I think someone once said that great art is mad with its own loveliness. The new LP by Vanishing Twin is certainly lovely indeed and it’s cut through with a wonderful streak of madness. It’s wildly experimental, skipping from genre to genre without even a nod to convention. It’s teeming with ideas, imagination, beautiful melodies, strange sounds and unexpected twists and turns. The band’s neatest trick is managing to combine all of this into a coherent whole, a seamless masterpiece that tethers on the edge of chaos without ever falling in. The first time I listened it made me laugh at the sheer chutzpah of what was attempted and what has been achieved. Album of the week? Most definitely. Album of the year? There’s won’t be many other contenders in my book.
We interviewed Cathy Lucas a few weeks ago and we’ve included that here again also.
Come with me, somewhere north of normal and just south of strange, where The Prisoner meets Gong, that’s where you’ll find Vanishing Twin, one of the most promising acts operating in Europe today. The band were formed last year by Cathy Lucas. She had already released some rather brilliant music under the name Orlando and found kindred spirits in the forms of drummer Valentina Magaletti (Tomaga, Shit and Shine, Raime, Neon Neon), bassist Susumu Mukai (A.K.A. primitive electronic producer Zongamin), library music aficionado Phil M.F.U. (Man From Uranus) on weird vibes, and film-maker and visual artist Elliott Arndt on flute and percussion. You know how much we appreciate a good flute here at SWIT. These guys share a love of strange sounds, great melodies and super grooves. Their first two singles suggest their debut album will be majestic and we don’t have long to wait now to find out the truth. We caught up with Cathy a couple of weeks ago to talk about the past, present and future. Enter the time tunnel.
Where did you grow up?
In and around Brussels, Belgium.
Why did you decide to move from being essentially a solo artist to forming a band?
At some point when the right people come together the chemistry is there, what’s happening in the room is much more exciting than anything you’ve made on your own and are trying to painstakingly recreate. That’s how the Democratic Republic of Vanishing Twin was founded.
I’ve been listening back to the rather wonderful Play Time: Music for Video Games, and I love the last single, The Conservation Of Energy – what would you say are your biggest influences?
There are so many…from jazz, to library and soundtrack music, to psychedelic bands new and old, to African and Latin funk. The United States of America, Piero Umiliani, Astrud Gilberto to name a few.
Are you still the main songwriter or are the tunes a group effort and if so do you always agree on musical direction?
I usually get some chords and melodies together to begin with and everyone just fits in, and then we all launch into outer space and see what happens. That’s the most exciting thing with these guys – I love the sounds that each person makes, so we’re almost always on the same page.
I read that you named the band after your vanishing twin, I also had a vanishing twin, and I often wonder what it would have been like to have grown up with my brother – why did you choose that name?
Wow, you had a vanishing twin too! I also wonder about my missing sister…The mystery and possibility of it is so intriguing to me; the idea that in some way she’s still a part of me, or she is me. The Vanishing Twin album turns that sister into a kind of mythological figure. It seemed the best way to express my fantasies about multiple identities, immortality and evolution.
What was the first tune you loved, and why?
I had an old battered Sgt. Pepper cassette as a kid. It was the words that really got me. I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends and She’s Leaving Home pointing at some hidden emotional reality that was beyond my comprehension at the time, making it all the heavier and more serious to a tiny me.
Is Orlando finished now as a solo project?
There’s likely to be more new Orlando next year. In the meantime both Play Time and Round Trips are being re-issued on vinyl by Spanish label B.F.E. and Kiwi label Strange Love respectively.
When is the album coming out? Do you have a title yet?
The album is called Choose Your Own Adventure. The song it’s named after is about the idea that even if you can’t write your own history, you can ascribe meaning however you choose. That really sums up what the record is about – it’s a kind of rewrite of my own personal mythology: of big ideas about birth, death, eggs and evolution.
Where was it recorded and how much input did you have into the production?
To make this album we got Malcolm Catto on board as producer. We were fans of his work with his own group Heliocentrics, but also his contributions with The Gaslamp Killer, Madlib and Mr Chop. He has his own great studio close by in Hackney so that’s where we did all the basic tracking. I then did overdubs at my home studio, and carted round a portable studio to record vibraphones, clarinets and mystery objects in other locations. We also did 2 tracks at the now very sadly defunct RIP studio with Syd Kemp. Then I brought it all back to Malcolm for mixing. It was a collaborative effort but there’s no denying Malcolm put his sonic stamp on there.
What song by another artist do you wish you had written and why?
Donna Summer’s I Feel Love, Simple and effective but odd as anything
Why did you move to London? Is that home for the foreseeable?
London is the place.
Name a song that make you happy.
Donald Byrd – Close Your Eyes And Look Within.
Have you any plans to play in Ireland? We would be delighted to see you here.
We would love to come to Ireland. Can you hook it up?….
Do you want to be rich and/or famous?
Neither of those are goals really. I want the continued ability to make stuff.
What other band are you digging at the moment?
Contemporary stuff? The Soundcarriers, Tomaga, Orchestra Of Spheres.
What song would you like to have played at your funeral?
Probably that Donald Byrd tune again. Gotta go deep disco in the face of death.
What question would you like to be asked that you never are? (and what would be your answer?)
The answer is yes, a thousand times yes.