Musician, painter, performance artist: It's hard to put a finger on C.M. Smith. The same goes for his music, because Smith is CASA ELECTRO NOVO, the world's most unique one-man electro-punk show. Berliner Zeitung, a Berlin daily newspaper, called him the ‘Elvis of Electro’ and, as a matter of fact, with his acrobatic interludes and energetic outbreaks of spontaneity, the entertainment value of a CASA ELECTRO NOVO show is thoroughly capable of competing with Las Vegas. Yet this off-the-wall blend of rock, pop, punk, disco and electro-clash is appealing not only when heard live: The mix clicks on the album format, too. Which is why Up Late!, the second album by this ex-Berliner, contains hits, hits, hits and hits.
CASA ELECTRO NOVO means one thing above all: energy. Captivating melodies, gripping beats and trashy sounds that open up listeners' ears. The fusion of punk's good-time, DIY spontaneity and the rhythm-laden party mentality of electro-pop. On Up Late!, hormones gain the upper hand and drive you out into the nightlife.
As Smith explains it, “The idea for Up Late! is very clearly an album for partying in the evening. Everyone's had a bit to drink, they're in an up mood and want to dance. What kind of music is right for that? Dance music seems a bit too clean, the rock music is okay, but you can’t dance to it that easily, so this music is sort of intended for the late night party vibe – it doesn’t have to be late, but that’s the atmosphere that inspired it.” The result is 13 extremely danceable electro-rock / disco-punk tracks equipped with lots of humor while reflecting a harsh reality. “I'm very critical when it comes to society, but I don't want to be the one to point the moral finger, so I wrap my observations in humor and optimism. Something like: If your life is absurd to the point of being unbearable, then go to the club and at least enjoy being alive together.”
Among the album's highlights are Same Difference, Neon, Sexy Girls or Stranger Than Fiction, all songs that convince the listener through marvelous melodies and multifaceted lyrics. Not to mention Nightlife, the first single, an unbeatable appeal against wasting time and in favor of optimism for its own sake.
Smith's utility case is legendary. He always carries it with him, and it's the origin for CASA ELECTRO NOVO to leap out of when his live set begins. Filled to the brim with samplers, HD recorders and all kinds of miraculous technical gizmos, it's a band and studio in one. But there's more to it: “The case is a part of the total concept,” according to Smith. “With it along I'm mobile and always have everything I need with me. When I walk on stage, all I need to do is plug it in.”
That one man alone can entertain his audience so brilliantly has a lot to do with his entertainment value and personal motivation. Smith certainly has enough of both: “As an artist you've got an obligation to your audience. The people pay their money and want to be entertained. When I’m on stage I feel like, “let’s have a good time, allow me make you laugh and dance, and hopefully make you enjoy yourself’.” As a childhood Smith thought wanted to become a stunt man, a passion he pays tribute to by leaping over towers of loudspeakers. Surprising breakdance intermezzos liven up the set, and for a while now he has even played guitar on stage, though he makes a point of emphasizing that “vocals and guitar are always live and do not come out of the case.” Since there's no set format for the show, each appearance is different. Expect the unexpected!
Smith went on stage solo for the first time seven years ago. He laid down the fundamental basics of the CASA ELECTRO NOVO concept, which encompasses music, dance, stage acrobatics and video installations. Still en route as a painter back then, Smith missed the directness of audience contact and decided to bring his ideas to the stage in the form of a musical/visual overall concept. Since he'd already played in various bands while growing up, he was in a position to combine his passion for musical elements with his training as an artist. Besides that, as a solo artist he was no longer forced to accept the usual compromises in a band that can strongly inhibit a flow of ideas. He instead worked incessantly on the periphery with artist friends of his, for example Nando Cornejo, who supports the live shows using innovative video projections and is also responsible for the album's great artwork.
Smith has been touring as CASA ELECTRO NOVO for about five years now. He has traveled throughout Europe from Spain to Oslo. Not surprising, because its existence as a road show belongs to the CASA ELECTRO NOVO concept. The decisive step was offered by a tour a few years ago acting as support for Madrugada. That took CASA ELECTRO NOVO on tour for a full month, sending Smith to medium-sized halls with audiences ranging around 2000. Meanwhile he plays around 60 gigs a year, from club dates to fashion shows. Following his very first feature on the ‘Hinterzimmer’ sampler from the Indie label Pop-Up, his first album To The Rescue was released two years ago on a small Norwegian label.
C.M. Smith took his very first breath near New York in Philadelphia in 1976. Though he grew up in New Mexico, he returned to New York to complete his studies at The Cooper Union, a college for fine arts. At some point along the line America became too confining: Smith headed for Europe, for Berlin to be more precise. The creative breeding ground there allowed the seed for CASA ELECTRO NOVO to sprout. For three years he enlivened the scene in the German capital and, in turn, let himself be inspired, then restless Smith packed hs bag and moved on to Bethnal Green in East London.
In a nutshell, Up Late! is the second album from CASA ELECTRO NOVO. With 13 songs and 3 interludes, Up Late! is a no-holds-barred trip through the imaginary nightlife in the multidimensional world of C.M. Smith. And if justice really does exist somewhere in this world, then Europe would probably soon have to quake till the wee hours of the morning – to the beat of CASA ELECTRO NOVO!