sat 25/05/2024

CD: Caravan Palace - <I°_°I> | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Caravan Palace -

CD: Caravan Palace -

Sublime, irresistible blend of dance, electro-swing and hot jazz

Never mind the symbols, just feel the beat

For a band that makes such a vivid and irresistibly danceable sound, Caravan Palace’s ascent – ten years and three albums now – has been a stealthy one, built on the traditional virtues of word-of-mouth, and selling out gigs. On paper, combining traditional “hot” jazz, the dance music of the 1950s, with the sleek hedonism of electronic dance music seems both unlikely and unpalatable. On stage, and on record, it’s a riot.

Grooving, syncopated rhythm and the slick, acoustic sound of brass and violin were what made the original music such a dance sensation. Adding the limb-twitching science of the Balearic beats scene has just made it more compelling. It probably helps being French, where hot dance jazz emerges from the cosmopolitan manouche tradition of Reinhardt and Grapelli, so much sexier than the British trad scene, all sweat-stained Trilbys and dandruff.

Sometimes you wonder if the lyrics have had an accident with Google translate

For all the jazz, this is above all dance music – there’s no time for improvised exploration – and it's arguably becoming more electronic with each new album. It’s at its best combining the two, when Camille Chapelière’s sax and clarinet, Hughes Paven’s violin and Antoine Toustou’s (aka Mighty Mezz) trombone add some acoustic texture and cute bursts of melody. The stand-outs are “Midnight”, which sets up a sultry baritone saxophone melody, over which the beat dances, while “Lone Digger” mixes sax and synth melody with hip-hop lyrics and a dance rhythm. In this sort of form, Caravan Palace could dig a groove in reinforced concrete. There are some dance anthems, such as “Lay Down”, the final track, and they’re good, but much less distinctive.

The songs are short, and set up a huge, bouncing groove straight away. Lead singer Zoe Colotis’ demonstrative vocals emphasise the beat, and at live gigs, her flapper-burlesque dance routine gets the crowd moving. Much of the time she sings in English, and – my only query about some of these songs – sometimes you wonder if the lyrics have had an accident with Google translate. “I’ve got many tattoos,” she sings on “Tattoos”. Que? Sometimes the mystery of not understanding is preferable. Just get down and dance.


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