cold texture twist…hard to describe really but it’s burning and freezing at the same time. this "chaud-froid" is one of our constant.
This one was really a long shot, we went on so many different versions…It was meant to be part of the ‘Greasier’ family and eventually escaped to the colder fields of Detroit Electronica, but some pieces of "rock" remain. It’s a cowboy ride with a drum machine and a Ford Capri, brown fake leather, nothing too flashy, a mid-range model slightly customised, but it’s got pace and can take you far. A short intense trip.
What else but snow? We've always loved the Adolpshon & Falk original, but it really only works in Swedish. This may be the oldest track of the album, and the simplest. There was no way to get someone to redo the Swedish vocals (we did consider making up our own language at some point) and that song only works if kept simple. It's a weird one really – it kind of belongs somewhere between wave and lullaby, romanticism and something lurking behind. You have to make up stories to make music but this is one without one: the pure naive moment, the great pop simplicity but just Google "snowflake microscope" and you'll see that it's not that simple.
WEEKEND BOOM BOOM
Here is a picture of an alloy based on aluminium, one of the most important elements in the aeronautic industry development. The truth about DJs’ boom boom weekends, is far less glamorous than what people think. We love the parties, the travel and the dance but cannot promote the idea that everything is brilliant about being a DJ. This is far too cynical and hedonism unfortunately became some sort of a marketing requirement. Once the party has stopped, we spend most of our weekends in airports, not clubs, as C.A.R brilliantly tells it in her lyrics:
New rooms, check-in
Nose clogs, flight fogs
It's A Fine Line – It's A Fine Line is released by KTDJ on 26th August 2016 and can be pre-ordered HERE.