je ne sais quoi
by Tuwa
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


[Ed. - I've never met Tuwa, but he sends me the most wonderful songs. I think he's from Xanadu.]

Hello. Tuwa here, a long-time reader. I've been asked to guestblog for a day while Sean is on vacation, and I was surprised and delighted at the opportunity. I'd like to thank Sean for inviting me, and I hope you enjoy the tracks.

Cesaria Evora & Marisa Monte - "E Doce Morrer No Mar". I got this song on a mix CD from a friend. The instrumentation is spare and confident, the melody piercing but sad. The overall impression is one of beauty, but the song is rooted in longing. It's a traditional Brazilian song, the lyrics lamenting a lover who left one night and didn't return: the sailor died at sea and made his bed below the waves.

Evora and Monte's performance of the song is apparently a bit of a rarity: it's available only as a bonus track on the European version of Cafe Atlantico. has the U.S. version of Cafe Atlantico, minus this and the other ten songs on the import. And then, too, there's Cesaria Evora's Miss Perfumado, also without this song but nonetheless recommended.

Lousie Attaque - "Du Nord Au Sud". Another maritime song, this one in French and Spanish. The lyrics focus on a sailor in love with the journey, traveling "to the four winds without effort."

The song starts well enough: the drums syncopated and calm, the bassline restless and low, roaming and quickly returning. But it's when the violin comes in that I'm sold on the song: it's that aggressive melancholy riff, the lurch at the end, the occasional low stabs. The singer's assertion that he can return home if he wishes lies not too far from the addict's assertion that he can quit any time; on all sides he's singing that he can sail to the four winds without effort, without stopping. The song's ending seems a bit sudden, and it's easy to imagine the person the song is meant for left behind, fading into distance at the end of a dock: the song an attempted explanation that serves as little consolation.

The band's name is a riff on "Violent Femmes"; they were fans of the band and Gordon Gano served as producer. They put out two CDs which are not widely distributed, and then two of the members broke off to record under the name Tarmac, while the other two work with Ali Dragon. People who hear their first disc first tend to like it more; people who hear the second disc first tend to prefer that one instead. I'm not sure what that means. Check out the second album, perhaps overpriced, or peep Cuisine Non-Stop, Luaka Bop's sampler of new French music.

Posted by Tuwa at August 30, 2004 12:30 AM

Thanks for the Cesaria Evora track, Tuwa. Boy, that is a very limited edition pressing -- there's one used copy on the website, but I couldn't find it on or any other European retailer. What all is on the bonus disc?

Posted by esque at August 30, 2004 8:55 AM

Cesaria Evora & Marisa Monte. What an absolutely mesmerising voice ... I have become a fan instantly, thank you.

Posted by Kevin at August 30, 2004 9:33 AM

Kevin, I'm glad you liked it.

Esque, there's a tracklist here. When I did the writeup for Sean about a week ago, I found only one site selling the album, and it was for £30 (about $53) plus shipping from the UK, and so I just sighed and pined a bit and went on my way.

Posted by Tuwa at August 30, 2004 10:32 AM

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This is a daily sampler of really good songs. All tracks are posted out of love. Please go out and buy the records.

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Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

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