British electronic music duo Simian Mobile Disco originally made a name for itself in the mid-'00s with its funky, pop-oriented electro sound. But on the pair's most recent album, last year's Delicacies, members James Ford and Jas Shaw raised eyebrows for more than one reason. First, the sound was, in stark contrast to its earlier material, stripped-down, vocal-less, and heavily oriented toward a purer sound.
Second, including the album title, everything on the record is named for a food, particularly a strange one. The nine songs bear the name of an obscure (or in some cases, not so obscure) regional specialty from somewhere in the world -- although food obsessives reading the full Delicacies track list below might now want to tick it off as a checklist.
Simian Mobile Disco will play some of these tasty nuggets in Miami next week at the sold-out Ultra Music Festival at Bicentennial Park. We caught up with Simian Mobile Disco's James Ford by phone recently to question him about the record, as well as his and Shaw's latent adventurous-food tendencies -- or lack thereof.
Check out the full track list, with an explanation of each delicacy, and listen to some of the songs below.
New Times: The names of the tracks are food items. Did those come after the tracks were written, or did you somehow use the names as a creative starting point?
James Ford: The names started to come after. We had a bunch of tunes, and we thought about the names and stuff. But then actually, since we've got onto the idea, I suppose we've been asking anyone wherever we go what's the most disgusting thing you eat here? We've now got quite a long list of very interesting titles, and now we've got more titles than we've got tracks. We did one just the other day, so I suppose it's kind of flipped the other way around, where the title can be inspiration for the name.
Have you eaten any of the stuff after which the tracks are named?
Some of them, yeah. It's something we hadn't planned on, that once we had done the Delicacies thing, they assumed you're into eating that sort of stuff. So when you go somewhere, they'll, like, present you with a plateful of crickets or some knee ligament from some strange animal for breakfast and expect you to be really pleased. But I used to be vegetarian, so I'm quite a squeamish meat-eater, so we've dug a bit of a hole for ourselves.
Here's Simian Mobile Disco's official video for "Sweetbread":
Here's Simian Mobile Disco's Delicacies track list, with an explanation of each dish:
1. "Aspic": Familiar to anyone who's gone through Julia Child's classics, or at least Julie Powell's nervous descriptions of it. For everyone else, it's like meat-flavored Jell-O, sometimes with savory bits floating inside, and mercifully no longer truly in fashion.
2. "Nerve Salad": We'll be honest -- Simian Mobile Disco's song of the same title has now flooded all Google results for this delicacy, except for this free stock photo of it. Looks like chopped meat or fish and vegetables, and not gross after all. Help, someone?
3. "Casu Marzu": a Sardinian sheep's milk cheese that's extra-fermented -- with the help of live insect larvae!
4. "Thousand-Year Egg": a Chinese dish in which an egg (duck, chicken, or quail) is preserved in a soil-like mixture for weeks or months. It turns dark, translucent, and gelatinous.
5. "Skin Cracker": Also known as krupuk kulit, it's an Indonesian dried cracker made from cattle skin. Miami residents will not find that gross at all -- it's pretty much a beef chicharrón.
6. "Hákarl": The interesting placement of that accent might tip you off to the fact that this is Icelandic -- specifically, an Icelandic way of curing a shark native to the area by leaving it hanging to ferment for four or five months. The smell is, unsurprisingly, said to be very heavy on ammonia.
7. "Sweetbread": Organ meats that are prepared deliciously by many cultures. Moving on....
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8. "Ortolan": On the surface, this isn't too disturbing. It was a small bird from the bunting family, kind of like squab. So why was its preparation outlawed in France in 1999? Well, because it traditionally involved leaving the bird in a dark box -- where it would stuff itself in confusion -- drowning it in armagnac, and then roasting it. On top of that, the bird was meant to be consumed whole, including bones and organs, save for the head or beak. Enough to turn someone vegan, no?
9. "Fugu": You know how you hear so much about the Japanese and their nearly inexplicable, careful preparation of poisonous pufferfish? That's fugu, a word that refers to both the fish itself and the dish prepared from it.