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Electric Independence

With a name as good as Passarella Death Squad, it was only a matter of time before this London three-piece got round to releasing an amazing record. Well, folks, that time is now. Having formed in November 2003, it has taken them nearly four years, but...

Emilie from Passarella Death Squad

Matthew Dear

Birds Of Delay playing live in a swimming pool in Manchester. Photo by Theydon Bois

ith a name as good as Passarella Death Squad, it was only a matter of time before this London three-piece got round to releasing an amazing record. Well, folks, that time is now. Having formed in November 2003, it has taken them nearly four years, but their debut 12-inch EP is finally out on the Republic of Desire label and features the tracks “Ima” and “Blackout” as well as a couple of remixes from Motor (banging) and Midnight Mike (sultry). Unhurried and refined, Passarella Death Squad’s exquisitely poised torch songs recall The Ronettes if they’d emerged, stoned and serene, out of late-70s Berlin; or perhaps the Velvet Underground if they’d made the slowest, softest Belgian new beat record in 1984; or even Siouxsie Sioux if she’d fronted the Cocteau Twins rather than the Banshees. On first impression, the band—French singer Emilie Labisser and electronics guys Danny Broddle and Kingsley Gratrick—appear to take themselves rather seriously and, as if to illustrate this, have written songs based on laugh-out-loud page-turners by William Burroughs (“Blackout”) and Manson family member Leslie Van Houten (“Ima”). They’re awkward interviewees too, possibly because this is their first one and they’re quite precious about how they want to be perceived. They definitely don’t want to be portrayed as some moody goth outfit, which they’re not. No way. Emilie met Danny and Kingsley after she answered an ad they had placed in the NME. The ad went something like: “Female singer wanted for dark electronic noise. Must sound like Siouxsie Sioux and Marlene Dietrich.” By the way, you might have heard of them before. Danny and Emilie also run a clothing company called Passarella Death Squad that makes high-quality T-shirts which sell for £50 in boutiques around the world. The shirts feature tasteful illustrations of naked girls in compromising positions with a descriptive title written in Italian or French, such as “Siréne Sous Heroine” (“Mermaid On Heroin”) or “Les Salopes Qui Aiment” (“The Sluts Who Love It”). Vice: It’s a great name, Passarella Death Squad. Danny: Passarella is Argentinian, nothing to do with me. Daniel Passarella was the Argentinian football captain in 1978. My real surname is Broddle. But Passarella Death Squad sounds a damn sight better than Broddle Death Squad. No, doesn’t have quite the same ring. The words work together well. When I was 10 and I bought the Passarella football shirt—seeing that Daniel Passarella had the same first name as me was quite a big deal. I always had this shirt on my wall, still do. Death Squad is from B-movies like She Devils On Wheels. Crap films I watched when I was younger. Emilie, how did you end up in London? Emilie: I’m from a village with a population of 900 in the mountainous Alsace region of France. It’s very beautiful but very quiet, that’s why I came to London. Actually I came to London because my parents kicked me out. Apparently I was very, very bad. I had “a phase”. I cut off school, did too many drugs and drank a lot and I was partying too much—usual stuff you do when you are 18 years old. I’ve been in London for about eight years now. PDS plan to play live and have another record out by Christmas, so lots to look forward to there. Other notable things happening much sooner than that include the release of the excellent new Matthew Dear album, Asa Breed. For some reason, in the last week I’ve had two dreams in which Matthew Dear has appeared. Odd, normal dreams, nothing embarrassing or anything like that. I’ve never met the guy. Anyway, Ghostly’s debonair figurehead, Sam Valenti IV, thinks Asa Breed is the best record his label has put out. Dear also has a number of Audion efforts slithering around right now, including remixes of the Chemical Brothers and Black Strobe, as well as another dull False single, “Fed On Youth”/“Face The Rain”, for Minus. Gifted as he is, you get the impression he can crank out 10-minute Audion and False tracks on demand, which is why an album as orthodox and enchanting as Asa Breed is such a surprise. Even when he restricts himself to the standard three-minute song format, as he does here, Dear, who sings throughout like Jamie Lidell on Xanax, manages to conjure up woozy, melancholy pop with goosebump melodies. I mean, it’s a great album and everything, and touch-wood it’s a crossover smash for Ghostly, but really, it’s still a pretty weird record. Somehow it feels wrong, in 2007, to write a few lines on the new Miss Kittin & The Hacker single, which must mean it’s the right thing to do. Out on Goodlife at the end of June, “Hometown” is eight minutes of serene “Stock Exchange”-style synth-bliss that boasts some of the smoochiest “ahh-ahh”-ing from Kittin in recent memory. As she muses about Grenoble, her home town, Michel Hacker rides one of his irresistible “1982” Italo specials. With this and a highly enjoyable new Felix Da Housecat album due in September, it’s like 2001’s electroclash summer all over again. Vice featured British drone duo Birds Of Delay looking totally unflappable a few issues back but unless you catch them live, it’s unlikely you’ll hear what they can do. Most of their FX-drenched efforts are self-released on CD-Rs and split-seven-inches, some on their Alcoholic Narcolepsy label, and they can be an abrasive listen. At last month’s Futuresonic festival in Manchester, the Birds’ Luke and Steve set up and played in an empty swimming pool in a Victorian bath house in Rusholme. Using cheap keyboards and pedals they generated a lush, warm drone for about half-an-hour. When it ended people clapped politely and that was it. Nothing scary or confrontational, just 30 minutes of good old-fashioned droning. Other memorable moments from the festival included: 1) Faust not allowing support act The Chap onstage to perform because none of Faust’s stage furniture could be moved even one millimetre from its position; 2) Kraftwerk’s Wolfgang Flür inappropriately DJing glossy Ibiza techno at the UFO vs Tramp! psychedelic love-in; and 3) the Carbon after-party in a Salford warehouse where Legowelt, Ceephax, Clark, Alexander Robotnick and Cylob battered revellers. Robotnick—Italian Maurizio Dami—is 57 years old and had had one hour’s sleep in two days. “I’m really tired,” he sighed as we shared a taxi back into the city at 6 AM. PIERS MARTIN