December 3, 2010

North of Northwest: “Brutal Hearts”

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Bedouin Soundclash (+ Coeur de Pirate = “Brutal Hearts”)

Medieval scientists believed that, with the help of a mystical substance called the Philosopher’s stone, the common metal lead could be transformed into the much more valuable gold. Expectant researchers the world over spent years devising elaborate rituals aimed at creating the stone, boiling, blackening, melting and hardening, all in the pursuit of gold’s purity and perfection.

Today we still use alchemy to delight our senses, but modern alchemists are huddled over kitchen stoves or mixing boards rather than beakers and flasks. With a little work and a healthy dose of imagination, they combine the pedestrian to create the divine. The world thrills to the unexpected beauty of watermelon combined with chili pepper, goldfish crackers combined with candy corn (try it), and Bedouin Soundclash combined with Coeur de Pirate in the song “Brutal Hearts.”

Individually, I’ve found neither Coeur de Pirate nor Bedouin Soundclash to be of particular interest. Bedouin Soundclash’s mid-tempo reggae-ska doesn’t engage me; Coeur de Pirate’s piano pop feels a little cutesy. In “Brutal Hearts,” though, Coeur de Pirate (Béatrice Martin) and Soundclash’s Jay Malinowski turn down the tempo – and the lights – and turn up the heat, creating a three minute piece of dark, steamy perfection.

The rhythm section opens, African-inspired percussion layered over a bass line that you feel more than hear, then a howling human vocal. Already your primal instincts are activated. Then the lyrics begin, a male and a female voice telling the story of their mutual seduction in duet. “Are you the brutal heart that I’ve been looking for? ‘Cause if you’re looking for love you can look for that door,” warns Malinowski. A husky-voiced Martin accepts his terms: “I don’t mind at all. I don’t mind if you only call me when you want.”

An agreement has been reached. “Use me,” both croon.

Throughout the song, the background instrumentation remains exactly the same, simply looping through a short sequence. The dynamics, however, gradually progress, an effect accomplished through subtle changes in the tones of voice. Malinowski’s smooth voice roughens around the edges and begins to break as his urgency increases. Martin becomes breathless, and her volume softens. Intent promises to lead to action; the sleek language of seduction gives way to the tousle of raw desire.

The song drops away just before the arrangement is consummated. Both voices drop to a whisper; the couple falls onto the bed. Four solitary drumbeats lead us out, acting as a rhythmic ellipsis.

“Let’s take this night from black to blue….”

______

Bedouin Soundclash plays El Corazon Saturday, December 4. ______

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Coeur de Pirate (+ Bedouin Soundclash = “Brutal Hearts”)

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