'La Visite', the new album from French saxophonist and analogue synthesizer nut Etienne Jaumet, favours improvisation and exploration over rigid post-production.
Etienne Jaumet is a skilled saxophonist, analogue synth nerd, one half of French horror-electro duo Zombie Zombie, and collaborator with the likes of James Holden, Joakim, and Francois & the Atlas Mountains.
'La Visite' is Jaumet's new solo album, seeing Jaumet experiment with live synth-'n'-sax improvisations, krautrock rhythms, and John Carpenter-esque atmospherics. Eschewing the computer almost entirely, 'La Visite' favours virtuosity, spontaneity, and exploration over rigid revisions and post-production. Jaumet admits that about "90%" of the album was recorded in one take, with even the vocals and lyrics being improvised on the spot.
"I wanted to keep the spontaneity of the first take in my composition," Jaumet says of the album, "I think that in electronic music nowadays, musicians spend too much time on their songs with computers. You can work on every detail so that in the end everything is under control but in doing so you lose the magic of the creation from when you first get the idea."
Before its digital release on Monday, and physical release on February 23rd, stream the album in full exclusively on Dummy.
You're quite a collaborator. What do you get from working on a solo record that you don't when working with other musicians?
Etienne Jaumet: "On a solo project you get more freedom to do what you want - so I get more possibilities to work fast and spontaneously. I tried to do things I'd never tried before. I experimented with making some vocals on my own for this album (I'm not a singer).
"When you're making music with other musicians, you have to be more efficient. On Moderne Jungle, I played the keys on the background randomly, without watching my hand. I was more into creating atmospheres than making chords. To finish the song, I added a saxophone solo to link together the notes. If I was in a band, it would take a lot of time to convince everybody [to do this]. I was by myself, and I decided to compose and record each song in one afternoon. To finish it on time, I had to find a solution very quickly."
In the press release to this album, there's a lot of criticism of the computer as a music-making tool. What you're really talking about is how computers aren't conducive to improvisation and workflow, but are more designed towards post-production and fine-tuning. How do you think musicians can as overcome the problems that computers present towards improvisation?
Etienne Jaumet: "In electronic music, most of the musicians don’t take time to work on their instrument. They want to 'produce' immediately! Especially when they use computers. Most of the time, people use presets and don’t try to find their own way to make sounds. People nowadays want everything faster and faster. It took time for me to learn how to play the saxophone and program analogue synthesizers! YouTube didn’t exist when I started to make music. Nobody showed me how to use my synth! In the '90s, after gigs, I'd always stay to see which instrument produced the sound I'd heard. This is how I discovered analogue synths. After I found some for cheap in second-hand shops, it took me several years to find my own way to play it - almost 10 years.
"Finding your own way to compose, make sounds, and use an instrument live, takes a lot of investment. The software can help you to produce a song very quickly, but if you don’t want your music to sound the same as everybody else, you have to work on it."
How did you come up with the lyrics to this album?
Etienne Jaumet: "My friend Flop wrote me the beautiful lyrics of La Visite in French. He knows me very well, so he found this subject about me, had a journey in my body, and lost myself, haha.
"For the rest of the lyrics, I put them in English. For the song Anatomy of the Synthesizer, I just read what was written on the cover of the synth I was using at that time. For these two other songs, Metallik Cages and Stuck in the Shadow of Your Love, I improvised the words during the first takes. I was more focused on the sound of the vocoder I was using than the words.
"I'm afraid, dear English listeners, that the lyrics are full of mistakes, because my English is not really good! Please forgive me! It was so funny to improvise words… the name Metallik Cages came because I used on it a kind of amp called Metallik Resonator… the words of Stuck in the Shadows of Your Love came because I was thinking of an old love of me at that time."
How has touring with Holden been the past two years?
Etienne Jaumet: "It was not only playing with James Holden. I discovered a full band behind him: his drummers Tom Page and Lascelle Gordon, and the sound technician Amir Shoat! They are all fantastic! It’s so easy to play with them! No ego trouble, very good musicians, and always open to try new stuff…
"James had never done a proper live set before this adventure. I was so impressed he found a way to perform a real live show after all these years making music at home! We can extend or change the structure of the songs as much as we feel. Every night is different when we play together! It’s such a pleasure.
"And they are never fed up to talk about music!"
What moment sticks out in your head the most?
Etienne Jaumet: "Maybe the first time we played together at the Barbican. I didn’t expect that I would ever play such great place in London. We did only one, 15 minute song. It was so intense… I knew afterwards that we would play again together, because something happened there.
"It’s not finished yet! We still have some shows booked together this year."
What are you working on now?
Etienne Jaumet: "We prepared a live performance with Zombie Zombie with a couple of jugglers from Cirque Bang Bang. I've also got some more collaborations to come: first, tonight, we rehearse with the Tigersushi team from a version of In C by Terry Riley. There's also a show with a Switzerland ensemble of contemporary percussion, Eklekto, at Festival Electron in Geneva, and a tour with the performance Satori that we made together with the French plastic artist Félicie d'Estienne d'Orves."
Versatile release 'La Visite' on February 2nd 2015 (pre-order).