In concert in Paris, the contemporary electro Cabaret group “plays in acoustics to compose a great synthesizer”

Born in 2011 from the merger of five musicians – Fabrizio Rat, Ronan Courty, Julien Loutelier, Giani Caserotto, Simon Drappier, with sound engineer Pierre Favrez, not forgetting producer Laurent Jacquier – Contemporary cabaret performs electro music with acoustic instruments and electric. Between covers and original compositions, they concoct an “electro-bio”, whose secrets Ronan Courty, bassist, reveals to us.

Franceinfo Culture: How did this idea of ​​performing electro compositions with acoustic and electric instruments come about?

Ronan Courty: We were a group of friends, not only the musicians, but also the sound engineer, with whom we do in-depth work on the sound system. We were fascinated by analog synthesizers, with the idea of ​​creating a synth for the six of us, each sounding in resonance, like an electric circuit that would move together, identical to analog synths. With the ambition to recreate sounds from the electronic field, made with a double bass that looks like a CR 808 or 809, machines from Roland, somewhat legendary rhythm boxes. Our desire was to copy these fairly complex sounds at first, and to draw from them a vocabulary with which we could improvise. Make like a big synthesizer where each musician would be a parameter of the sound.

What is the musical training of contemporary Cabaret musicians?

We all got to know each other during our musical studies, each with their own tendency: some rock, the drummer Julien Loutelier and I come more from jazz, free jazz, another studied contemporary composition, Simon was into classical… We met especially during the improvisation classes. Very quickly, with our sounds, we wanted to do something collective, above all as friends. This is what broke the desire for an individual career, we have always held on to this collective identity, including in the musical discourse, with improv as the dominant approach. That’s why there are very few solos in our repertoire.

And yet, one has the impression that it is very written.

Yes, but that’s because what we draw inspiration from is very written. We choose our sources together, then we know them by heart, and we know immediately which sound is going to be played by whom. We also all wanted to have a percussionist approach to our acoustic instruments. This is what made us want to experiment as a group.

When electronic music became popular in the 1970s, two schools developed in Germany, that of Berlin, with Tangerine Dream or Klaus Schulze, and that of Düsseldorf with Kraftwerk. Where are you located?

A little in the middle. Because with Tangerine Dream, there is this notion of sequence, which we find in our last album, if only in the title, collective sequence (Blackstrobe Records), while being quite close to an American minimalism, like Steve Reich or Terry Riley. This progressive side of Tangerine Dream has points in common with our approach. And with Kraftwerk, there is this song side, very plastic and synthetic which seduced us, to arrive at this clarity of sound. And that’s something you achieve with the amplification, the sound system of Pierre Favrez.

Music has changed quite a bit over the past ten years, since we’ve been around for ten years. We started with a blank slate, and little by little memories of techno from Detroit or a band like Dawn of Midi from New York came back. Many things fed us. But if we go through a process of copying, it’s not a literal copy, it’s composed on our sounds which come from us, and that changes everything.

How do you re-orchestrate the electronic pieces that you adapt?

We take the sound base, not the melody or the rhythm, it is a base on which each musician works an assigned sound. In the beginning, we did it on the computer, now everyone does it directly on their instrument. The fact that we know each other very well, the habit of working together, allows us to make a frequency distribution of the music. We tried to abolish the determinism of each instrument, a double bass can also produce treble for example, the piano must do the harmony, the guitar too, a priori that we leave aside. We know each other so well that we know in advance who is going to take over, like the percussive side provided by the piano and the drums, then the guitar which can be there at any time. Everything is based on the knowledge of each and their rhythmic placement.

There is also the importance of public feedback. We establish more planing pauses which allow us to start again on another orchestration, a new piece. We have a special relationship with the Centquatre hall, where we play on Friday. We find there an audience that has been following us for a long time and who come to discover our new repertoires. There, we are going to interpret certain pieces that we have been playing for ten years, but that we are going to slow down. We composed while everyone was living in slow motion, until the first confinement came out. We had this desire, which overlapped with the one where everyone was seated, at home, could no longer be standing, like in concert halls. So the desire to do something almost floating, while remaining very rhythmic, but which invites poetry and daydreaming, as we have always done.

Do you want to continue in this alternation of re-orchestrated pieces or tend towards more original compositions?

Since the beginning of the group, we have coexisting repertoires, since Moondog, we ended up with Château Flight around Terry Riley, and in parallel with our own compositions. For us, improvisation and composition are very mixed, we also came back to the music of Detroit in particular. But lately, we developed the original compositions a lot, with even a change of orchestration. There are no more basses, we are in a much more electric sound. Simon Drappier is on electric bass and I on synth. We are inspired by our acoustic work, from electronic music, to return to electro, as in a kind of loop. And people who have been following us for a long time find the spirit of the group in the new developments. This is the subject of the next album which will also be easier to run, given the complications involved in moving the acoustic instruments.

Your albums are vinyl only and it’s not easy to find them. Is this confidentiality a choice?

In a way yes. Communication has changed a lot lately. We share this role a little between us, we don’t have anyone in communication but what we want to set up is something over time. With less announcement effects, we are looking for a kind of quality label, so that the public who has known us for a long time can find themselves in our repertoire. We do not develop in the urgency and immediacy that dominate.

Where does this name of contemporary Cabaret come from?

Initially Cabaret Contemporain was an association set up by our producer Laurent Jacquier who produced minimalist American music with electro concerts. We started with a DJ, then we ended up with a piece by Steve Reich or Terry Riley. And us, it reminded us of Cabaret Voltaire or contemporary Tristesse, we mixed all that and finally we kept the name.

Contemporary cabaret
Evening Minimum, Maximum 2:
Six Marimbas and Four Organs by Steve Reich by Ensemble Links
Slow of Contemporary Cabaret
– Max Cooper (live)
Friday March 4 – 7:30 p.m.
Centquatre Paris
5 Rue Curial, 75019 Paris
01 53 35 50 00

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