The thing’s the strings: Owen Pallett

Photography: Peter Juhl

Playlist: The man who plays Violin with Arcade Fire tells us about the five records hiding in his new solo album

Over the last 10 years, Owen Pallett has earned a reputation as the Paganini of pop. In 2004, he signed up to play violin for Arcade Fire and has written all the string arrangements for their music. Now, other musicians, including Robbie Williams and The National, let him give their songs the symphonic once-over. But Pallett’s solo work is closest to his own heart. His emotional and melodically complex indie pop songs sound like Brian Eno accompanying the young David Bowie on a Stradivarius. In January, the 34-year-old Canadian’s score for the Spike Jonze movie Her (feat. Arcade Fire) was nominated for an Oscar and out now is his fourth album, In Conflict. These songs inspired him while he was working on it.

Eurythmics - Love Is a Stranger

“When I was five, I used to listen almost exclusively to classical music, but somehow Eurythmics fitted into that listening environment really well. It’s thought out like a game of chess. This song is the perfect fusion of a very sterile synthetic environment and a very mannered vocal performance with a deeper range of emotions.”

Silver Apples - Program

“The feel of Silver Apples’ drum sound was what me and my drummer Rob [Gordon] wanted on my new album. It has to do with recording with no click track, so tempos are fluctuating. Listen to my song, The Sky Behind The Flag: Rob is getting tired towards the end and suddenly gets this burst of energy and rushes ahead. That feels very human.”

The Luyas - Moodslayer

“This song features an instrument called a Moodswinger, a really bizarre and rare kind of guitar thing that looks like it was made by a child. It creates this amazing eerie atmosphere, where the sound drifts and warps in and out of focus. I’m not an electric guitarist, but hearing the sound of that song informed a lot of string writing on my record.”

The Blue Nile - A Walk Across the Rooftops

“This Scottish band released two critically acclaimed albums in the 1980s. The first bears the title of this song and it is a masterpiece. That song’s iciness had a large influence on my song The Secret Seven. There’s this beautiful silence in it, where you hear warbling synths in the background. I got that from The Blue Nile.”

Green Velvet - The Stalker

“I didn’t have much time for dance music until recently. But I’m really into the brutal approach to rhythm on this Chicago house track. Green Velvet takes a simple rhythm and crosses it with another one to create a unique groove. That was the goal with The Sky Behind the Flag, to create simple brutal rhythmic interaction. It’s easy to understand.”

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07 2014 The Red Bulletin

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