New York based French songstress Magnolia Santibanez makes her way back to the UK. Louder Than War’s Craig Chaligne reviews.

Formed in upstate New York in 2005, Les Bicyclettes Blanches have been recording at a steady space since their inception. Always centred round French expat Magnolia Santibanez, the band released their latest album “Einfugen” last year on Bleeding Gold Records. Described sometimes as a “French lo-fi Velvet Underground”, Les Bicyclettes Blanches are resolutely american in their sound. For this short run of UK dates, Magnolia couldn’t bring her US musicians but two eminent members of the UK garage scene proved more than able replacements. Nick Wheeldon (lead singer in Paris based garage combo Os Noctambulos) and Bruce Sargent (drummer in Manchester garage-punk outfit The Hipshakes) put their own spin on Magnolia’s song and did a splendid job. The Bedroom Bar in trendy Shoreditch doubles as a comedy club so the band had to wait after 10pm to start the gig. Deciding to go for a Ramones approach, they played a compact and furious set revolving around the tracks of their latest LP. Starting with the motorik beat of “My Garden”, the trio continued with “Hello Hi” from 2011’s CA11 with its overpowering bass line. “My Pals and Buddies” is a more classically punk-rock number that reminds you of The Cramps but the catchy “Dinatone” is a great pop song where Nick’s guitar chords work marvels. “Convenience Store” is another great garage rave-up while “Sainte Marie” with its French lyrics recalls the urgency of The Feelies. The band closed the gig in suitably rapturous fashion with “Hanging There”.

HPBC, Leeds Sept 11

Northy Arms, Newcastle, Sept 13

DIY Thursday, london, Sept 15

Before I even heard this record, I must admit that I was a little biased going in because I like bicycles.   I already own several t-shirts about bicycles that have nothing to do with music and so if I saw a t-shirt for Les Bicyclettes Blanches I'd probably buy it even if I hadn't heard the band before.    The good thing about listening to this record is that LBB is a great and truly new presence in music.    The bad thing is that if I wear their t-shirt and explain to people that they are a band I'm not going to want to take the time to explain to them the inevitable follow up question of "Oh, what do they sound like?"   It's complicated.

The best way for me to describe the music of Les Bicyclettes Blanches is to start with it as you thinking of the music as building in layers.    What you need to begin with are the melodies.    There is this pure quality to the music where it is just beautiful.   It falls somewhere between Blondie and Fleetwood Mac, although I do also hear some Metric in here at times just as well.   I'll refrain from trying to call it "pretty", but it just has this pleasant quality to it which is easy on the ears.   I'm not entirely sure where this comes from in music or why you can feel so comforted by it, but there you have it and it just makes you feel safe.

Through drum beats and guitar riffs that shred the next layer you would add on top of this music would be simply described as distorted chaos.    When I think of music which is distorted this heavily I tend to think of it as the singer simply screaming into a microphone.   I really don't feel as if something so raw and unbridled has ever been met by such emotion behind it before.    This is not raging for the sake of raging, but it is still raging.    You might think that the idea of layering this chaos over the beauty would result in the loss of one but both of them are cranked up to a full 100% which is perhaps the greatest accomplishment on this record: the fact that they can go this hard and this well without sacrificing any of their convictions.

For all of the music that I've listened to, I usually end up putting bands into two vast genres: one being the sounds of Fleetwood Mac, Blondie or Heart-- that sort of idea-- and the other being the sounds of Sleater-Kinney or Delta Dart.    The idea of being able to put a band into both of these at the same time is something I've simply never encountered before and is a true testament to how a band can make distortion feel easy on the ears.

We’re not going to give you the full EP, but you should definitely go and grab yourself a copy of this forthcoming EP from Les Bicyclettes Blanches. At first I got stuck with the buzzing of the guitar sound, compounded by the seemingly stuttering vocal delivery, but the crashing  cymbals added near the middle of the track definitely kept me hooked going through. The tune sounds familiar, yet not quite so. That distinctiveness makes me thing their Einfugen EP will be something out of the ordinary, and worth a listen. You can grab it this week from Bleeding Gold.

“Cat Gut” is a really gnarly way to start off your almost weekend. The track comes from the band’s 12″ with Bleeding Gold Records out on 10/23. It’s 3-minutes of continual surprises - an unassuming beginning morphing into one packed punch of fuzzy, grimy punk.

"Les Bicyclettes Blanche was also a nice surprise. I hadn’t seen them before myself in this particular configuration. Their sound was more heavy psych than even I thought they were going to be. I liked them before, and like them even more now. This was the band that was on when many people walked in, and right away their attention was captured with this effects-laden trio. Singer Magnolia Santibanez was on bass the whole way until the last song. When, she picked up a guitar, grinding out the beat and singing in her husky French accent."

"Totally under the radar, honest/naive, spacey neo-psych, off-kilter female vocals, really good underground sound. Inspired by NEU!"

"ok french hop, drumbox punk rocK"

The Raven Cafe, AZ, by Newt Lynn

"Les Bicyclettes Blanches from Woodstock, NY and Paris France, sound something like a lo-fi French version of the Velvet Underground if the Velvets were french, Nico was the sole vocalist, and they were playing a Jefferson Airplane meets Air sort of dream rock"

Cul-de-Sac, Tilburg, Netherlands

"Fortunately the Cul-de-Sac still does by playing soccer and playing live music. On this Thursday you can escape with this French/American group, experimental headstock music which sometimes makes you think of the newer work of Blonde Redhead. Inspiring numbers like the eyes near a dreamworld withdrawn as if you were a hippie on LSD dancing moves just like in the sixties."

O-P-A Paris, France

"The White Bicycles have a single sound inspiring the free folkrock, triphop, Frenchpop.

Brixton Windmill, London, UK

"Finally Les Bicyclettes Blanches create inspired junkyard psychedelia that recalls Royal Trux, Fiery Furnaces, Tom Waits and even Cypress HIll."

Time Out, Barcelona, Spain

"Not a single bike free in the area. Welcome to Barcelona. But don't despair, we have an alternative: Les Bicyclettes Blanches. The dream of the one and only Indurain. They're mechanics, experimenters, psychedelics, emitting lo-fi sounds and they'll take you to wild locations without any doping. Whichever product of globalization is made in so many different places: Woodstock, New York and Paris, and what product of postmodernity has seams and welds which are so diverse: free folk-rock, trip-hop and French Pop. Think the Velvet underground parked on a corner of the Marais, Nouvelle Vague coming down 5th Avenue. At the moment they've only got demos but they have already begun to tour Europe."

Perfect as Cats Tribute to the Cure, Manimal Vinyl Records

"Et la presence de quelques ovnis, comme la version..., d'un tres groovy Hot! Hot! Hot! par les Bicyclettes blanches."

"Les Bicyclettes Blanches marginally off kilter delivery of ..."Hot Hot Hot" show a medicum of inventiveness without trying to be too clever or abstract."

Robert Andrew Parker

“That is the most interesting music I’ve heard since Velvet Underground.”

Les Bicylettes Blanches falls somewhere between the B-52′s, Blondie, and French cafe music, and the band definitely has a unique sound — one that appears to be heavily influenced by the Riot Grrrl movement of the 90s. During the show at Helsinki a twisted psychedelic sound worked its way into the music at times, perhaps due to the influence being in Woodstock has had on the band, and there’s a definite grunge sound in the music as well. In fact, the band’s name is entirely misleading, and only a few songs were sung in French. The band also played some Rockabilly inspired songs, during which the musicians got into a nice rhythm together. Lead singer Magnolia seems to spit and vomit out the lyrics when she sings, sometimes abruptly so, sometimes in lengthy jumbled streams. Their grooves occasionally fell into ruts, but, except for a few jams when the musicians went off on a tangent that they seemed reluctant to reign in, I otherwise enjoyed their performance. If you go to see Les Bicyclettes Blanches, expect a slightly bizarre display: the band members dance and jump around on stage when they perform, and the majority of what they play aren’t exactly songs — rather, they’re experimental techno/pop/futuristic soundscapes.


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