A PERSONAL KEYBOARD ARCHEOLOGY – PART 3: “A SWIMMING POOL DOWN THE RAILWAY TRACK”, 2003, EVERYONE ALIVE WANTS ANSWERS
October 3, 2017 § Leave a comment
I’ll be posting every day this week to finish this series this weekend, because next week will be full of very very exciting news regarding the new record!
Around 2001, I was given the Acid software by a friend, and I discovered sampling on the computer: I could finally make my dream of making solo music beyond the confines of my guitar-based practice come true, and obsessively borrowed dozens of CDs of all music genres every week in the mediatheques of Paris, the city where I had moved in 1999 to take a master’s in English. My voracious appetite for all the types of music to which access had so far been denied to me because of my lack of money led me to this sample-based approach in a very natural way. In 2002 I finished what became my first album, Everyone alive wants answers, but interestingly enough, there is *one* track on the album that does contain music played by myself, and the instrument is… that same Bontempi organ mentioned in Parts 1 and 2!
The original instrument was recorded right after the one I posted a couple of days ago, and even though I initially preferred the very first song, it is the second organ song that ended up on the album, and I’m intrigued by the fact that of all the old recordings I could have used, the Bontempi organ came out the winner: I think it’s because somehow it already seemed ready to blend within the acoustic-meets-electronic-manipulation that I was aiming for with my sampling approach (almost all the samples were of acoustic instruments). As for the “swimming pool down the railway track”, it really did exist, and I saw it on my way to work every day as I went to teach English in a lycée in a Parisian suburb, its slight surrealism in the morning light making the early rising and long transport hours somehow more bearable.
The album has been reissued on coloured and black vinyl by The Leaf Label and on tape by Beacon Sound, head over to Bandcamp if you are curious!
PERSONAL KEYBOARD ARCHEOLOGY – PART 2: ORGAN SONG 1995 with free or pay-as-you-wish Bandcamp download
September 30, 2017 § Leave a comment
I wrote many songs before I officially started the Colleen project (I was already 27 when my first album was released in 2003), and I’ve forgotten about most of them as the years have gone by, since I never listen to that phase of my musical growth, the difficult years from 1995 to 2000 in which I knew I wanted to make music on my own, but only had a guitar and a 4-track Fostex tape recorder to do so, hence the very real feeling of being stuck. But there is ONE song which I’ve never forgotten and for which I have a deep affection, and it happens to be a song I made on the Bontempi organ I received in Christmas 1984.
In 1995, I had been playing guitar for 4 years, first acoustic, then electric, first by myself, then in a noisy-pop-rock group with friends for 2 years, from the age of 17 to 19. The group ended in 1995 and while I’d loved playing in that group, I also knew that I wasn’t really made for the compromises inherent in group playing. My desire to make music was fierce, and I got a 4-track Fostex tape recorder in the summer of 1995 with the intention of working on my own.
I must have felt intuitively that *just* being a guitar player was limiting me, so I tried to grab whatever I could use as an instrument, including the glockenspiel my mum used in her class (she was a kindergarten teacher) and that famous Bontempi organ.
“Wheezy and slow” is how you could charitably describe the sound that came out of that little beast, so when I wrote and recorded this instrumental with what must have been an appalling microphone, I’m not sure how I felt about it, but immediately afterwards a simple gesture taught me my first lesson in the power of production: I slowed down the tape. That simple act of slowing down the tape transformed the song entirely, and I remember listening to the song, completely mesmerized, thinking “*This* is what I need to do”. You might think I’m exaggerating or being pretentious when I say that slowing down a tape was my first lesson in production, and yet I truly believe that production is – no more, no less – the act of transforming sound to give shape and identity to a piece of music. It doesn’t matter what genre of music you work in, and it doesn’t matter whether you transform the sound in 50 different ways in 100 places over 40 hours of work, or just once in one second: what matters is the result, a transformed sound that suits *your* imagined ideal soundworld.
I have made the song available for the first time, on my Bandcamp, and you can download it for free or pay-as-you-wish, it’s really up to you, I’m just happy to finally share what was the first stepping stone on my journey as a solo composer/interpreter/producer.
September 27, 2017 § Leave a comment
I’ve just started a Facebook series called A personal keyboard archeology, in which I’ll be looking at the ways in which I’ve used various keyboard instruments over my years of music-making, and ‘ll post the same contents here for those of you who are not too keen on Facebook! ;-)))
A PERSONAL KEYBOARD ARCHEOLOGY – PART 1
Christmas 1984. I’m 8 years old and I’ve just received from Mr Fake Santa Claus a Bontempi organ. My dad used to work as a clerk in a bank and each year, the company distributed a Christmas toys catalogue and each kid could choose one present from the catalogue, which was then handed over during an evening where all the employees and their families were treated to a Christmas dinner followed by lots of drunken dancing to the sound of cheesy music. At the time, my world revolved around reading and fluffy toys, so why did I choose that present? Well, in 1984, one of my cousins got a Bontempi organ and it immediately fascinated me, so when I saw it in the catalogue my decision was immediately made.
I’d love to be able to tell you that I was a precocious kid who immediately got creative with that organ, but nothing could be further from the truth: I barely remember what I did with the organ in the following years, and only vaguely remember it came with a couple of sheets that were supposed to indicate which keys you should press to play whichever traditional tune was printed on said sheets – not exactly a creative approach to the instrument.
However, while in interviews I have always replied to the question “How did you start making music?” by saying that I fell in love with the Beatles at age 13 and then started playing the guitar at age 15, I’ve recently realised that the seed was planted earlier, with that organ and my obsession with Michael Jackson’s Thriller album. And while my music has mostly used – up until the new forthcoming album –various stringed instruments – fingerpicked, bowed, strummed, hammered, etc – there’s always been space on each of my albums for at least one keyboard instrument, and I think that sooner or later, I was bound to make the album I’ve just made.
This series is all about revisiting those songs, and in the next instalment you’ll hear the first keyboard song I ever wrote and recorded and which paved the way for all my solo work years later.
Last but not least, the tickets for my show at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago are finally available, and I thought I’d take this opportunity to share this poster made by photographer Isabel Dublang to recap all the dates of my North American tour !
Oct. 29 2017- Portland, OR, USA – Mississippi Studios – copresented by Beacon Sound – with Derek Hunter Wilson
Oct. 30 2017 – San Francisco, CA, USA – Swedish American Hall
Nov. 1 2017 – Los Angeles, CA, USA – Zebulon – copresented by Dublab – with Mary Lattimore and Frosty DJ Set
Nov. 3 2017 – Chicago, IL, USA – Museum of Contemporary Art
Nov. 5 2017 – Philadelphia, PA, USA – PhilaMOCA – with Tim Woulfe
Nov. 8 2017 – Brooklyn, NY, USA – Good Room – with Jon Porras
Nov. 10 2017 – Montreal, Canada – La Sala Rossa – with Ylang Ylang and Khôra
Nov. 12 2017 – Toronto, Canada – Arraymusic – with Khôra
Nov. 14 2017 – Asheville, NC, USA – The Mothlight
Nov. 19 2017 – Washington, DC, USA – Songbyrd Music House
Of course feel free to check out the Facebook events and ticket links in my Songkick or live section!
Hope to see you there :-)))
August 30, 2017 § Leave a comment
Today while the rain was pouring outside and just before thunder stopped my rehearsal short, I was able to shoot this little video of the middle section of my song “Winter dawn”, one of my favorite songs from the new album, everything going through my new Soundcraft Signature12MTK mixing desk – 24 hours with it so far and I’m already so happy about it, the change in sound is so noticeable compared to my old Behringer!
In live-related news, please note: MY LONDON SHOW IS NOW ON 9TH DECEMBER, not 8th December as previously announced. If you have bought tickets already, your ticket will automatically be transferred to the new date, or you can of course get a refund if you cannot make it on 9th December. For those of you who didn’t know about the show, it takes place at St John Bethnal Green and is organised by Baba Yaga’s Hut – I really can’t wait, I love playing in London sooo much! :-)
August 24, 2017 § Leave a comment
LEAF ALBUMS 2, 3 AND EP ON TAPE + BLACK VINYL, CANADIAN DATES AND TEMPORARY LIVE SETUP BEFORE UPGRADE!
August 19, 2017 § Leave a comment
I’m thrilled to let you know that you can now preorder my second album “The Golden Morning Breaks”, my third album “Les Ondes Silencieuses” and the EP “Colleen et les Boîtes à Musique” for the first time on tape via Beacon Sound, either individually (100 copy limited edition) or in a package featuring an exclusive print by Iker Spozio (50 copy ultra limited edition). Beacon Sound reissued my first album on tape last year and the packaging is not only beautiful but also friendly to the earth, and the Iker Spozio print even more so (more info in the link above).
Important: 1) Please note this is a preorder, release date is 14th October for Cassette Store Day. 2) We advise European customers to order directly from my Bandcamp as we have a limited number of copies (15 of each) shipping from the UK . If you are based elsewhere please support Beacon Sound and order directly from them. 3) The print edition package is available only from the Beacon Sound shop.
And talking of these albums, The Leaf Label is also accepting preorders for a limited 300 copy run on black vinyl of those same albums that also got reissued on coloured vinyl earlier this year. A 4-album black vinyl bundle is also available. Release date is October 6th. Head over to my Bandcamp to preorder!
I’m also really excited to be playing Montreal and Toronto again after last year’s concerts! I’ll be at La Sala Rossa, Montreal, on 10th November with support by the great Khôra and Ylang Ylang, and Arraymusic (promoted by Invocation), Toronto, on 12th November, with support once again by Khôra. And remember that even if you were at one of the shows last year, this is an entirely new setup with brand new songs from the forthcoming album!
In live-related news, I’ve finally rough-rehearsed all of the songs on a temporary setup made up of my old Behringer UB1204PRO, a Line 6 DL4 Delay, TC Mini Hall of Fame reverb, and of course the two Critter and Guitari synths and the two Moogerfoogers.
There was a certain amount of troubleshooting-without-results involved (for instance not being able to use the beam-with-your-smartphone custom reverbs of the TC reverb), but the really positive thing is that I’ve finally learnt how to operate a mixing desk: so far I’d used the Behringer only for rehearsals on my studio PA and basically just connected the Stereo Outs of the last DL4 in my pedal chain to 2 mono channel strips and then applied my favorite pan, 50% Left / 50% Right. However, performing the new music involves using external effects , so I’ve finally learnt how to use Aux Sends, and not only that: I now understand what Pre-fader and Post-fader mean and do, and have also learnt how to use the desk’s spare inputs for the FX returns instead of the dedicated Stereo returns.
If you are still following what I’m saying and are also of the I-try-to-do-everything-on-my-own-without -any-training school, then you’ll probably know that there are few things more satisfying than finally understanding something you’ve wondered about for years, and being able to apply this newly acquired knowledge in a practical musical project. In any case, it’s time to upgrade to a better mixing desk: the one I’m going for is supposed to have better preamps, better EQ, and great internal FX, as well as multiple Aux Sends, so I just can’t wait to receive it and work on the new *real* setup for the shows, and of course I’ll be sure to update you on that, keeping a special thought for those of you who are also interested in the gear aspect.
As always thanks for reading!
August 8, 2017 § Leave a comment
Even though you still can’t hear the album apart from “Separating”, I thought I would show you pictures of the vinyl and CD featuring the incredible artwork created by Iker Spozio and would let you know more about what is “behind” this album, which is as close to a concept album as I’ve ever come. Musically, it’s my first fully electronic and keyboard-based album (next month I will write a series of posts dedicated to my relationship with keyboard instruments). But just as crucially, this album was composed over the course of a very peculiar year for me, a year marked by the constant presence of death on my mind. Some of you may remember I posted a very melancholy mix on 4th November 2015, mentioning sad circumstances in my family. A very close family member had become suddenly very ill, and shortly after posting that mix, I went to France to visit my family, who live in a small town in the province. Right before the trip the horsehair on my viola da gamba bow came undone, and as I didn’t like the thought of sending such an expensive bow to the bow maker via mail, I decided to do as she suggested: I would drop the bow at a colleague of hers in the Republique area of Paris, so she could later pick it up. Paris is on the way to and back from my family’s home, but ever since I left it back in 2010, I rarely spend any time there. In 2015, I had spent only the night the show I gave on the Captain of None tour in April.
So I decided that at the end of my family visit I would go to Paris just for one afternoon and night, that way I would see some friends, drop the bow, and leave for San Sebastian the next day. I chose Friday 13th November, and at about 5 pm I walked back from the luthier and past the terraces of the Rue de la Fontaine au Roi. The afternoon was beautiful and sunny and Paris even seemed to regain some of the attraction that 11 years of living there had taken from it in my eyes. In the evening, as we sat having dinner with my friends in their living room, my boyfriend called us to tell us that there were terrorist attacks happening. We stayed glued to the news late into the night, sirens blaring outside, shaking in fear and disbelief at the thought of what was happening a mere 2 kilometres away. As the news unfolded, I also realised that some of the terraces that had been shot at were those very same terraces I had walked past a few hours earlier.
I was not able to sleep at all, and in the morning, after some hesitation, decided to take my train as planned. I could not believe that of all the days I could have been in Paris, it had to be *that* day, and I thanked destiny/chance/whatever you want to call it that I went past thoses terraces at 5 pm and not later on.
I spent the next two weeks pretty much like everyone else I know – trying to make sense of what had happened. The combination of those events and the illness of my beloved family member meant that for the next months, all I could think about – especially at night – was death: my own death, the death of people I love, the death of complete strangers. A couple of weeks after the events, though, I managed to shake myself out of inaction and started working on the record. The music and lyrics it contains served as my therapy, and I cannot wait to share this music with you as it means so much to me.
More information (on the technical side of things too) in the press release on the preorder page on my Bandcamp and Thrill Jockey’s page.