Envision, if you will, an ancient city as it was being constructed. Maybe something Mesopotamian, built long before engineers with the power of virtual design software at their disposal, before massive load haulers, pneumatic cranes, Ditch Witches, laser levels, etc. Who then was the builder of cities? With only the power of many (likely indentured) hands, a designer would have had to construct something from the ground up - both in material and idea. Roman sound manipulator Andrea Di Carlo is the modern equivalent of that designer. With only a handful of modern tools and his own ideas about musical architecture, he seeks to build musical cities much larger than himself under the moniker French Teen Idol.
For a man alone, Di Carlo presents an impressive view from the moment you set foot inside his massive city. With aural glitch stutters and gorgeous synthetic backgrounds he creates a picturesque beginning to an experience that seems impossible to have been created by only one set of hands. The entrance grows from these simple roots into a more complex form that wanders peacefully for several minutes. A nearly flawless post-rock intro, except that no team constructed this, and knowing of the singular designer behind El Siete Es la Luz creates a sort of confusion of the senses.
The designer states that, along with his normal set of tools, he’s used a more extensive guitar backing than in his other creations. Its addition is again stunning and nearly perfect in execution, evidenced by the introduction into “I Want George Soros". Nowhere in his design is the creator’s skill more blatantly obvious than here, a section so ambitious it creates its own province. What strikes the ears for six minutes could have been constructed from a blueprint with an Alfred Hitchcock-level of attention to detail, planned out from raw materials by the second. A steady stream of high-pitched guitar wails and addictive drum kicks are soon drowned out by remarkably well-done background hymn vocals. From the second minute onward, they resemble something more cinematic than any solo project should logically be. Modern tools, indeed.
El Siete Es la Luz is meant to be riddle both in name and experience. The meaning of this city’s name has been left up to the individual. “War is Kind” and “Fragile Chords” give justification: both are as mysterious as they are unique. Any experience can only have so many heartwrenching moments, Paris can only have so many towers, and so also do these tracks more pleasantly wander along with the wanderer to prevent an overwhelming of the senses.
This reflects the skill of Di Carlo at creating an impressive facade around every corner of his creation. His patience is clear as the listener’s path slowly opens up once again into grandiosity during the walk through the “Last Train to Santiago”. Here again the designer’s skill is clear through use of repetition rather than reckless ambition; the same essential elements are contained in these, the more mammoth of his creations. An effervescent guitar line is strung between the windows of buildings created by fast-paced toe-tap drums. Without overdoing it, the sound of a steam engine on tracks mixes with a pained vocal reverb to paint the walls.
The exit from this walled expanse of noise consists of seventeen minutes over two tracks. Despite the size of the overall experience, this exit comes entirely too soon; it’s difficult to imagine your exit is from the same place from which you came. The journey along was similar enough in scope and material, but somehow in its crafting you never once got bored with the architecture. As the final and beautiful “Prendre Son Temps” ambles past your view you sadly leave this place that you already know you’ll return to many times…
El Siete Es La Luz is the third full-length release from French Teen Idol, who is, logically, an Italian artist. Specifically, this is the project of Andrea Di Carlo, who is from Rome. For this release, he decided to go all Radiohead on us and distribute it himself, mostly electronically (available anywhere MP3s are sold), although you can order a CD from his website if you insist on being old-fashioned like that.
The thing is, this is a rather worthwhile release. Di Carlo makes a sort of mellow droning electronic post-rock that is similar to the work of Worriedaboutsatan or Lights Out Asia. Heck, there is even some M83 in the mix, making this a fascinating pastiche of the current wave of electro post-rock.
The album starts off with Rome Shrugged, in which a stuttering IDM beat clatters beside some long droning distorted guitar notes, in a paean to the fast-paced life of a modern Roman. He follows this with I Want George Soros, in which guitar and drums start off in a vaguely Robin Guthrie like vein (similar to his work on the 3:19 soundtrack), before suddenly veering off into an explosion of noise, with the guitar riffing fast under distortion, the drums pounding away, and Di Carlo singing wordlessly in long drawn out notes that seem to stretch the tune out even further.
After that ruckus, Di Carlo calms things down with War Is Kind, at least initially. This song starts off slowly, with a faint tinkling of piano and some synth strings. Then after about 2 minutes, a voice comes in, distorted and harsh. This is Daniela Di Rocco, the sole collaborator on the record, and she recites some depressing poetry about the terror of war, while strange echoes and mangled percussion (which sounds kind of like automatic weapons fire) is layered in the background. It starts off lovely, and becomes eerie. Well done.
Di Carlo does let us relax on Fragile Chords, the next track, which is an ambient mix of synths in different layers. It is actually very nicely done, and the tranquility is needed after War Is Kind. The next two tracks, The Constant and Last Train To Santiago, are lovely post-rock tunes that remind me of Lights Out Asia, or some of the work of Port-Royal. Guitars echo in layers, gliding up against synths and simple drum riffs. I do not mean to downplay these two songs, as they are both rather lovely in a sparse and mellow sort of way.
Next Di Carlo gives us the title track, which starts with what sounds like a sample of a train engine chugging along, before he layers in some nicely echoing piano work. The piano carries the song, providing both rhythm and melody against a faint synth background.
Finally we have Prendre Son Temps, which clocks in at almost twelve and a half minutes. This is sort of an overture of what Di Carlo is doing, starting with a long epic piano and synths section, before exploding with loud drumming and tortured guitars, which then fade into an ambient haze, then disappear altogether. After a minute or two of silence, he is back with a frenetic electro beat, clattering away under some guitarwork like he used on The Constant. I wonder if this is supposed to be a hidden track? If so, well, the "hidden track" phenomena kind of breaks down when you are distributing your music as a series of files… Is this two tracks separated by a long pauses, or one long track with a silent interlude in the middle? I dunno, but i guess it doesn't matter too much.
I have to admit that i enjoy El Siete Es La Luz. French Teen Idol are doing things that are exactly up my alley, and i think that many of our loyal readers will find much to enjoy on this record, er, download. Find much to enjoy in this download. That sounds weird when i read it back, but i guess i am just not really familiar with the new lingo yet.
Artist MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/frenchteenidol