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Hot Casandra: Romance and Retro Synths in Romania

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It reads like an indie-film competition pitch from a London based film-studies student, probably called Tabitha: Romania in the mid-noughties. A former teenage it girl, Elena, longs to break away from her reality-show-spawned teeny bopper band – which had enjoyed masses of success, national TV attention and helicopter-commuted parties years ago. Years pass as does the band. Fearing the inevitable slip into TV adverts, walk-ons in sitcoms and panels in comedy shows, she disappears from the public eye. At the same time, indie-band drummer recently turned tech house DJ and keen bedroom producer, Paul, has been making a name for himself in the local Bucharest electronic music community. Elena gets talking to Paul in the back room of a known techno venue in the capital. Within weeks, they’re dating.

However, at this point Tabitha’s script presumably becomes a series of montages involving dusk walks in Communist era parks, soft-focus moments in back-alley restaurants and nights in bars with a collection of similarly young attractive types, all of whom are wearing at least one item of leather clothing….

Luckily for Data Transmission, the story is not only true, but in reality, when Paul and Elena did go for dinner, It was Paul’s intention to get Elena back to his studio by the third date, with explicit the intention of getting her vocals onto a track. Paul then knew he had found The One…to bring onto his own long term pet music project: a duo termed Hot Casandra.

Officially launching as a duo in 2011, in just two years, Hot Casandra has had rave reviews from Romanian MTV, Romanian lifestyle magazines, Swiss Media and, since their move to London in 2012, sets at The Egg, Proud Camden, Pacha, Ministry of Sound and national press coverage to boot. Now, armed with a debut long-player Getaway Heart  the duo are keen to step up into the international field. 

Speaking to Paul shortly before their boxing-day set at Ministry Of Sound for the Toolroom Knights (Where he’d play a storming two hour set which even the turkey-drunk, great-aunt-senile-chat-weary crowd were furiously fist pumping to) what strikes DT as much as the lifestyle-mag love-story angle to the duo’s tale is the consistent theme of backward movement. Having achieved pop success, vocalist Elena was determined to start again from scratch on music on her own terms. Meanwhile, upon moving to London, Paul befriended a Hoxton based synth collector called Dan who became entranced by the duo’s story and sound, and subsequently gave Paul free use of his extensive analog synth collection. “I now make music in the opposite direction to most” he tells DT “I make a track, record all melodies on Ableton with the usual plug ins, then I replace and re-record everything with 90s Synths!” 

Even their success feels like a counter inertial movement. Thanks to Elena’s residual fame, the duo had MTV coverage and national press exposure before they were particularly established as a duo in the electronic community. Their most popular track to date, the long-player’s title piece, Getaway Heart, is actually their oldest. “I recorded this one years ago” explains Paul. “But I was afraid of the sound. I was worried It’d get compared to Depeche Mode or something similar, I didn’t know how comfortable I felt making that kind of music, so I’ve only just released it now.”

Clearly a hurdle the duo got over: their entire sound has a dusty, basement bar in the ‘90s feel to it. Paul clams up when asked to compare his sound to other artists, but there are a couple of references to Depeche Mode a few times in the interview, and DT would certainly hedge bets on their being a key influence to the young Romanian Reformers.

So what next for the nostalgic synth Sid & Nancy? “We love London. It is very different however. In Bucharest, you’re sort of left alone. Club parties go on all weekend, and you can live in a world of never-ending decadent weekends where all sorts of things go down. In London everything’s that bit more safe, but more regulated too. We’re responding to that though. We working on our DJing now as opposed to live sets and we’re producing more and more re-edits of our work for the house-happy London crowd.” As for what advice he’d give other emerging musicians, Paul laughs. “I have no idea! I’ll tell you once I’ve finished emerging as an artist myself!”

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