Steve Wilson. On music.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Liminanas - Crystal Anis (Hozac)

French pop marvels, the Liminanas, hail not from Paris, but from a town called Perpignan, nestled between the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean (also home to the also awesome Sonic Chicken 4).

The Liminanas self-titled debut, released in the States on Chicago’s Trouble in Mind label, was a sparkling collection of garage-rock and Velvet Underground inseminated Gallic pop. The follow up, Crystal Anis (on another Chicago underground stalwart, Hozac Records) is a shorter, sharper distillation of their aesthetic. Smart, simple and seductive - you’ll listen again and again.

Since the French pop of the Sixties and early Seventies, represented by singers in the Ye-Ye style (which could be generously interpreted to include everyone from France Gall and Sylvie Vartan to Jacques Dutronc and Francoise Hardy) and the sinuous, sexy songs of Serge Gainsbourg, Gallic pop has been pretty much a wasteland for three decades. The petit renaissance that began with bands like  Sonic Chicken 4 and the Plasticines showed the French could rock out with flair. And the Liminanas add additional support to a new case for Franco-rock.

Lionel and Marie (Liminanas) use spare, simple materials. Unlike many of the V.U. influenced ensembles since the Jesus and Mary Chain or Spacemen 3, Lionel Liminana abjures slick slabs of harmonic distortion, favoring instead discreet bits of Reed/Morrison guitar framings, more redolent of the Velvet’s third, self-titled album and Loaded than the merciless wave of White Light/White Heat. The band’s music also travels well with fellow neo-retro rockers like the Raveonettes and the Dum Dum Girls, even sometimes suggesting the Euro-cool of Stereolab.

 From the tremolo guitar on “Longanisse” (a sort of sausage, hmm?), and the flanged sounds of the title track, to the blasts of fuzz guitar on the choruses of “AF3458,” the Liminanas keep the textures fresh and changing. Lionel’s guitar parts play off  his Farfisa and Vox Continental style organ lines. Championed since the heyday of the sound by guys like Jeff “Monoman” Connolly in DMZ and the Lyres, these archetypal keyboard sounds are forever identified with Sixties garage-rock, a vibe associated more with one (or two) hit wonders like the Castaways, Five Americans and Seeds than the Beatles/Stones/Kinks canon.

Lionel’s vintage guitar and organ sonorities are driven by Marie’s basic, insistent drumming, and blended with everything from ukulele (“Salvation”) and glockenspiel (“Longanisse”). It’s a palette both bone simple and subtly complex and the Liminanas know the difference between embellishment and excess.