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PLAYED ON: Monday 1 June 2009

Phoenix

Gig info

To write their new album the Gallic quartet decamped to various locales away from their home studio in Versailles, searching for the stimulus necessary to transform the new material into a coherent LP. "We spent a long time waiting for the chemical reaction," says guitarist Laurent Brancowitz, "that moment when a song isn't just the sum of all of our parts, but it's something more. And the idea was to go someplace we'd never been." Actually, they went to a few: Brancowitz and his bandmates Thomas Mars (vocals), Christian Mazzalai (guitar), and Deck D'Arcy (bass) worked in the Parisian studio of 19th-century Romantic painter Théodore Géricault, chartered a houseboat on the Seine, and stayed at the Bowery Hotel in NYC for a month, among others. As the guitarist explains with self-effacing humour, "It was like our Orson Welles moment"

As you'd expect, the travelling took its toll, leaving only a trip back from whence they came as a means of allowing the songs to gel, this time in the Montmartre home of Philippe Zdar, the producer known for his work as half of French house duo Cassius. Zdar, a longtime friend, lent Phoenix his studio and wound up producing the record alongside the band — the first time Phoenix has recruited outside help.

The results collected on Wolfgang amount to easily the best album in their already-amazing catalogue. Featuring the band's signature melding of synthetics and organics, of sharp, danceable rhythms and intense guitars, of effortless melody with a considerable dose of aural panache, the album's ten songs are more layered than previous efforts. "On our last album, we were trying to make a minimalist, fat-free record… something austere, almost ascetic," Brancowitz explains. "This time we wanted to create something more elaborate." That's evident on electro-tinged slow jams like ‘Fences’, the sweeping and mostly instrumental ‘Love Like a Sunset’ and the spirited pop of lead-off track ‘Lisztomania’.

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