Just like the US election, one of the best things about closely following the development of the music world is that at any moment you can still be completely and utterly surprised. For a moment there, I thought our good mate Barack Obama wasn’t going to make it, but at last, sanity has prevailed in the United States, a country which Flight Facilities have been spending extended amounts of time recently. Meanwhile, James and Hugo have been sitting up late at night in their studio writing music that, even when compared their own remarkably relaxed aesthetic, is something astonishingly different. When they initially released the blissed-out teaser (the first thirty or so seconds) for this track onto the Internet, at the abrupt cut-off most regular listeners were probably expecting some sort of epic disco drop. After all, their track record certainly leans this way; both in the more groove-based pulse of ‘Crave You‘ and the summertime slink of ‘Foreign Language.’ It’s a formula that has worked so well for them in the past and fits in so nicely with their influences as projected across live sets and stellar mixtapes that a backflip didn’t seem impossible, just highly unlikely. And then this happened.
‘Clair De Lune’ is next-level great. It’s so moving that I pulled over my car and relentlessly hit Twitter when I heard it on the radio the first time a few weeks ago so that someone would tell me who it was because I simply didn’t believe it came from an artist I already knew. That it comes from these two guys should not be that surprising given that their tastes extend far beyond classic disco into bands like Metronomy and through to avant-garde electronica, but seriously, I didn’t see it coming. Primarily because making a seven minute, Björk-esque track that throbs and hums but never bursts at the seams, entirely self contained and pristinely beautiful, is probably not a wise business decision. One wouldn’t imagine that this song would fit in a live set anywhere except the beginning or the end, and it’s so engaging that it simply sucks the air out of everything around it, so there’s no point sandwiching it next to anything else. Driven by a repeated smple motif which drags violas and cellos back towards the sea, ‘Clair De Lune’ ebbs and flows like a dream, building elements gradually without ever reaching a discernible chorus or hummable riff. It relies more on its overall effect on your hippocampus than the usual ‘sticky’ factor of pop writing, anticipating that you’ll have the same reaction I did, that stunned ‘what on Earth!’ one to the extent that you want to hear it all again, not just one riff. And because the whole song is essentially an exposition of that one riff anyway, that works out remarkably well.
Envy Messrs Lyell and Gruzman, because they have a knack for picking gorgeous female voices. From Gisele to Jess and now Christine, with rumours of upcoming collaborations with Elizabeth Rose, they’ve managed to get perhaps one of the most difficult parts of writing this kind of thing down. I’ve often wondered whether they don’t have a secret genome project hidden up in Bondi Beach somewhere where they custom-build these specimens to match the particular sound they craft for a track. Hoberg has perhaps the breathiest, angel-like tone of all the girls they’ve worked with, and her presence casts a pretty magical spell over what is already an engrossing piece of music. It floats across the bars, making use of the lengthy phrases and free time, as the elements bubble and swirl beneath her. There are shades of both Air’s ‘Alone In Kyoto’ and some of the Martina Topley-Bird work with Tricky, but with a pulse that is much less insistent, secondary to both the strings and the mellotron which figure heavily here. They’re sequenced in such a way that even though they’re based around the same key and motif, I never get the feeling of anythibg being stale.
The real clincher for me happens around the five minute mark, as they return back to that central melody one last time and start spiralling upwards, strings upon strings elevating a new B section that becomes the eventual outro in perfect legato. It’s not trendy and it’s definitely not going to fill dance floors, but for this duo, it’s musically unparalleled. And the ironic part is it may end up being their most popular piece of work yet; early responses I’ve seen have been as passionate as mine. ‘Clair De Lune’ isn’t even downtempo, it’s bordering on cinematic. What a totally unexpected and wonderful surprise.
Flight Facilities ft. Christine Hoberg – ‘Clair De Lune’