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Emilie Simon ‘The Big Machine’


New York City. It’s a birthplace of artistic hybrids and now home to French singer-songwriter Emilie Simon.

It was here, in the heart of the Big Apple that the seeds of her third full-length release, The Big Machine, were planted and nurtured.

“After releasing records back to back and non-stop touring, I needed a break,” says Emilie, who sings almost exclusively in English on The Big Machine. “I wanted to experience some things for myself and not necessarily think about music. I upped and left with no microphone, no piano. I even forbade myself to go near a computer for a year and a half. I wanted to see what I was capable of without my usual comforts around me.”

This self-imposed regime could only last so long before Emilie tentatively started touching her instruments again. Guided by her intuition and with a different attitude to composing and singing, she recorded her feelings day by day. She approached songs not as something magical or detached from the real world but as a sketchbook documenting the sensory overload that is New York.

The first two Emilie Simon releases were built around the equilibrium of sensual songwriting and complex old-school electronics. For someone who had never really tried working within a group, this time she looked for musicians capable of bringing to life what was in her head.

“I started playing the new tracks at the Roxy in Los Angeles. Then I had a residency in New York for five weeks, during which I forced myself each night to sing a new song that I’d just composed. The buzz grew so much that towards the end of the run some people couldn’t get in because there was no more space.”

The shows encouraged her to carry on with a recording that was practically conceived live and had a firm structure by the time other musicians joined the fray.

“I wanted it to be the transcript of the impression I had of New York with both a black and white musical feel to it, urban, heavy on bass and drums and with explosions of colour and light from the synths.”

The songs were allowed the space to be more daring and varied, showcasing – but not over-exposing – Emilie’s crisp-toned voice whilst still keeping a foot in more carnal waters (Nothing To Do With You) and giving a knowing wink and passing nod to Kate Bush and David Bowie. She ventures into unknown territory on the seductive The Cycle with its hints of 70s and 80s pop and at the other end of the spectrum, the astonishing Rocket to the Moon where she transforms into a sultry off Broadway late-night club singer.

Less fussy than previous albums, the breathtaking result is surprisingly rich and confirms Emilie’s talents, proving definitively she’s not just good for tinkering with machines. Inventive and charming, as she always is, The Big Machine is Emilie Simon’s most accessible and personal record to date.

Post by Cartell Music 25/05/10

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