Moloko are a British band based in Sheffield. The band is basically a partnership between Roisin Murphy and Mark Brydon, although they utilise several other musicians, particularly drummer Paul Slowley and keyboardist Eddie Stevens, when performing live. The pair met at a party in 1994, during which Roisin uttered the immortal words, "Do you like my tight sweater? See how it fits my body" (presumably in her lilting Irish accent). Mark was instantly smitten, and they have been lovers and musical partners ever since.
Roisin Murphy provides all of Moloko's vocals, and uses her voice in a multitude of ways to add her unique style to their music. Deep, husky poetry recitals, screams, moans, yelps and groans are all used to compliment her already excellent singing voice. Strangely, before forming Moloko, she had never worked as a singer before. She has also become something of a style celebrity, famed for her bizarre, though strangely erotic, fashion statements (dresses made of mirrors, sequinned cat-suits, 1920's cocktail dresses...), and is a regular feature on the cover of fashion magazines as well as the music press.
Mark Brydon is a more traditional electronic artist, taking a back seat as far as publicity is concerned, and usually trapped behind a bank of knobs and dials during live performances. However, this mild-mannered geek is arguably the brains behind Moloko's eclectic sound. Before forming Moloko, he was a member of the 80's 'avant-funk' band Chakk, and then moved on to producing and remixing for bands such as Erik B. & Rakim and Cloud 9.
And Moloko? Yep, it's straight from A Clockwork Orange. Nailbunny is right, of course, that Moloko means 'milk' in Russian. However, according to Roisin and Mark themselves, they took the name from the favorite drink of Alex and his droogs, not from anything so healthy and nutritious as a glass of milk!
The musical output of Moloko has a very distinctive sound, despite the variations in the instruments, techniques and production values used on each album. Heavily influenced by electronica, the drum patterns are usually highly syncopated, almost breakbeat rhythms, although they often mix live and sampled drum sounds to create a more cut-and-paste feel. The rest of the music is provided by anything Mark can get his hands on - all the usual synthesizer sounds, plus alto saxophones (Pure Pleasure Seeker), acoustic guitars (The Time is Now), banjos (On My Horsey), stylophones (erm... Stylophone Pet), and sitars (Lotus Eaters), to name just a few. The results range from drum and bass on amphetamines (Butterfly 747) to smokey trip hop (Where is the what if the what is in why?), stopping at all points in between.
For what it's worth, they characterise the music on their own web-site as:
"equal parts of funk, hip hop, rap, new beat, breakbeat and drum & bass, with intense non-linear vocalese by a multi-voiced performer, all knitted it into a production that does not stop at the normal."
…And they're not far wrong…
Moloko are now a very famous band, and chances are that you have heard one of their singles, such as 'Sing it Back', or 'The Time is Now'. However, if you only heard these singles, you would be missing out on what Moloko are really all about as a band. In order to explain that, and to sound a little less pretentious, I will try and explain...
Do You Like My Tight Sweater?, Moloko's first full length album, met with much critical acclaim. They were heralded as the next big thing amongst a certain crowd, and widely believed to be a band to watch. However, the singles from the album failed to chart very highly outside the alternative scene (although Fun For Me was included, for reasons still unclear to me, on the Batman and Robin soundtrack). Much to their credit, Moloko didn't let this lack of recognition stop them, and returned to the studio to work on I Am Not a Doctor.
When I Am Not a Doctor was released, Moloko had a problem. Sales were less than the first album (partly due to Moloko losing their 'brand new band' status, and partly because it just wasn't as good as the first one), and Roisin and Mark were fast running out of money. They had reached a point where, if something didn't happen soon, they would have to stop making music, and start making money. Not a great situation to be in. Then along came Boris Dlouglosch...
Boris sent Moloko an unsolicited remix of Sing it Back, which Moloko loved. More importantly though, so did the rest of the world. The single sold millions, became an Ibiza anthem, and has now featured on over 110 compilation albums. Moloko were suddenly all over MTV and the mainstream press, and were making enough cash to fund any of their future ventures.
The irony of it all is that the Boris Dlouglosch remix is really not as interesting, musically, as the original Sing It Back. Whilst the album version is a slow, trip hop track, with a dark and haunting vocal, the remix is full-on house, with a simple beat, and a chorus to make you throw your arms in the air.
Moloko, however, don't seem to mind. I saw an interview with them on MTV at around this time, and Roisin pointed out that they liked the remix, since although pushing back the frontiers of electronica is interesting, dancing around like a wild thing is just plain fun. Roisin also hinted that they were happy to be making the money, since it would allow them to continue with their more obscure album work.
With the release of Things to Make and Do, this approach had become clear. There was still plenty of dark breakbeat lounge singing, but the album was also lightly sprinkled with house anthems. The Time is Now being a perfect example. Moloko seem to have accepted the fact that they needed to compromise to remain independent, and by releasing a few catchy singles, they were able to continue doing the more interesting work.
If further proof was needed, just look at the lyrics to Dumb Inc., from Things to Make and Do (incidentally, this song is certainly not one of the 'poppy' ones on the album). The lyrics contain lines such as 'Take a look around, You and me are free to be the dumbest in town', and the chorus repeats 'Dumb, Dumb, We're dumbing it down'
…So I guess they're aware of what they're doing… And, because they are aware, it's safe to assume that they will carry on producing interesting and eclectic music, whilst maintaining a stable of more popular songs.
Discography (through 2001)
(All released on Echo Records)
Roisin Murphy has also recorded with Handsome Boy Modeling School, on an (amazing) jazzy track called The Truth.
Mark Brydon has remixed for Shirley Bassey, Boy George, and Pulp (who toured with Moloko, and are also based in Sheffield).
Moloko have been remixed by (amongst others):
Sources: http://www.moloko.co.uk/, http://www.allmusicguide.com/