DC Fontana – La Contessa
DC Fontana are the kind of group that are nostalgic for an era of dancefloor-centric mod music that existed for a few short months from the winter of 1965/66 until its first tentative steps into a more lysergic state of mind. It was a time when England was truly swinging, as was American R&B. The rest of the world looked on and took this two-pronged musical attack to their hearts, eventually coming up with their own take on it.
The result in Europe was an ersatz version of beat music with foreign language vocals, most successfully in French or Italian. It’s this strain of music that Midlands based combo, DC Fontana (their name borrowed from a script writer for the original Star Trek series), have strived to re-create on their latest album La Contessa. In a bold move all but one of the songs are sung in either French or Italian, with the siren-like vocals shared between regular chanteuse Karla Milton and the band’s “girl in Paris” Kicca Andriollo.
The album opens with ‘Abbesses’, a stomping Hammond-driven slab of freakbeat. You know the kind of thing — imagine the TV set of Ready Steady Go circa 1966, plenty of op-art on the backdrops, short skirted go-go dancers on podiums, and the cameras zooming in and out at nauseating depth and speed. From this point in it’s an unpredictable but never boring journey taking in soul, jazz, R & B, and augmented in places with sumptuous string arrangements. There’s even room for some medieval style folk and mystical sitar drone, along with a wistful ode to 90′s cinema screen goddess Winona Ryder.
If I have one criticism it’s of this shape-shifting attitude towards the styles of music on offer, feeling at times more like an exotic re-issues label sampler than documenting a band’s moment in time. “Aural cuisine” is how bass player and band spokesman describes this pick and mix approach. Though each track is fine individually, when taken as a whole the album lacks coherence, so I’ve reluctantly knocked a point off for that. But then again each song is done extremely well, so hats (or should that be peaked white PBV “Lennon” caps?) off to them.