Saturday, January 15, 2011


Last Friday, French electronica singer Emilie Simon performed a-one-woman-show at what felt like an atypical, intimate gathering at Joe's Pub.  With small cafe tables literally a few feet or less from the performer herself, and dimmed chandeliers huddling over the audience, the setting couldn't have felt more exclusive--it was an evening made out of serendipitous romantic serenades.  

Simon quietly did her sound check pre-show in a semi-disguise (pictured below)--preparing what would prove to be an impressive set of self-made electronic equipment to back up her vocals.  Still simmering down from a natural high (earlier induced by a captivating one and a half hour show), she was nice enough to give us some time, while her other supporters shouted for her attention from the next room.  

Emilie Simon Performing at Joe's Pub. Image by TheNewsGallery
Emilie Simon doing sound check pre-show. Image by TheNewsGallery

Emilie Simon Arm Machine by NG
The song writer/composer/producer/singer was wearing a big machine on her arm, hence the title of her latest album The Big Machine (2009)----fittingly matching her Fifth Element-esque outfit originally worn by the blue creature opera singer from the Sci-Fi film, with tubes going through her hair, (which she later admitted her mother made for her).   "I made it myself," she told me--referring to the well designed music equipment going up and around her left arm, with a dangling pocket watch to prescribe a more authentic finish to her original invention (pictured above).  Simon creates her music from inception to execution: She writes her own lyrics, composes her own musical notation and oration, and she also produces her own albums.  

                             Dreamland by Emilie Simon at Joe's Pub, New York

The electric synth pop singer, grew up in Montpelier located in the South of France; she went on to study music at the prestigious university of Arts and Sciences: La Sarbonne in Paris; and later continued her education at IRCAM, an acoustic and music research institute, unsuspectingly situated  beneath the Beaubourg Park.  "My friend and I made the arm machine at the IRCAM institute together."  

The technical name for her musical armor is BRAAHS, which stands for Brissot Acquisition for A Cappella Radio Hand Selector.  The arm machine is impressive indeed--it plays the role of controlling the behavior of the sound, the beat, and the climaxes through the transitions of her songs.  She also employed a two way  touch screen while on stage--alternately replaying her sound commands, adding some sort of personalized visual effects translated though her music.

The singer/technologist managed to perform with all her tech tools flawlessly while highly engaging the audience.  Many of which shouted: they're from Montpelier, when she'd mentioned there were a lot of French in the audience and asked where they were from.  This seemed to have brought a big smile and ease to her face during the performance.  At one point, in between songs, she greeted the audience: "Happy New Year!"  The Montpelier crowd murmured, "oh she feels more comfortable to speak in English now."These days Simon records her albums at her studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  She's credited the likes of MGMT, Animal Collective, and Gang Dance as referential inspiration to The Big Machine album.  Over the summer, she released a series of webisodes called Bedford Avenue Sessions--taped in her own apartment, and is currently showcased on her YouTube channel.  For more on Emilie Simon updates, check out her personal website:   

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