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Friday, December 22, 2023

Louis Laurain - Le Bargy (three:four records, 2023)

By Martin Schray

Louis Laurain is best known as a member of the quartet Die Hochstapler, an extremely good band consisting of himself on trumpet and electronics, Pierre Borel (saxophone), Antonio Borghini (bass) and Hannes Lingens (drums). However, he has repeatedly worked solo, processing the trumpet sounds with valves, mutes, feedbacks, pre-recorded trumpet sounds and various resonating surfaces. That’s why his approach is not dissimilar to that of Mazen Kerbaj, Nate Wooley or Peter Evans, but in no way does he copy them.

In spring 2020, Laurain began working on this new solo album, which was intended to bring together natural sounds and electronics. The idea was to play outside the usual venues dedicated to music as much as possible - in spaces with remarkable acoustics. At some point, he had the idea of recording the music on Le Bargy, thus presenting his instrument and the acoustic environment on the same level and creating a cartography of the different acoustic spaces of a place, as he put it in the liner notes for the album.

Le Grand Bargy is a 2301 meter high rocky ridge in the Massif des Bornes in the Haute-Savoie region. At the foot of it there’s a mountain pasture run by Pierre and Marianne Métral, whom Louis Laurain knows. They bring their animals up to make cheese when the snow melts and descend back down into the valley at the onset of winter. Laurain told them about his idea to make a solo album consisting solely of the sounds of nature with electronically alienated music. In the end, the farmers agreed to host him at Chalet Neuf, where they live and work during the summer grazing season. The first part of the project went well, although it rained frequently at the beginning of June, but there were enough clearings to capture the spring mood in the mountains and translate it into music. But there was not enough music for a complete CD, so he had to let winter pass and go back up to the mountain pasture the next year to record some additional music. The second session took place in July 2022 in a more summery atmosphere and three more pieces were recorded.

Now this idea is not new, Peter Brötzmann and Han Bennink have already done something similar on the legendary Schwarzwaldfahrt album in 1977. But Laurain’s approach is more thoughtful, not as DIY as Brötzmann’s and Bennink’s approach. The knowledge of previous albums recorded under similar conditions has allowed him to proceed in a more structured way. For Le Bargy, he decided to record tracks he usually plays live, but they have been adapted so that you hear not just music, but the place becoming an integral part of the music. The surroundings usually take on a kind of rhythmic function, like the birds, the rubble and the wind on “Le Grand Cirque“. As to Laurain, we hear melodious, angular jazz grooves, stripped to the bare and then re-connected to very different rhythmic backgrounds, most notably in “Les Cloches“, in which the cowbells resemble a whole percussion set. The fact that the trumpeter uses a lot of extended materials and small microphones attached to his instrument too, increases the effect that nature and extended trumpet sounds seem to melt into each other, which can be heard in “Dans les Pierres“, for example. Other spectacular pieces are “Aux Cascades“ with the waterfalls like huge guitar layers and “Au Chateau Neuf“, on which the cows add tones that are reminiscent of trombones. It’s a bit like call-and-response between animals and trumpet.

In this magical location, Louis Laurain seems to be transformed into a mischievous, inquisitive and curious child, gurgling his instruments (there are a lot of little ones in addition tot he trumpet) in the face of the awe of the monstrous nature. Possibly the most adventurous album I’ve heard this year.

Le Bargy is available as a CD and as a download. You can listen to it and buy it at bandcamp:

Watch the excellent video by Léa Lanoé, shot in 16mm, that captures the atmosphere of the Bargy mountain during the scouting sessions at the beginning of June 2021:


Alban said...

Among other masterworks, It reminds me "Montagne noire" by Pichelin, Sassi, Doneda et Le Quand Ninh. The same raw poetry.