October 22, 2017 § 1 Comment
A flame my love a frequency is finally out and I have no words to tell you how happy I am about that! You can watch the tour trailer made by Flavia Martinez on my song “Another world” to see all the dates that will start in exactly one week from now, including a fourth European date at the Notwist-curated ALIEN DISKO # 2 festival in Munich on 16th December! And there will be more European dates in the spring!
Also, in seemingly unrelated news, but not so unrelated as you might think, I’m doing a mini-series of posts on Facebook entitled “Make your own clothes!”. Here are the first 2 parts and there will be a 3rd one right before I leave.
As always, thanks for reading and listening! :-)))
MAKE YOUR OWN CLOTHES! SERIES: PART I – WHY TALK ABOUT SEWING?
If you didn’t see this one coming, well, neither did I: if you had told me 2 years ago that 90% of what I would wear and carry in 2017 would be handmade by myself, I would have told you “Yeah, right”, and yet all the clothes I’m wearing on the press pics for the new album, recent videos and in the forthcoming live shows have been made by myself over the course of the past 6 months. And if you think this short series is going to be about “fashion”, well, not really: ethics, anti-consumerism, form and function, positive mood influence, empowerment through learning – all of these coupled with the beauty and quality of lovingly-made-to-measure items – are the reasons I make my own clothes. Why do I want to share this with you? Well, it feels really special to go on tour with clothes I’ve made myself (believe me, when you go on tour for a month with only one suitcase that is mostly filled with your gear, you really want your clothes to work for you), and there are definitely parallels in the way I see clothes-making and music-making: just as I believe that it is possible to make a record from A to Z on your own (with a lot of dedication, failures, steep learning curves and good advice thrown in, *obviously*), I wish I had known earlier how doable making clothes is, and since the aforementioned themes are important to me, I hope that if some of you reading this have been thinking about starting to make their own clothes but have been hesitating to take the plunge, perhaps these posts will be the small nudge needed for you to just do it: it is worth it in so many ways.
The outfit in this press pic is one I thought of even before the record was finished, as I fell in love with the incredible colour and pattern of the Japanese fabric, and knew I wanted some coords to mimic the look of a jumpsuit but without the inconvenients of the jumpsuit ;-) Fabric: ATELIER to nani IROMountains in blue. Top pattern: Trop Top by Ivanne S (for those of you who read French, I cannot recommend this pattern-maker enough). Shorts pattern: self-drafted.
PS: I have never been given anything by any of the fabric or pattern companies mentioned, and I’ve never posted anything up till now about sewing, so they don’t even know I exist or use their products.
MAKE YOUR OWN CLOTHES! SERIES: PART 2 – THE ENVIRONMENT, ETHICS AND ANTI-CONSUMERISM VIA SEWING.
As many of you probably know by now, either through my interviews or my lyrics, nature is very dear to me, and birdwatching since 2013 has taken my interest in and commitment to the preservation of the environment to another level. Protecting our habitats and all the creatures that live in it can only go hand in hand with respect for basic human rights, and in both those environmental and ethical aspects, clothing is one of the areas where our choices do have a real impact. Companies that are more transparent in terms of how they source and treat their materials, as well as their workers, are becoming more and more numerous, which is of course a cause for celebration, but there is also a lot of greenwashing marketing going on, and educating yourself on the complex matters of textile production and garment manufacturing, as well as trying to locate truly ethically-made “green” clothing, can lead you to days and days of online browsing, sometimes only to find out the company does not ship to where you live, that it’s just too expensive for you, or that yes it does seem ethical but they just don’t have what you’re looking for. Anti-consumerism and minimalism can solve part of the problem: buy less but better, and think ten times before you buy that thing you don’t actually need.
In all these aspects, sewing – not just your clothes, but also the accessories you use every day, the furnishings in your home, etc – is a really powerful tool, both in terms of providing the motivation to stay away from multinational clothing companies and obtaining the actual items you need. I can guarantee that once you’ve experienced or at least understood how much skill and time it takes to sew, say, a shirt, you will truly understand why a 10 euro price tag in a certain Swedish chain is completely abnormal – but the problem is further compounded by the fact that a higher price tag does not necessarily mean the worker has been better paid, or that the textile is greener. Sourcing organic fabric or fabric made in more respectful ways than the usual synthetic textiles or highly-polluting non-organic cotton that fills retail stores is getting easier and easier, meaning that making your own organic or “cleaner-than-retail” clothes is also becoming easier and easier, and can be way cheaper than buying it.
Of course this is a highly complex problem with no simple one-fits-all solution, and indeed I realize that not everyone can /wants /has the time to sew. I also lay no claims to perfection: I do my best, but I’m aware that I’m wearing Adidas trainers on some of my press pictures, hardly the most ethical company in the world… However I do believe that for those who are creatively-inclined, sewing can be an awesome doorway to respond to the basic human necessity that clothing ourselves is, while giving us joy, enabling us to disconnect, making our brains work, and leading us to realize just how truly grateful we should be for all the people that are behind the clothing we have or have had on our backs.
PS: Please see Alberto’s comment about second-hand clothes and my reply! :-)
Fabric: ATELIER to nani IRO Jewel Song Pocho quilted double gauze. Jacket pattern: Monceau by Cozy Little World (French pattern – I drafted and added a silk and cotton lining).
Photos by Isabel Dublang.
October 12, 2017 § Leave a comment
I am beyond thrilled to let you know that you can *finally* hear my sixth album A flame my love, a frequency, on NPR First Listen! I hope you will love the album as much as I do, and I cannot tell you how excited I am to be bringing the album to US and European venues in less than 2 weeks!
October 10, 2017 § Leave a comment
I’m soooo thrilled to introduce the second excerpt from the new album with this stunning video that young film maker (and freestyle skateboarding world champion – I’m not kidding!!!) Connor Burke has made for “Winter dawn”. This is truly one of my favorite music videos ever, and I’m not talking about videos made for my own music: I mean that if this had been created for another musician, I would have been in awe! I hope you will love the poetical and powerful world Connor Burke has created as much the song itself.
If you’re curious about Connor’s process, here are his own words about the video: “Utilizing a mixture of specialized acrylics, silicone, and painting medium, I poured nearly seventy cups of the mixture onto canvases and filmed the interactions from above with a macro lens. The acrylics underwent a simple chemical reaction as the medium isolated the colors from one another.”
The world had nearly ended yet the sky was blue
And I came home with a fistful of fear
O dear soul, flesh and bones
Love alone is your home
Deep and warm, golden dawn
Shine some more of that light of yours
Deep and warm, golden dawn
Give me more of that light of yours
On the European live front, I’m playing in my beloved ZDB in Lisbon on 7th December, and at the Notwist-curated Alien Disko festival in Munich on 16th December! And on the US side, I got the amazing news this week that Sam Prekop of The Sea and Cake will open for my show at the MCA in Chicago on 3rd November – so honoured and excited at the thought of that evening in Thrill Jockey’s adopted home! And guitarist extraordinaire Shane Parish will open in Asheville on 14th November!
As always thanks for your support, and stay tuned this week because the album’s premiere is finally happening!
October 8, 2017 § Leave a comment
We’ve now reached the end of this series, with a track from my fifth album, featuring melodica. Is melodica a keyboard instrument? Well, technically it’s a wind instrument that does have a tiny keyboard, so I guess it does qualify ;-)
I’ve always loved the melodica (you can listen to my “The melodica song” from my Mort aux Vaches 2005 radio session) and have always found it a shame that it’s so often associated with a kind of “twee” vibe that makes it more akin to a toy than a real instrument. As far as I’m aware, only the late great Augustus Pablo managed to make the instrument truly shine in its own right, and he is the obvious inspiration behind this track, one of the last two that I worked on when making the album (along with “Eclipse”, the other track where the dub influence is the strongest).
I initially had doubts about including the melodica on the album, precisely because I thought I’d get too close to the original Jamaican model (something that was not an issue with the viola da gamba, as it’s so un-Jamaican). But I had this bass line which I absolutely loved and nothing came on the viola, so I thought “Why not try it?”, and it immediately felt so right that the song literally came together in an afternoon.
Its title is inspired by a truly magical place, the island of Salina, part of the Eolie archipelago north of Sicily, where the night sky is just spellbinding: because of the low light pollution and the height of part of the island, you don’t need to look up to see the stars, they are right in front of you as you look out towards the ocean. When I heard the delayed melodica, it immediately reminded me of the immensity of the Salina sky and the feeling of being part of the universe that I felt over there.
Artwork is once again by the *stellar* Iker Spozio ;-) And the album is still available on both CD and vinyl, on my Bandcamp, Thrill Jockey’s website, and many other places.
I truly hope you’ve enjoyed this series as much as I have, I normally never listen to my older music so the trip was more surprising to me than what I would have expected! TOMORROW GET READY FOR THE FIRST VIDEO FROM THE ALBUM! :-)))
October 7, 2017 § Leave a comment
The Weighing of the Heart was released in 2013 after a long hiatus from releasing albums and touring, and perhaps because of that, it’s an album in which I tried to incorporate my love for the many different types of music and instruments I’d been listening to between 2008 and 2012. By that time I had moved from Paris to Spain and started to rent the space which I still use as a studio today, enabling me to explore more options in terms of which instruments to play, since I was no longer restricted by space or neighbour problems. I started to sing and use the treble viola da gamba, bought a couple of percussion instruments, and short of having real organs at my disposal, I got an M-Audio Keystation 61ES and the Native Instruments Vintage Organs software.
I’ve loved the sound of electric organs for many years: I remember vividly, when I was about 13, hearing an organ in the basement of the school friend who had lent me the blue and red Beatles compilation tapes that became my favorite companions for the next 2 years: her dad had recently passed away and no one was supposed to play his organ, but in secret my friend played it briefly for me and – perhaps because of that secrecy and the sadness associated with it- it made such a strong impression on me.
Later on in Paris I always fantasized that I would one day find a similar organ in an antiques shop, or a harmonium – another one of my keyboard obsessions in the early 2000s. Well, I never did find an organ or a harmonium (and where to put it would have been a big problem!), and the feel of a MIDI keyboard running through software – as great as that software actually sounds – was not really what I was looking for (I don’t think I’ll *ever* be a MIDI person!), but I did use the Farfisa Compact emulation for the ending of “Moonlit sky”, and it’s one of my favorite moments on the album – I hope you like it too :-)
October 5, 2017 § 1 Comment
Even though outwardly my music is not autobiographical at all, there is always a deep connection between what I feel or would *like* to feel and the music I end up making, and if there is one album of mine that exemplifies this connection, it has to be Les ondes silencieuses.
I recorded it in winter 2006, after learning the basics of the viola da gamba for less than a year, getting a sabbatical from my teaching job, and returning from my first Japanese tour. Prior to the sabbatical, the incompatibility between teaching and music-making on a near-professional level had become more and more glaring every day, and I felt overwhelmed most of the time. Problematically, I still felt overwhelmed even *after* the sabbatical was granted to me, since I was able to accept more offers, and was also trapped in endless administrative tasks.
The trip to Japan proved crucial to the final twist I gave the album, which I’d already half-composed earlier in the year: if my life wasn’t giving me the sense of calm I so badly needed, then I would give my music that sense of calm, in the same way that the Japanese traditional aesthetics made spaces and objects radiate with beautiful, essential simplicity.
I was obsessed with the more introspective side of Baroque music at the time, and short of being able to include a real harpsichord, I managed to locate and rent a spinet, its more modest cousin: I brought it home for a couple of weeks, learnt to get used to its rather stiff action, and recorded “Le labyrinthe” in the living-room of my Paris flat. The silence between the notes in the first section, which strikes me as extreme now, felt entirely natural then, and given the almost complete absence of electricity on that album, dominated by my bass viola da gamba, it’s only natural that the keyboard that ended up on this album should have been made only of wood and metal.
This album has been reissued on coloured and black vinyl by The Leaf Label this year (available through my Bandcamp – also available on CD) and will see its first tape release on 14th October on Beacon Sound (EU customers can order through my Bandcamp, non-EU customers please head over directly to Beacon Sound’s website here ). Both the digital and tape versions contain two unreleased bonus tracks recorded live in Japan during the aforementioned tour. The album is also available on CD.
Artwork is by Iker Spozio.
October 4, 2017 § Leave a comment
Of my three albums for Leaf, this is the one I feel closest to, perhaps because it taught me that I could just choose to do anything if I really wanted to – in this particular instance, playing about 10 different instruments on an album, all self-taught except for the guitar. Three combined factors led me to abandoning sampling: when the time came to play live, I just could not imagine myself with a computer or just a sampler on stage; sampling had become joyless/stale as a method for making a second album (I immediately saw it wasn’t working anymore); and last but not least, having become a teacher, I finally had a proper income for the first time in my life, which enabled me to move from a 17m2 studio to a 40m2 one-bedroom flat – the pinnacle of luxury for a young person in Paris! – and which led to my I-am-going-to-buy-any-instrument-I-can-lay-my-hands-on -no-matter-how-small-or-shitty period, which lasted for about two years. I also acquired the pedals which proved crucial to my live shows for many years (the Boss Loopstation in its early incarnation, the Line6 DL4, and the Akai Headrush).
One of my acquisitions was a super cheap Casio AS67, which had one decent tone only, and that’s the one I used as the basis for “The happy sea”, run through a pretty extreme plugin (I can’t remember which one, but it’s responsible for the almost wah-wah quality of the organ sound), and on top I played a newly-acquired glockenspiel and – salvaged from my childhood – a wooden recorder (lecteurs français de ma génération, je sais que vous aussi vous avez tous eu une flute! J). To this day there’s still something in this song that makes me feel really happy, perhaps it was a premonition that I would one day live by the sea :-)))
This album has been reissued on coloured and black vinyl by The Leaf Label this year (available through my Bandcamp) and will be released on tape for the first time on 14th October on Beacon Sound (EU customers can order through my Bandcamp, non-EU customers please head over directly to Beacon Sound’s website here).