Audiofile: Bot'Ox—Cosmo Vitelli Returns With Sinister, Synthed-Out Sounds Inspired by Car Culture.
- Words: Ali Gitlow
- Photo: Willy Huvey
Neither Benjamin Boguet nor Julien Briffaz owns a car. But it hasn't stopped them—the duo herein known as Bot'Ox—from creating moody electronic soundscapes perfect for moonlit drives down dark stretches of highway.
Although Bot'Ox may be a new name to most ears, both Boguet and Briffaz have been dabbling in music for years. Boguet, 35, first made a name for himself in the late '90s during the days of French Touch, crafting luxuriant house and disco bangers under the moniker Cosmo Vitelli. He signed with Solid in 1998, releasing his first LP, Vidéo, and more otherworldly, genre-bending 12"s like "We Don't Need No Smurf Here," and eventually started his own I'm A Cliché imprint in 2003, which has since put out material by the likes of Simian Mobile Disco, Yuksek, and Tacteel. The 32-year-old Briffaz (one half of duo [T]ékël) learned to play drums at an early age, attending the prestigious Lycée Carnot for high school, where Daft Punk and Modjo were amongst his fellow students.
Briffaz met Boguet in 2004 when he took a space in the same Parisian studio complex, also occupied by producers like Para One and Jackson. "My first impression of [Boguet] was that he was someone very talented and thoughtful, but also very stressed and kind of obsessed with his music," Briffaz confesses. Boguet, a committed crate digger and DJ, found Briffaz's own obsessive interest in sound quality intriguing. They took a name derived from a shared fascination with consumer culture, and produced two tracks for the band Showgirls in 2005. "The common thing is that we are both not great musicians. We use the studio to lie, actually," Boguet cheekily admits.
After finding success in partnership, they decided Bot'Ox would create a concept album, choosing to focus their first release on the aesthetic and lifestyle surrounding transportation—and the result is an all-encompassing, icy ode to the machine age. On "Babylon by Car,"arcade-game bleeps cascade into foreboding violins under a cowbell-heavy four-to-the-floor before coalescing into funk-style guitar riffs. "Crashed Cadillac" is similarly ominous, starting with creeping drums and synths that crawl at a snail's pace, colliding somewhat discordantly with blippy horns.
The duo's laborious working process involves hours of recorded studio experiments; they then "chop and edit these long tracks in order to find sense and make a track out of it," Briffaz explains. This can take them about three months per track, a timeframe that Boguet admits is pretty insane. "It's kind of nonsense, economically," he offers. "I'd like to say it's an integrity thing, but I'm not sure—we don't know how to do it any other way."
While the majority of their tracks are instrumental, "Blue Steel" features vocals by sultry crooner Anna Jean. Keeping their concept in mind, they hired Swiss design firm Körner Union to direct the song's attendant video, a slow-motion exploration of what happens when an SUV meets various pool noodles and flotation devices. "The idea was to create a shock between objects which creates nothing violent," Boguet says. "A paradox of the idea of an accident, but with no damage at all."
After spending so much time thinking about the connection between good tunes and automobiles, the guys have decided the two best places to listen to music are clubs and cars. "When Kraftwerk released their Autobahn LP," Boguet illuminates, "they played the album for journalists in their cars." After I suggest that Bot'Ox follows suit when their album is released, he replies, "I just need to buy a car first, maybe."
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