Friday, May 12, 2006


Album Review
A reconstituted Antena -- after nearly a quarter of a century away -- made for one of the more unexpected turns in Isabella Antena's busy career, but when the end results are as enjoyable as Toujours du Soleil, there's no need to complain. Though the guest list itself outnumbers the core trio at least six times, said trio -- in this incarnation Isabella Antena, Axailes Solar, and (in an amusing twist) Penelope Fasy, the daughter of original member Sylvain Fasy -- is in fine voice throughout, with all three taking turns on lead vocals (and thus keeping it from being an Isabella Antena album in all but name). Their blend of harmonizing provides often unexpected dividends, hearing the sudden but never startling additions to Isabella's own familiar tones on songs like the peppy "Caribbean Island" or, in a wonderfully left-field move, a near unrecognizable cover of America's "A Horse with No Name." The most dramatic change from the Camino del Sol days, perhaps unsurprisingly, comes in the arrangements -- instead of murky but winsomely captivating negotiations between post-punk melancholia and lighter pop roots, everything here is much more in keeping with Isabella's later and brighter blends of jazz, bossa nova, and gentle dance grooves. Often the latter stands a little more to the fore, though, adding an extra kick to tunes like "Blind Date" and "Love Is to Blame." In contrast, songs like the title track (with a beautiful fake-echo vocal break at several points) show the more traditional side to Antena very well. Meanwhile, Isabella Antena's most notable American supporters, the Thievery Corporation, help out with a bit of co-writing throughout -- besides the title track, there are the slinky but sharp beats of "Rendez-Vous Manque" as well as "Starlit Skies," written solely by Corporation member Rob Garza. ~ Ned Raggett, All Music Guide

CAMINO DEL SOL/Brainwashed review

Antena, "Camio del Sol"
Written by Jon Whitney
Thursday, 04 May 2006
Antena was a French trio whose adoration for Brazilian samba/pop combined with a mastery of synths and guitars could easily be sited for the blueprint of Pizzicato Five or Stereolab, however, in 1982 the audience simply wasn't there. Numero Group issued this collection featuring their 1982 mini LP Camio del Sol in 2004, expanded to include tracks from other singles and compilations originally issued on Les Disques du Crépuscule, and now LTM, the primary label issuing the old Crépuscule and Factory Benelux catalogue has issued their own version boasting two more tunes.

Numero Group (US) / LTM (UK)

Antena was a female-fronted bright, fun, and sexy pop band. Their output was cocktail music for the swinging bachelor, which was completely the opposite from the dark, bleak, and frighteningly common suicidal crew of dudes in nearly everything that was associated with Factory was seemingly about at the time.

They varied production from the full, rich sounds of "Camino del Sol" and their cover/adaptation of "The Girl from Ipanema" (becoming "The Boy from Ipanema") to the minimal fare of guitar, hand percussions, and saxophone for the very Astrud Gilberto-influenced "Silly Things" and "Bye Bye Papaye." The sound has been well preserved and only a rare tune here or there sounds dated, and it's never painfully so. During the early 1980s, drum machines like the Roland 808 and 909 were so artificial sounding that they would always sound artificial, it's a much easier predicament than the late '80s drum machines which mimiced real drums (and poorly). Songs like "Unable" and "Frantz" are two with the most prominence of the 808 but Antena managed to program the drum machine originally enough to make it not sound like the rest of 1982's output.

Following the mini LP of Camino del Sol, Antena released a single, appeared on some compilations, but soon split. Singer Isabelle Powaga continued to record and release music as Isabelle Antena, keeping up the Brazilian lounge flavor, but not making nearly as notable works as what's collected on Camino del Sol. While I do enjoy this release, I'm not completely blown away like I have been with other Numero Group releases. With the amount of paper used to make the booklet, it would have been nice to see more story on the production of the music or the origins of the non-Camino material. It is nice to see the front and back covers for the mini LP and the "Boy from Ipanema" single but there is surely more in the vaults for this group.