Franck Vigroux & Matthew Bourne

Radioland: Radio-activity Revisited

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“For me, there is a great nostalgia and melancholy about this album,” says Franck Vigroux, the composer and sound artist who, along with Perrier Jazz award-winning pianist and composer Matthew Bourne and installation artist Antoine Schmitt, is responsible for the Radioland project. Earlier in 2015, they re-imagined Kraftwerk’s 1975 masterpiece Radio-Activity live on the 40th anniversary of its release, using a formidable barrage of analog equipment and live visual imagery.

Vigroux and Bourne briefly considered faithfully replicating the original Radio-Activity, whose structural perfection feels hard to improve upon, before almost instantly dismissing the idea. “I thought, no, we don’t want to do it like this,” says Vigroux. “Why do this? So in the end, we kept the melodies, we kept the main element but then treated it in more of a jazz way.”

Jazz is apt. In the end, there are parallels between the way Radioland uses Kraftwerk’s original as a jumping off point musically and the journey John Coltrane undertakes on his version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic showtune “My Favorite Things.” While the melodies and rhythms of the original album are briefly referenced, this is not so much a cover version as a discovery version, a launchpad for analog and digital exploits that is far truer to the spirit of Kraftwerk than mere duplication. After all, it was Kraftwerk who constructed the grid from which myriad adventures in electronic music—from techno to IDM, house to EDM—have proceeded. This album is an homage to their vast influence.

And so, Radioland weaves its own highly individual mesh of electronics, including blizzards of analog, antique futurist percussive patterns, rewired melodies, processed versions of sounds recently discovered in space by NASA, short- and longwave radio samples, hurricanes of modulated electronics, vocoders ebbing and throbbing; it’s like the detritus of 40 years of electropop all colliding at once. However, Vigroux and Bourne’s backgrounds in improvisation enable them to master all these forces unleashed, occasionally dropping back into periods of near-silence, Stockhausen-esque moments of eerie free floating, in which all that’s audible is the sound of the universe breathing.

The resulting meditation on Radio-Activity does not exceed it but expands on it, draws out its implications, marvels out how far music has travelled since 1975, and how far ahead of their time Kraftwerk was. Radioland is a unique electronic experience; to listen to it is to immerse one’s self in a kind of awe.

Franck Vigroux & Matthew Bourne: Radioland: Radio-activity Revisited

Geiger Counter Franck Vigroux & Matthew Bourne
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Radioland Franck Vigroux & Matthew Bourne
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The Voice of Energy Franck Vigroux & Matthew Bourne
Antenna Franck Vigroux & Matthew Bourne
Radio Stars Franck Vigroux & Matthew Bourne
Uranium Franck Vigroux & Matthew Bourne
Transistor Franck Vigroux & Matthew Bourne
Ohm Sweet Ohm Franck Vigroux & Matthew Bourne

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