When you move to a new city, especially one in a new country, you realise that all of your networks and touchstones have been lost. I like a fair amount of French music. I confess. There’s also, as you’d expect, an awful lot of dismal French music. As for
innovative French music, well, it’s been nigh on impossible to find.
Thanks to meeting friends of friends of friends I have managed to find a way into the mysterious
world of French experimental music.
Up in the 20th arrondissement, in Belleville, there is a venue at 8, Rue
de l’Ermitage called, cunningly, the Studio de l’Ermitage. This place specialises in a wide variety of music, but music or bands which lack a large audience.
Last night there were two bands playing; the AUM Grand Ensemble and MeTaL-O-PHoNe. The musicians are all part of a collective
called Onze Heures Onze [see more and listen to some of the work here http://onzeheuresonze.com/]. If you want a comparison then I struggle to think of one beyond the Montreal collective around Constellation Records that
produced Godspeed You Black Emperor and Silver Mount Zion [and its varieties]. The music from both bands was experimental and, for MeTaL-O-PHoNe, heavily jazz
MeTaL-O-PHoNe are a three piece band with drums, double bass and vibraphone. Their pieces were about 10 or 15 minutes long and, not being a jazz expert [actually, having pretty much zero knowledge of jazz] it was fascinating to see the musicians seeking the hooks and rhythms, or “groove” as hepper cats than me might say.
AUM are a huge ensemble with maybe 15 people on a very small stage last night featuring drums,
guitars, a brass section, two vibraphone players and a vocalist, all held together by a conductor.
href=”https://brieencounter.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/2012-10-03_21-54-37_166.jpg”><img class="size-medium wp-image-385" title="AUM Grand
Ensemble” src=”https://brieencounter.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/2012-10-03_21-54-37_166.jpg?w=300″ alt=”” width=”300″ height=”168″ /> AUM Grand Ensemble [or some of
them]. The picture was taken with my phone, so apologies for the woeful qualityAs far as I know, music is commonly constructed around four elements; rhythm, melody, beat and harmony.
It’s pretty hard to say that any of these featured heavily or even at all last night but during AUM’s set which lasted about an hour or 90 minutes [I lost track of time], I was caught up in sound, the incredible
pictures and drama of the performance. When I say pictures, of course there were no pictures, but this was cinematic in its breadth, variety and depth of delivery and structure.
Thanks to my weak attempt at describing last night’s show and the amount of text I have deleted on the grounds of its inaccuracy and monumentally high bollocks content, I now realise that describing music is fundamentally a thankless task. I make a half-hearted apology to those music journalists I’ve inwardly grumbled and moaned about. Styles of music are named, despite the futility and stupidity of some of the labels [thrash reggae anyone] and music is compared to what has gone before it. But how else do you describe music in a way that is
engaging for those of us who can’t write music, read music, can’t understand the science and physics of music but still love it?
The only thing to do is listen yourself and go with it. This might not be music as you know it but it is dramatic and engrossing.