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Electric Independence

This month’s Electric Independence is dedicated to all the stubborn romantics who spend hours and hours in tiny rooms, slaving over arcane hardware and crunching numbers in a tireless bid to create the music that comes to them in their wildest dreams...

Heartbreak live. Photo by Theydon Bois'

Gatto Fritto

Nicolas Courtin at home

This month’s Electric Independence is dedicated to all the stubborn romantics who spend hours and hours in tiny rooms, slaving over arcane hardware and crunching numbers in a tireless bid to create the music that comes to them in their wildest dreams. For those among you who find total happiness losing yourself in psychedelic electronic disco, it’s time to introduce you to your new favourite artist. His name is Nicolas Courtin. He’s 31 and lives in Lille, northern France, where he works as a doctor. If you’ve listened to the CBS online radio ( this year, you may have heard Courtin’s exquisite tracks. Mostly, they unfurl in a manner that evokes Burt Bacharach rearranging Kraftwerk’s The Man Machine as a cosmic ballet, the whole thing directed by Black Devil’s Bernard Fevre while Richard James watches from the wings. Trippy, tuneful and intoxicating, Courtin’s music has a timeless quality to it and manages to convey feelings of innocence and wonder. This wasn’t so much in evidence on his first EP, “Asteroides”, released in 2003 on Munich’s mighty Erkrankung Durch Musique. Four years later and he’s produced the six-song mini-LP, Les Yeux Fermés, which can be bought through the site. Ciel Sonore is an organisation set up by Courtin and his friends to nurture and promote this kind of music. Les Yeux Fermés is their first release, and they’ll have to work hard to top it. When we spoke to Courtin, he was filling in a for a GP in the villages around Lille. Vice: The musical progression from “Asteroides” to Les Yeux Fermés is remarkable. Why the dramatic shift? Nicolas Courtin: I continued making music for a while after “Asteroides”, but I stopped. I had a very difficult love story that finished in a catastrophic way. When I actually could get up from that, I switched synths and I made Les Yeux Fermés. What was the idea behind that record? Originally I wanted to merge the progressive rock and Krautrock I listened to in my teens with the electro style I listen to today. At first sight there is no relation between both styles, so the idea was to create a link. Regarding my influences, I would say there is a golden triangle of Kraftwerk, Ennio Morricone and François de Roubaix. But the concept behind Les Yeux Fermés is basically inspired from a book, The Art Of Dreaming by Carlos Castaneda. I was looking for a poorly explored theme in the actual electronic music world, and I thought the ideas expressed in this book did the job. That book explains the practical application of lucid dreaming. How did you translate this into sound? I tried to recreate the magical ambiance related in this book. When I started making the tracks, I originally intended to do something like a style exercise. How do I proceed exactly? That’s a secret, but I can reveal some funny things. For instance, in the first track, “Les Yeux Fermés”, the bass drum was made by beating the arm of an armchair, and the hi-hat came from two coffee spoons. What parallels have you drawn between medicine and music? Oh, no. For me, it’s two different lives. If there’s anything that gets us more aroused than melting into that new Smith N Hack single, “Falling Stars”/“Space Warrior”, it has to be encountering older men in Soho basements who promise us lots of freaky shit. No, no, not that kind of thing. That’s sick. What happened? We meet a guy called Andy Blake in Sounds of the Universe. He runs a small company called Dissident Distribution ( and was selling a batch of his latest singles. These aren’t just any singles, it transpires, once we get them home. These are mind-boggling avant-disco jams by three acts whose names you’ll struggle to forget. First there’s “False Energy” by Binary Chaffinch. Let’s write that again: Binary Chaffinch. This is a stunning 11-minute synth-funk oddity by Milo Smee, Chrome Hoof’s drummer. “What’s so cool about it is there’s an effortlessness about that tune,” says Blake, who we called a few days later. “Milo worked his nuts off to make it sound really good but even though there’s all these disparate elements, once you’ve heard it once, it works in that order. There are some big leaps but they’re handled with real class.” Then there’s Gatto Fritto with “Clem’s Bounce” and “Invisible College”. “Gatto Fritto is my mate, Ben,” says Blake. “It means “fried cat” in Italian. If you type it into the internet you get what you think is a recipe for cooking a cat, but it’s actually for cooking catfish. It’s also the name of a nightclub in a book I can’t remember.” He means Aleister Crowley’s Diary of a Drug Fiend. Another of these one-sided singles is “Giorgio Carpenter” by Cage And Aviary. As the title implies, it’s a noirish prowler a la Moroder. Blake himself is a total vinyl collector nut who says things like, “I’m just on a ridiculous digging mission at the moment”. He’ll be releasing more incredible records in the run up to Christmas, and 2008 is his for the taking. Blake’s cosmic cartel are also working with another London producer, Ali Renault, whose music we’ve admired for a while now. As Cestrian (, Renault has recently released glacial electro on Bunker (the new “Artists Anonymous #3”) and MNX (“The Walled City EP”), but we like him best when he teams up with singer Sebastian Muravchik for their fantastic Italo-inspired outfit, Heartbreak. No mere pastiche, Heartbreak write cybernetic tear-jerkers and zooming power-disco hits, sung with a lot of emotion by Muravchik, a captivating frontman. Not only have Heartbreak put out two faultless 12-inches on their Lycra label, including a split-single with Belgium’s Revolving Eyes, they’re also a killer live act. Muravchik dances like he’s possessed by the spirits of Den Harrow and Freddie Mercury. Renault wears a Mexican wrestling mask. It’s a strange dynamic but it produces terrific energy. Thanks to Gaya Donadio from Hinouema who got us into see Sutcliffe Jugend support Sonic Youth at the Roundhouse. Kevin Tomkins and Paul Taylor’s power electronics cabaret was fun. In November, Gaya’s throwing a 10-year birthday party for Hinouema at the Slimelight in Angel on November 23/24. SJ will play, as will Peter Sotos. Rumours are he's doing a music/spoken word thing. If you know Sotos, you should have a good idea of what to expect. PIERS MARTIN