By Jordan Mooney.
Music is an infectious, atmospheric device that anybody can create..but it takes a particularly special group of people to create imagery and atmosphere than can be interpreted differently by every listener.
A lot of groups tend to go for very strong, sometimes obvious themes to ensure that they – and the people buying their music – are on the same page. This means firm narratives and obvious sentences, and, to be fair, it often works in their favour. Most of today’s pop bands are making a thousand times more than we’d really know what to do with, and are about as subtle as a freight train loaded with incredibly volatile explosives crashing into the side of a community centre, for instance…
I’m getting off topic. Funny how that happens…
Either way, as successful as blatancy can be, it can suck out a lot of fun of listening to another person’s thoughts and ideas. Subtlety can be a great weapon in making a musician memorable, while still basically doing the job of getting an idea or concept out there.
Especially when it comes to dark themes. Such as the end of the world, sexual overtones and cannibalism…
Cue Sleeping Village Orchestra, with their debut album, The Last Meal On Earth.
This is a spectacular record. This group has suddenly popped out of nowhere, like a group of mad scientists leaving their laboratory. The door has opened on a long-abandoned barn when a group of men stumble out, rubbing their eyes blindly, holding a plastic disc firmly between their pale fingers.
The result is an epiphany-inducing hallucinogenic sort of record, a long walk through a post-apocalyptic environment – music that appears from a sudden silence.
Characterised by trundling guitars, a humming, mumbling bass and the scraping of knives, this entire record brings smoke and the flickering of a fire cooking up a ripe lump of human flesh.
It feels like a record trying to justify the realms it lurks within in a sleepy complacency. It’s all so relaxed and calm, yet speaks of blood being a delicious treat. It’s all very seductive and enticing, but has every intention of carving you up.
The world has ended, ladies and gentlemen. You’re strolling down the remains of a country road, surrounded by meadows, ramshackle fences. The dirt path is the only sound you can hear as it crunches under your sore, burning feet. The entire world is covered in a thick, purple haze from whatever has induced this shattering disaster. Despite the horror, despite all being destroyed and the world having being lost, surrounded by the stench of burning and inhaling ash, there’s a certain beauty to it. The world is a desert now, your desert, and while you own it? To hell with it, you might as well bloody enjoy it!
As you walk, you come across an ageless fellow leaning against the remains of an old stone marker. He’s smoking on a ludicrously long pipe, a wide-brim hat covering his eyes. His clothes are dirty and torn, but have an element of grandeur to them. He has a guitar with him…
His gentle, pleasant, even rather attractive demeanour is completely non-threatening. You go with him…
If it’s any consolation, you were so delicious he wrote an album about you?
The album really does feel like sleepy European villagefolk producing a bizarre realm of Gothic music. It’s all so dark, timeless, yet so non-threatening and hypnotic it could probably reel anybody in, until they realise the debauchery they’re actually listening to. The guitars, brought forward by Marco, are absolutely gorgeous, continuously changing in pitch and pace throughout, and providing a perfect main to the soundtrack of vocalist, Seb, singing out to his partially-willing prey.
Seb’s vocals are further enhanced by the strength of his accent, the thick French pronunciation brings a whole new realm of smooth, simmering atmosphere to what’s already a fine, roasting treat of human torso, fried in butter with a bit of garlic and pesto.
The bass, brought to the slightly less metaphorical than usual table by Yann, is constantly rumbling and strumming in a full, robust tone, while the drums, subtle and omnipotent, seem to occasionally disappear into the mist, echoing mysteriously while their player, Yudo, scrapes knives or, from the sounds of it, hip bumps a tambourine.
With a hiss to the audio, as if from an old vinyl player, it all polishes into a beautifully ambient piece of music. Whether you listen to it whole heartedly or simply as background noise, it still has the same effect – It’s timeless, impossible to place, and so subtly vicious and seductively smooth it could probably take hundreds of people and have them laid out in a broad baking tray before one of them finally realises something might be afoot.
Elegant, despicably dark and so hypnotic it should come with a warning, this little piece from France is one of the best, one of the funkiest, one of the most hypnotic releases we’ve had thrown into our inbox. Sleeping Village Orchestra might not break any sales records, but they might convince you to let them break open your rib cage.
We couldn’t resist their allure ourselves, and we rather foolishly invited them to the non-existent Cat on the Wall towers for an interview. We lost three non-existent interns and a secretary to them, but ultimately, you have to make sacrifices in this game. It seemed right.
Let’s hope you agree…
COTW: Hello there and welcome to Cat on the Wall! Please, introduce yourself to our readers!
Seb: We’re 4 musicians: Ludo, on drums, Yann, on bass, Marco, on guitars and myself, Seb, on Vocals. We also have another Seb – he’s our sound engineer. (He’s the man who recorded, mixed, and mastered the album!)
COTW: Sleeping Village Orchestra…tell us what it’s all about!
Seb: Sleeping Village Orchestra is like an extension of our preceding progressive-hardcore band called Sleeping Village. It was a tribute to Black Sabbath (Sleeping Village, of course, being a track from their first release.)
During this early period, we rehearsed in a garage, in a small village. It was very peaceful place.. while we played some dirty and muddy noise ! We found the name very appropriate as a result. As time went on, we started working on darker, more atmospheric music, so the name sounded even better..!
When we started a new project, with slow, acoustic songs, we decided to add “orchestra”. It sounded more mysterious… We also hope to perform some musical arrangements with further orchestrations (horns, piano, violin…maybe later, when we’ll have more time and money!) – so one day, we might really be an orchestra..!
COTW: You’ve quite literally sprung up this year out of…well, seemingly nowhere! Who are you all, what do you all do? Have you been in bands in the past? ..Are you human?!
Seb: Some of us are humans but we can’t tell you who they are, it’s a secret.
We’ve all been playing music for many years, but this is the first time that we’ve done so without lots of saturation and screaming. Actually, with Yann, I scream in a noise-hardcore band called Lost Pagan!
Marko: I work on a solo project called Dead Meat Jazz. This is a mix between ambient music, drone, jazz and sacred music from Tibet. You can hear some influences from Coil, Halo Manash, Tuxedomoon…
COTW: Your debut release is like nothing we’ve really heard before. What were the inspirations that made up such an alternative sounding record?
Seb: We have tons of inspirations. We all listen to very different music. Marco composes the music, I generally write lyrics, then, we play and arrange together. When we love it, it’s over!
Marko: with Seb, our sound engineer, we spoke a lot about the kind of sound that we wanted on this album. We ultimately decided to record it in live conditions, with a 70’s spirit and a jazzy approach. We wanted it to sound natural and not overproduced.
COTW: The record has a really thick, dark, smoky sort of atmosphere to it. Is there a linking story, or central idea to it all?
Seb: The record isn’t really a concept album, we just chose the songs that we loved the most. All the same… we are attracted by dark, weird, smoky atmospheres, and there are some recurring themes : the food, the flesh, the meat, the violence, the love, the death…
With the title, the name of the band, the artwork and all those weird elements, I hope the listeners imagine their own story, create their own images.
COTW: The name, ‘Last Meal on Earth’, is incredibly evocative – as are the lyrics, the song titles…even the band’s tagline. Who’s responsible for writing it all up?
Seb: I am responsible, but don’t call the police please!
By the way, I’m not the only guilty party… Marco comes up with ideas like themes, titles… sometimes we write together, merging our two sick brains…
COTW: Are you particularly influenced by any other bands, perhaps films, television, or real world ideas?
Seb: I started to ‘really’ sing (while I screamed in my precedent bands!) with an admiration for singers like Josh Home from Queens Of the Stone Age, Chris Goss from Masters Of Reality, or Ian Curtis from Joy Division. I essentially listen to hard-rock, hardcore, stoner, doom, sludge or hip-hop music, so I am not influenced by blues, pop, or folk music. Maybe that’s partly why you think that our record is so alternative!
I don’t have a television, but I’m a big cinema fan. I suppose it can be an influence to some of our lyrics.. (movies of Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, Terry Gilliam, Paul Verhoeven, David Cronenberg, Gaspar Noé, William Friedkin and more and more and more..!)
The real world can inspire too, but it generally scares me! (hence why I play music instead!).
Marko: With my influences, I can name The Doors, The Swans, The Delta Blues, Dead Can Dance, some obscure acid-rock or acid-folk bands, William Burroughs, everything that
concerns esotericism, old beliefs and ritualistic practices. Delicious food to eat with relish and the history of cannibalism…
COTW: With Sleeping Village Orchestra being such a recent arrival, do you have any particular set ups for gigs, etc? Do you plan to go for a theatrical sort of approach, or simply playing to the audience with smoke and lights?
Seb: Live, we try to link the songs with atmospheric transitions, we use a lot of effects, and we try to share our emotions with the audience. If people are silent when we’ve finished for a few seconds, then, finally applause, we consider that a successful performance!
COTW: And what is planned for the future of Sleeping Village Orchestra?
Seb: In the future, we’ll be playing some gigs, play more music, and continue to compose songs about food and monsters.
Ludo: Oh, and we’re also looking for a manager or a label. Or even a rich American guy who would like to produce us. So we get a chance to give shamanic world its rightful property…SVO to listen to… with no control and a good glass of wine!
COTW: Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us! I wish you all the best and hope we shall see you here again soon!
Marko: Thanks Jordan – and long live Cat on the Wall!
While Cat on the Wall may live on, those non-existent interns and that non-existent secretary are gone forever. Only two days from retirement, too…tragic.
Sleeping Village Orchestra really are a brand new arrival to the scene, and really do need your support. For an utterly measly recommended sum of four Euros – roughly £3.50, you’ve honestly got nothing to lose. 9 tracks for less than a meal at McDonalds?
A broth of smoked human meat or a McDonalds cheeseburger? I know what I’d choose.
Go like them on Facebook, too. Indulge a little. Just go easy on the fingers, there’s not much meat on them and they’re terribly expensive.