French indie electronic duo The Penelope[s] mixes a distinctly pop sensibility that draws on indie rock from the early 90’s with elements of synth-pop and techno that appeal to home listeners as well as club kids.
Axel Basquiat (composition, voice) and Vincent Tremel (textures, processing, production) met in high school in the suburbs of Paris. Soon after that, they released their first single in 2005, an electro cover of the Sisters Of Mercy song Alice, which gained the attention of DJ Hell, who put out their next production on his International Deejay Gigolo label. With the release of their first album, The Arrogance of Simplicity, on Vitalic’s Citizen Records in 2006, their fame grew quickly. Within a year The Penelope[s] had played the best European festivals (Sonar, Razzmatazz, Dour), opened for Human League and Ladytron, been named alongside Justice, Sebastian, and The Klaxons as the revelation of the year by the readers of Trax Magazine, France’s Dance culture bible, and Axel even earned a Japanese nickname “the black Iggy Pop”.
The band’s unique style caught the eye of noted French designer Agnes b., who championed them as she had with Air and Sebastien Tellier. The Penelope[s] rocked Agnes b. fashion shows in Paris and Tokyo, appeared on a number of musical projects she commissioned, including the PS1 Wake Up Sessions and the Jeunes Gens Modernes compilation featuring the French Post Punk movement, and Agnes b.’s creative team even designed all the band’s album artowrk. The Penelope[s] also have a knack for literature and featured award winning novelist Chloe Delaume as a song writer and singer on their first album. Their first single, Demian (featuring singer Deirdre of Ekova), is named after the eponymous Herman Hesse novel.
This variety of interest translates into their upcoming album Priceless Concrete Echoes. Produced by Black Strobe’s Arnaud Rebotini, the album mashes Shoegazing, New York Disco, Punk and Electronica. Nostalgic hints pervade this collage, evoking at times the gestures of The Cars or New Order (Licked by Love) or Ride (The Heat Goes On). The overall picture is clearly dominated by the instincts of the European dance scene: the bass is often slapped, hi-hats are multi-layered and the songs’ structure do not follow the traditional codes. The Penelope[s] are not afraid to shine a light on the disco ball (Stuck in Lalaland) or pay homage to the hedonism of the early rave movement (Your Plan For Happiness). And when The Penelope[s] cover The Beastie Boys’ Sabotage, they do it with the joyful abandon that brings to mind Hot Chip rather than the originators of the track. A few guest play alongside the duo. Prominent among them is Samy Birnbach. The Belgium-based Israeli, better known to European audiences as DJ Morpheus runs the highly-coveted Belgian label SSR and is responsible for the influencial Freezeone compilation series as well as recent projects on Tigersushi. Here however Morpheus lends the deep, lucious voice that brought him fame in the 80’s as the singer of Minimal Compact to 5 songs that he co-writes. Other guests include another Minimal Compact member, Malka Spiegel, as well as Ekova vocalist Dierdre Dubois.
Priceless Concrete Echoes will be released on August 18th on the newly formed NY label Le Plan.