Some artists burst into the public consciousness as moon-faced adolescents, buzzing with the novelty of youth; others take the road less travelled, easing their way under the spotlight, slowly honing their chops in a thousand tiny venues. Still others spend their time piecing together a musical vocabulary in innumerable studio backrooms, all-rounders who eat, drink and breathe the mechanics of music until, almost by osmosis, they evolve into brilliant artists in their own right.

Jean-Philippe Verdin aka Readymade FC is a prime example of the latter. His highly evolved musical world is an endlessly alluring hybrid of electronic exotica, pop sophistication and miscellaneous acoustic delights, representing the full flowering of a twenty-year career spent distilling a very particular musical vision.

Born in Brittany, France, in the latter 1960s, composer/producer/arranger Verdin has had his fingers in numerous pies - everything from a stint at Brighton College Of Art, to job as a graphic designer (for the like of MTV), remixing Serge Gainsbourg and Chet Baker songs, writing music for Paris catwalk fashion shows and DJ-ing in many of the globe's top club hotspots.

Latterly a brilliant multi-instrumentalist, programmer and composer, Verdin is equally adept at traditional analogue recording methods as he is adventurous digital micro-surgery and has lent his versatility to recordings by the likes of David Sylvian, Spanish icon Luz Casal and French chart habitue Etienne Daho, amongst myriad other beneficiaries.

With such credentials, it's no surprise that Readymade FC's debut album, 2001's Bold, was highly anticipated and on release duly attracted sheaves of plaudits ("ploughs the way for French electronica", waxed national newspaper Liberation, typically) and its smorgasbord of influences (hip hop, dub, electro-pop) - not to mention a memorable guest appearance from David Sylvian immediately established Readymade FC as a major force in resurgent French pop.

Fans of the US TV show "Nip/Tuck" will already be familiar with Verdin's beguiling music and if you've been paying attention to French TV or Japanese magazine advertising campaigns of late you'll almost certainly have heard the swathes of Bold that everyone from Coca-Cola to Lee jeans have been happily co-opting.

All of which brings us to "Babilonia", Verdin's brand new album, a debut for Peacefrog and a record surely set to emblazon Readymade FC's name across the English-speaking world and beyond.
Verdin admits that "Babilonia" has been subject to a host of discerning influences not all of them musical - everyone from Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson, Randy Newman, Harry Nilsson and Syd Barret to the films of Terrence Malik, Jules Verne novels and the Wild Wild West TV show. If that seems a somewhat eclectic palette, then rest easy, though the album's thirteen tracks steer diligently clear of generic predictability, they are very much of a piece, united by Verdin's opulent, highly melodic touch and the album's other distinguishing feature, its ineffable timelessness.

It's there in the tinkling music boxes and growling Wurlitzer electric pianos that frame the suitably Vaudevillian-sounding "Cirkus"; it's in guest chanteuse Feist's captivating Beth Gibbons-via-Billie Holiday vocal on "Snow Lion", or in Verdin's heavy-lidded vocal and arcane folk guitar picking on what could almost be a Gallic Paul Simon song the appropriately titled "Time Machine".

But there's more than just ageless beauty here. Listen to David Sylvian's gust spot, "A Fire In The Forest", in which those music boxes reappear, this time supporting a Zen-like reverie from the ex-Japan man that is as spare as a haiku but as engrossing as an epic novel. Itís one of the best things he's put his name to in years.

Indeed, mercurial highlights abound on "Babilonia": and whether it be the whimiscal lace-curtain electronica of "The Only One" (beautifully elucidated by cute-voiced guest Yael Naim), the unexpected rock baroque interlude that wells up in the middle of the otherwise genteel "Simple Apparel", or the unabashed olde worlde charm of closing instrumental "Didi", this is music imbued with a rare magic that draws you in from the first listen, then stealthily ensnares you.

Of course, it's as hip and chic as you'd expect from a French musical maverick like Jean-Philippe Verdin. With the aforementioned guest singers - not to mention collaborators like engineer Jean-Paul Gonnod, drummer Philippe Entressangle and guitarist Eric Sauviat - to call upon, how could it be anything else? But like a stylish overcoat that you can't ever throw away, this is music that goes beyond the transient dictates of fashion, with a character and integrity that sustain in a way few records seem to these days.

Welcome, then, to Readymade FC's "Babilonia"; warm, velvet-lined and elegantly tailored. A classic, in other words.



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