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The Limiñanas
Malamore Jeremy Allen , April 20th, 2016 18:14

The decision of Lionel and Marie Limiñana to quit the rat race and go full time doing the thing they love seems to be paying dividends. The Perpignan-based pair are now on their fourth album, picked up by Because Music no less, and featuring a star turn from Peter Hook this time around (but don't hold that against them.)

There's nothing particularly new on Malamore that you couldn't find on their previous records, but the artisan refinement of the songs and the tenebrous, almost narcotic production takes this offering into a different stratosphere from what's come before; the elevated world they've created is a place where one can sit back and imbibe dizzying sedatives that float freely in the air, surrounded by the coolest vintage swag you can imagine. It's a delicately constructed world of beautiful artifice, and despite the ease with which it seems to have been formed, it's actually not as easy as it looks (for starters you suspect the songs themselves benefit from a systematic simplification that may have required some ruthlessness behind the scenes).

Indeed the influences are achingly cool still, no surprise there (the album itself is named after a 1982 Eriprando Visconti erotic Italian movie), though having cool influences doesn't necessary equate to a record itself having anything like the same kind of cache (more often than not it means it turns out to be the exact opposite - ie. tryhard and ersatz - like the aural equivalent of that godawful HBO series, Vinyl). No such troubles here thankfully, as the Limiñanas incorporate sixties punk and obscure spectres of the yé-yé scene, cult cinematic soundtracks and cool Westerns, Italian pop and Nouvelle Vague, Spector and Gainsbourg (it's undeniable that the track 'Zippo' has a strong resemblance to the revered dead Frenchman), Nuggets compilations, early Stooges and early Suicide, and the inevitable debts to the Velvet Underground and pre-Beatles Girl Groups that are synonymous with so much latterday dark pop exploration. It's the kind of vintage homage that Bobby Gillespie probably thinks his music sounds like, or at least wishes it sounded like.

Opener 'Athen I.A' acts as a brief aperitif to whet the whistle, a minute-only instrumental trailer with a strong Duane Eddy-style guitar lick. The next couple of tracks - 'El Beach' and 'Prisunic' - feature Lionel parlez-ing over the top as the music intensifies, with the ever-present tambourine rattling eventually up to 11. The latter, much like the remarkably catchy title track, feature guitar lines so simple and immediate that you're surprised you've never heard them before (and a part of you wonders if you have).

On 'Garden Of Love', featuring the guest appearance of the aforementioned Hook, Marie takes over vocal duty, whispering soporifically as the trademark peripatetic bassline executed some way up the neck sits deliciously atop a drifting cloud of a song, a dreamy, beautifully accomplished pop morceau. Hook's inclusion is surprisingly cohesive, while Marie - who couldn't speak a word of English when I interviewed the band two years ago - has clearly been taking lessons; her clipped, seductive vocal, sounds strangely reminiscent of Charlotte Gainsbourg.    

'El Sordo' is another brief instrumental with a Western feel, and 'Paradise now' and carries some of the vibe that made the soundtrack to Midnight Cowboy so great, while 'Dahlia Rouge' kicks off with the roar of a motorcycle and features an arabesque sitar line weaving throughout. Simplistic, often pared-down, and at times breathtakingly gorgeous, Malamore hitherto is their poppiest offering to date, and it might just be their chef d'oeuvre too. Certainly there's not a track within that isn't totally arresting in isolation, a rare achievement. Malamore is an album full of standouts, and a step in the direction of greatness.