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Coincidences, encounters and coincidental encounters. Panning for gold through the uncertainties of life. It seems this is what BF/C is doing. Not just musically. To me it's tangible, as it obviously must be for Barish Firatli and Californiaman.
Let me tell you how I discovered BF/C. Before they existed.
It was a few years ago. On a bleak, early Sunday evening I find myself sitting at the Smaka bar – a pub in Gothenburg. A few moments later, I notice another lone customer settling in a couple of stools away from me. He kindles my curiosity not only because he seems to enjoy his solitary presence in a bar much alike me but there is something charismatic about his revelation. And not the least, I am also asking myself about his heritage!
I don't remember why we started to talk, but after a while I needed to ask. When he gave me his explanation it all made sense. It is after all the key to the charisma Barish displays in his voice and looks.
A sundrenched innocent version of a Mediterranean playboy who happens to have walked off a luxurious yacht from Bodrum into a wind plagued Gothenburg. This is how I experience Barish. As a singer and as a person.
There and then our conversation continues to be about Turkey since my cousins are also half-Turkish. It later turns out that Barish has recently returned to Gothenburg after a lengthy stay abroad and is on the look out for work, and I mention that I've got some friends opening a new bar that may need staff. Barish thanks me for the advice and we part.
These kinds of encounters are always enjoyable but the reality is that you are highly unlikely to meet again. The ambitions that have been enthusiastically spoken of when revolving in the bar ambiance are seldom sought through. The memories of our meeting would most likely begin to evaporate for both of us the next day already.
Six months later or so I find myself in Gothenburg once again and realize I should pay a visit to my friends’ recently opened bar.
This time both Barish and I are reckless in exploiting what meeting people actually can accomplish.
It is spring, and it takes only seconds to recognize the bartender near the entrance with the bed chamber glance. I greet him happily and tell him "Great to see you working here!” He gives me a casually examining look. But of course, when you have been blessed with this kind of Mediterranean bed chamber glance you can not look surprised but only casually inspecting!
It's obvious that he doesn't remember me or my tip off regarding working this bar. Somewhat bothered and embarresed I talk of the evening we met..."aaaah, yes...perhaps?" he pretends to remember, but we talk a bit, and Barish tells me he makes music. He gives me a name that I pretend to memorize, but in describing the music he drops a couple of references that I find incignificant or indifferent. So I simply state, "how fun! gotta check it out!". I had forgotten the name I pretended to memorize as I left about a half-hour later...
About a year goes by and I'm working at a restaurant on the Island, Marstrand where everybody knows eachother. Every summer, a few concerts are arranged at the legendary terrace of "Wärdshuset". Unknown or somewhat known artists perform.
During an afternoon stroll I recognize a familiar turkish playboy pulling cables and assembling microphone stands, so I say hi. This time Barish does recognize me and lets me know that his duo is playing later that night.
It is fair to give "Marstrand" much praise, but its engagement in new swedish music is limited to say the least. My laziness almost kept me home that night, but I'm glad it didn't. I along with the others who happened to be there were spellbound by the atmospheric, concise performance.
There, for the first time I met Barish's companion, Californiaman, or Joel Igor Hammad Magnusson. With an "aka" as Californiaman, I find it satisfying that the two met in San Francisco.
I don't think Barish or Californiaman have been avid listeners of Pet Shop Boys or Roxy Music, and maybe being a duo like the Pet Shop Boys is all that is in common.
However- this is meant as as a compliment, where the front figure and singer, Neil Tennant is communicative and Chris Lowe, with an uninterpretable expression behind keyboards and sunglasses. One can see why i make the association. From the photos I've seen and the concert, i wonder...is Californiaman Chris Lowes hippie cousin? Barish a half-turkish Neil Tennant who fell of a yacht from Bodrum in the waters surrounding Marstrand? well...
The same gravitas and self-esteem is found in BF/C from the start, as it was with Pet Shop Boys some 35-years ago. Can it be called modern dignity? A carefree confident elegance that is reminicent with Roxy Music in the times of "Flesh and Blood" or "Avalon".
It's possible that BF/C hate these somewhat forced references, but if you stir in some miscellaneous seventies music, we might come closer to a reasonable description.
Classic disco meets the American 70's? No. Let's say Grace Jones sleeps with pink Floyd, but has an affair with Fleetwood Mac during a film noir screening? But in 2019.
There you have it. It's impossible to describe BF/C with standardized musical references, and that should be a compliment as good as any. For those who have yet to discover BF/C, I congratulate you.
I don't know how many times I have listened to songs like Gold, Temple, Seemless and C'est la Vie since I first heard them, and I'm not alone in having been immediatley seduced by their filmic elegance or by Barish's voice. Sexy and urgent. Impossible to resist.
Director Frida Röhl got as smitten as i did. When she was assembling a modern version of Chekhovs "Seagull" at the Stockholm theatre, it amounted to a couple of brilliant songs is Swedish, written for the ensamble. The lyrics are naiv, but become luminous with Barish singing.
But let's go back to the gold that can be panned thru coincidental encounters. I recall once asking Barish if he alternated the lyrics " you pan for gold" with "you plan for gold" in for me their most emblematig song, Gold.
He gave me that look again and said, "you pan for gold".
I still like my version. Sometimes I or BF/C or anybody is panning for gold. Sometimes we are planning for gold. These impulses are what spark coincidental encounters and therefore everything from fantastic music to love.