heard on the wire

Johnny came home with a gift for me

Onions, Shallots and Garlic from Roscoff, Brittany

Apparently “math”, or maths as any right-thinking person calls it, is a musical genre that has already spawned “mathgaze” and “mathrock” and who-knows-what-else.

As someone who liked maths at school, but with whom music genre-typing sits uncomfortably, I find this all very discombobulating. What next? Physics disco? Biology pop? Though, on second thoughts, they’re already acknowledged genres, no?

All that really matters is does a record slide nicely into a genre sleeve marked good or interesting and this track does both. Breton are an art dub electronica indie and, yes, math outfit from London and this record is three years old. It’s from the label that brought us James Blake, but don’t let that put you off. And if anyone can tell me who this reminds me of, please do.

Counter Balance :: Breton

Audio MP3

Now here’s something I’ve only learnt recently: the stereotypical Frenchman with the beret, striped jumper and string of onions is based on fact, albeit that the Frenchman was a Breton plying his trade not on the streets of Paris but in the UK.

Starting in the 1820s, onion Johnnies, as the Breton’s were known, found it easier to transport their alliums across the English Channel than across land to Paris. That the people of Cornwall and Wales spoke languages closer to their own Breton than French was could only have helped.

As far as I know, arguably the most famous Breton, Bernard Hinault, was never an onion Johnny, though as a five-time winner of the Tour de France, he’s have been very quick at it. But what do you get if you cross a Bernard and a Johnny? Well, Electronic, of course.

Electronic :: Getting Away with It

Or this.

New Order :: 1963

That video starred Jane Horrocks, who starred in Mike Leigh’s brilliant 1990 movie, Life is Sweet. The film’s frightening restaurant, The Regret Rien, is named after this song by Charles Dumont and Michel Vaucaire, made famous by French singer Edith Piaf.

Edith Piaf :: Non, Je ne Regrette Rien

Which, neatly, brings us back to New Order and this questionable Top of the Pops appearance.

New Order :: Regret

Photo: Onions, Shallots and Garlic from Roscoff, Brittany by Marty Pinker
Related articles: Day 23—a song that I wanted at my wedding
Twitter: Hemlock Recordings; New Order

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