Arandel, “Section 9”

Blake Gillespie

The identities of France’s Arandel remains unknown, an impressive feat considering the collective’s debut, In D, was released in 2010. For now Arandel exists as models, with visages replaced by the deterioration of metals over time that have come to mimic the natural world. This is only one of the ways in which Arandel exists.

The power of influence is in escapable in the world of Arandel. Their debut In D was constructed out of an admiration for Terry Riley, specifically In C. Four years later Solarispellis has stashed a few old relics into its pocket from In D, while taking on a form that’s akin to Brian Eno’s Music for Films. Learned musicians tend to work that way. In my correspondence (which follows the debut of “Section 9”) with Arandel, we traded intel on DJ Shadow sampling Moroder on “Organ Donor” on the hunch that Arandel’s “Section 13” was informed by the lineage. I would learn that it goes further, further like Jean-Michel Jarre’s “Black Bird”. Learned musicians also keep the conversation alive and lively.

Terry Riley played an influential role, particularly in the title of your first album. With Solarispellis, it seems as though you’ve combined your techniques learned from Riley with the “imaginary soundtrack” tableau that Eno employed on Music For Films, if only in title once again. Would you agree with this assessment?

We would not disagree. Maybe Arandel’s music is a vast mood board of everything that inspires us, a collection of deliberate winks and nods, including self-references to our own music (Solarispellis incorporates a few stems from In D). When In D was like a memorandum of the fields and styles we were interested in exploring with our further albums, Solarispellis is going deeper into the vein we explored in “In D#7” for instance. We used melodies to tell stories. This might seem very serious and concerned, but it’s all a very playful approach of music.

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Were Solarispellis to be an actual film, what’s was your vision for its plot, setting, and characters?

Well, actually Solarispellis happens to be the soundtrack of a lost movie. It was called Le Bestiaire du Dedans (The Inner Bestiary) and was actually a show we worked on with Parisian visual artist Gabriel Desplanque back in 2012. Le Bestiaire was shown in the form of a cine-concert, and both the images and the music were manipulated live in front of the screen. We composed a different theme or musical piece for each scene of the film, which was a sort of abstract road-movie.

When the project stopped in late 2012, we realized we had the material for a whole album, so we re-worked every theme so that they would work all together as a unique piece. Due to some noisy building works hassles around the studio that kept us from using microphones, we decided to use only instruments we could plug, and that’s the reason why we only used keyboards, organs and synths for this album. From there, having casted a reduced instrumentarium that would define the sound of the album, we decided we would use only a limited type of beats and percussions (we used shells for a snare, a bike bell for hihat, a 808 snare drown in reverb, and only two different kicks) and theses same sounds appear in every section of the album, just like recurrent characters. They tell a different story in every track, depending on how close or far they appear in the mix, at times they lead, at times they’re in the back, and the synths define both the setting and the plot of the stories.

And about the stories themselves, we actually are working on a special project with French director Julien Carot (who directed videos for Rone and Principles Of Geometry), to whom we gave a carte blanche to put in motion the images, plots and characters he imagined when he listened to Solarispellis. The first part of the project should be out very soon.

You’ve placed a great deal of emphasis on working in opposition to the digital landscape. What it is off-putting about the digital programming of music?

It’s not so much about being in opposition than trying to explore alternatives to the standardization of midi-infused electronic music’s sound. Although for a couple of years, things have started to change and lots of producers have now stocked up with hardware and expensive vintage analog synthesizers. So there might be another standardization in sound that will also need to be altered in the years to come. Also, we’re definitely not opposed to the digital technology, for we record digitally of course. We’re musicians of our time, it’s just that we decided to work on a sound dogma that would keep us away from the lures of technologic eases. In the end, this is all about challenging our production techniques.

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How would you say the self-imposed limitations on how you create are different than the limitations that come with digitally programmed music?

We put spokes in our wheels when technology offers to do the exact opposite. For instance, if we need a string arrangement for a track, we basically have two options: on one hand machines, plug-ins and softwares will bring you the exact sound you need so you will look no further. On the other hand, you can think “oblic-strategically” to invent sound-alike solutions and use a bow to rub a guitar for instance. The digitally programmed limitations are curbed to the technology itself, and you can only go so far as the program can. Our self-imposed limitations offer to explore the limits of our own creativity, that allows us to bounce back again and again on every constraint we may encounter in the production or composition processes.

Is “Section 13” meant to be an homage to Moroder’s “Tears”, which was famously sampled on DJ Shadow’s “Organ Donor”?

Well, I was not aware that “Organ Donor” also included a sample from Moroder. To be honest, I’m much more into his “Einzelganger” period than in his early schlager days. Although I must admit this “Tears” is a very nice piece, reminding a lot of Jean-Michel Jarre’s “Black Bird”. I always thought “Organ Donor” was based on the Supersister’s sample of “Judy Goes On Holiday”, and that the organ melody was from DJ Shadow himself. But thanks for bringing that information to my attention!

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The album title is lifted from a poem by Swiss poet Philippe Jacottet. What was it about his poem that you felt summarized or related to the music written for Solarispellis?

The poem says “From now on, dress up with a fur made of sun, and go out, like a hunter against the wind. Go through your life as if you went through a fresh and fast water flow. If you were not that scared, you wouldn’t cast any shadow on your footsteps.” We have been using this poem in the introduction of Arandel’s live show for four years, because there was something both musical and graphic in this poem, very intriguing as if a whole story was to be told after these lines. So it fitted just perfectly in the introduction of a live performance. But the deeper, or the real meaning of the words hit us earlier this year when we were looking for a title for the new album.

We spent quite a lot of time juggling with ideas, concepts, wrong tracks, till one day, the poem popped up back, and it was there, clear and obvious. We felt like this new album we made was quite different from the previous one In D in its form (because it’s pretty much a cohesive album of “songs” even though it’s almost entirely instrumental, when In D was maybe more of a experimental collection of styles), and of course these songs bear melodies, again because they were meant to accompany the narration of the images of le Bestiaire. And melody has this very strange ability to connect to the listener’s emotions and feelings.

So what I’m saying here is that in the end we had an instrumental album that spoke about all kind of human emotions (from bliss to grief, from anguish to the most ecstatic joy) and the title of the album had to reflect the human condition of its music. So this idea of wearing a fur made of sun (solaris pellis in latin) to protect ourselves from the fear that keeps us from living our lives, and experience all these emotions to their fullest, felt like the perfect title.

Arandel’s Solarispellis is out now on InFiné.

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