When I was in France, while the Tour de France was snaking its sweaty, wild-eyed way through the countryside, my tent was pitched high on a hill, which in turn was overlooked by Mont Ventoux. It’s a huge, imposing lump of a mountain, undulating, steep and bereft of trees and other life near the summit. The penultimate stage of the Tour finished on the top of it, where presumably the riders fell straight off their bikes into a huge heap of cramping limbs and destroyed will.
In the next tent was a crazy Norwegian. Most Norwegians are slightly crazy, in a winsome and carefree way, and Thor – that was his name – was no different. He was visiting to see the tour and pootled off each day on his bicycle, returning looking as fresh as a daisy in the evening. Frankly, I wondered if he rode as far as the local bar, and spent the day sipping a Pastis or two, watching Le Tour on Eurosport.
At the end of the day when the cyclists passed through, he returned, puffing at bit as usual. ‘Did you see the Tour?’ I asked him. ‘Yes, yes, it was super nice,’ he replied. Then I asked him where he’d spectated. ‘Oh,’ he said with a sniff and a nod towards the vast mountain, ‘at the top of Ventoux.’
He’d cycled some 100Km, up the mega-hill, to catch the official riders finishing. ‘It got a bit cold up there,’ he said, ‘ so I found some newspapers and stuffed them under my shirt.’ Norwegians are crazy.
Bands that have a similar waft of lunacy about them are the ones worth listening to. They go the extra, mile without even realising. Take today’s New Band, Basketball. They say that they’re from Vancouver/Split/Barcelona. For a band that needs to rehearse, chat and you know, be a band, they aren’t making things easy for themselves.
That fresh lunacy slops freely all over their grubby, bouncy sound, hoovering up ideas and scrabbled bits of sound from here, there and everywhere, and spitting out an all-new, all-cracked hybrid. S.I.E.M.P.R.E gibbers, shudders and wobbles bassily, flipping from one sound to another, an exercise in orchestrated over-productiveness. It’s a thrilling soundsmash, the frequent changes of direction proving an exciting virtue, not a gimmick.
Journey To The End Of The Night incorporates the feel (but not the sound) of the currently fashionable-again Afrobeat feel – possibly by accident, such is Basketball’s free-wheeling direction. It’s no gutter-level stab for prescience, but is appropriately and deftly interpolated into a shimmering, bright and alive song.
Interweaving the sound of many cultures into one new sound is a practice fraught with po-faced, disaster-hued hazards. Basketball avoid this easily. They are a multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-faceted motley crew, who’ll tickle your fancy, and leave you bewildered by their cunning. A wild and unexpected treat. Listen here!