What do the Bee Gees, the television show The Prisoner and obscure Polish crooner Czesław Niemen have in common? They all appear on the debut album from Lilacs & Champagne, presented by Grails guitarist Emil Amos and OM/Harvestman innovator Alex Hall. Together the two must have done a lot of crate digging. The manipulated vinyl here is of the type that normally ends up in the “other” section because not even the owner can be bothered to identify it. Perhaps the most appropriate sample is taken from the soundtrack to the 1936 movie Anything Goes, whose title sums up the guiding principle. Anything goes, indeed: crickets and choirs, sermons and seagulls, hip-hop beats and Arabic rhythms.
This being said, the album does have a unifying tone: that of late 60s/early 70s psychedelica. Rhodes, flute, tambourines and dub rhythms all have their place. In a twisted sense, Lilacs & Champagne is a natural outgrowth of The Black Sun Transmissions, a hookah-induced haze of horror movies, late night ramblings and a million mad turntables all jockeying for attention. It’s the darker-haired cousin of The Avalanches’ Since I Left You, at times approaching the wonder of a Solid Steel show. After mixing all of this together (and the only downside is that the whole thing isn’t mixed together – easy to rectify with two turntables), the pair then played their instruments over the tracks, adding a modern sheen and an additional layer of impenetrability. That sure sounds like Amos’ guitar on “Corridors of Power II”, but we could be wrong. A quick snippet of laughter could be Vincent Price, or it could be that we simply associate him with sinister levity, or it could be that Amos and Hall are just having a go with us all.
Lilacs & Champagne is a fascinating artifact because it’s a mix album and it’s not a mix album; it’s a re-appropriation as well as a brand new product. This is exactly the sort of case study that ends up being dissected by music and law professionals alike. The album is stitched together so well that one can’t locate the seams between sources or even between the old and the new. Lilacs & Champagne works on every level: as a groove album, a genre blend, and a celebration of the obscure. There’s nothing else quite like it on the market. (Richard Allen)
Everywhere, Everyone (directed by Emil Amos)