Inside the packaging of Animal Sophistiqué’s new album, there is a photo of Cyril Atef and Vincent Ségal, alias Bum and Cello having a good time. One important detail is that Cyril is wearing a mask bearing the effigy of his friend, Vincent, and vice versa. After living together for 10 years what could possibly be strange about one becoming a little bit of the other? Since their harmony lies greatly in the way they play music together (one being an irradiated drummer and the other a transcending cellist), playing around with exchanging their faces would even be encouraging. It could mean a great deal: that one understands the other as if he were himself. That harmony is of utmost importance to this couple, or simply that between the two the meals are never less than excellent….
Yet, many still have an unclear impression of Bumcello. If you look in record shops, you would be surprised to find their albums in different categories in each store. Some record shops categorize them in « pop rock », others in « electro,” and when in doubt, they are filed in « world music. » Whereas the more scrupulous, if they could, would most definitely create a special category just for them. Their friend, Vic Moan even invented a custom made sticker, « industrial music for the third world. »
Amusing? Credible? This uncertainty glides with as much determination as in their 5 albums as they have already been signed to 3 record companies. In 1999 their first achievement was signed to the independent French label, Comet, who specialize in trendy, groove, hypnotic music. In 2001, Booty Time was signed to Signatures, an experimental sound cell at Radio France. And, one year later, the number one reference for the new French music scen, tôt Ou tard, offered them a deal. A very significant transfer, which clearly makes a statement as the two are closer in style to Sly & Robbie than to Sonny & Cher. They were finally noticed for the diversity of musical resources which defined them in 2002 with Nude For Love. Elaborated from solid beats and rendered with the same improvisation as in their live performances, the repertoire also contains true pop songs like « Blind Fish » or « Beautiful You, » sung by Blackalicious’ Gift of Bab and Lateef. In 2003, the double live album, Get Me, brought them back to what they do best, live performances: back to where it all started in the early nineties, when their desire to offer a different kind of music was born.
In a wide-open space, more than one and a half hour of recordings were made between Maubeuge and Prague – songs accentuating the navigation of “musique libre.” Ravel’s Bolero theme proves to be a perfect introduction to an evening of Indian raga about to be inhabited by heavy metal, electrical shocks and who then go on to re-visit Police’s “Message In A Bottle.”
The album starts off with a track that clearly portrays Bumcello’s approach: unstable. But be careful, instability should not be confused with versatility - what Cyril and Vincent are stating is that one kind of music always hides another, just as does a mask.
The fluidity of sound identities is an evolving feature of this evolving world. Where each day is marvelous yet panicking, not being able to recognize one’s self.
Being out in the rain of information falling down from the electronic, cloudy sky, each individual is called upon to become a potential database, and each musician a human terminal where various sounds pile up and rhythms come in massive quantities. So, who is Animal Sophisitqué other than the shrilling coincidence of the flesh and the part of ourselves which from now on belong to high technology in a multitude of roaming objects, without which we could no longer exist?
Today Bumcello is the only group in the world to face bare handedly this virtual blade that rips the guts out of the genres and shreds tradition into pieces. Because everything is organic with Bumcello. The sounds derive from real instruments bearing the wear and tear that their fingers have left upon them over the years, or the rings that their own sweat has left. Bumcello is a lot like a pirogue which has just taken aboard two Iroquois Indians with the crazy, outlandish, reckless idea to row across the ocean of possibilities - in search of the sunken continent where the imputrescible, faraway Gods of music live.
Animal Sophistiqué was not conceived while traveling for nothing. Firstly, it is in those wonderful lost moments on tour with M (Matthieu Chedid), which lasted 13 months, that the songs on this album were written.
Cyril worked his voice and his lyrics in the hotel rooms while Vincent worked his guitar backstage. Some were delivered on stage like « Sweat sweat sweat,” “Let it Shine,” or “Jet Set”. This one, the most rock track came spontaneously while Bumcello was playing at a private Cartier party. The indifference that the crowd displayed to them inspired Cyril to write these ironic lyrics as if they were sputtering out at the perfect moment directly into the guest’s champagne. “Dalila” is another example of their melodic know-how: once in your mind, the theme goes round and round like a hamster in a cage. But if you take off the pop mask, you will discover the rhythmic heritage of a Haitian compas or the chanting of Malian griots.
On a more classical note, “Monolife” lets out Assiko influences, a predominant ethnic style from Cameroun. And there will be no surprises when you hear strange sounds in “Gogo”, a pure sugar rock song: It’s the Trinidad steel drums that add the cinnamon and vanilla… With these two coconuts you are sure to travel! And, just as sure to feel the pleasure that they feel, themselves, sometimes getting lost on the way, leaving in the middle of the song like on « Let it Shine, » returning all the more cheerful and educated from their wanderings. Even if, of all of their recordings, this one is least “out there” – by far the most constructed.
Animal Sophistiqué proves how much Cyril Atef has found more than just vocal identity, but a true singer’s identity. His singing dominates a large portion of the album, joined at times by Piers Faccini or Tommy Jordan (ex Geggy Tah). It adds a bit of punk to “Djizzney” (an animal-like story, not too sophisticated, sort of a tie between Britney Spears and sperm…)
It also adds identity to “Sweat sweat sweat”, where intimacy floats like an underlying melancholic yearning.
« Sierra Mountain Top » is the only song on the album which is not completely sung in English, rather alternating German and French (Cyril’s first languages). This linguistic roaming underlines the urban solitude expressed by Vincent’s strings (violin, cello). « Bombay » is a low funk coming straight out of the subconscious George Clinton productions, and the soul from the 70’s: « X-ing » is about safe driving and T-ris(te) is like a Tropical Yann Tiersen (Amelie Poulain) song. A song to listen to on a train from Rodez to Montauban looking out of the window in a non-smoking compartment. Stepping down from the train, you are taken aback by the impression Bumcello leaves on you: faraway is much closer than you think. No doubt because Animal Sophistiqué is the rare kind of album that accompanies us deep within ourselves, distilling our musical sensations, transforming that which is strange to familiar, and that which is familiar to strange.