Oct. 25 @ BLÆST

 TEKS’ 10 Years Anniversary: Blæst Thursday October 25
Pierre Bastien, Bruno Ferro Xavier Da Silva, Steve Argüelles / Playing with the dead

Pierre Bastien, Bruno Ferro Xavier Da Silva, Steve Argüelles / Playing With The Dead

Pierre Bastien [NL]: nail violin, trumpet and video, Bruno Ferro Xavier Da Silva [NL] : bass, Steve Argüelles [UK]: drums.

For this new project I did not favor a screwdriver in the first place, like I used to when making pure mechanical music. I did not search for more electro-motors or musical instruments or Meccano spare parts. This time I have selected short moments taken from musical films of the past. Among the huge musical data bank available I have chosen several fragments that I patiently reconstructed and looped, in order to get a new type of those kinetic leitmotivs which my compositions have always been based on.

The musicians from the past who are joining the trio through video are not necessarily big names : they may be the violin section of an Egyptian orchestra, the anonymous protagonists of a Jamaican ritual, the forgotten entertainers in a Parisian cabaret, the rhythm section of an antique jazz band…

The regulation on the copyrights influences much the images, which are definitely as old as possible and obviously black and white: the Cuban combo fades in from a scratched background, the cymbalum player is wreathed in greyish atmosphere from the very first television programs. The resurrected musicians repeat their part a bit like my machines are repeating theirs: with obstinacy —the necessary musical ostinato— and slight alterations. Along with them we are playing original compositions that are but slightly influenced by the folklore inherent in each loop.

We do not aim to melt in the sound of ancient orchestras: on the contrary we tend to enroll the dead into our sound and make them live again in our music. In this sense I do hope a musician will give me the same chance in the future: to be posthumously saved from oblivion and associated with new music again.

Playing With The Dead is three living musicians and many dead ones. To make it complete and more universal I added a robot: only one Meccano machine but a multi functional one. The robot is equipped with three cameras that are showing in real time the mechanical process producing the sounds. On the screen the mechanisms mingle with the video loops and break what could have become systematic and predictable with just a projection of clips.

Pierre Bastien, 2012.

Pierre Bastien, Bruno Ferro Xavier Da Silva, Steve Argüelles / Playing with the dead

Pierre Bastien, Bruno Ferro Xavier Da Silva, Steve Argüelles / Playing with the dead

Pierre Bastien uses several tiny cameras to project his Meccano-driven contraptions onto a large screen. Although we can see little wheels depressing organ keys, on the screen it seems we are in some giant factory, where machines of unguessable size perform cumbersome operations to pluck at hawsers or vibrate great flapping sheets – in reality rubber bands and strips of paper.

Bastien’s non-synched looping machines naturally have non-human quality, like an off-kilter African drum ensemble, and this strangeness is further magnified by his carefully layered visual projections. Over the top he plays pocket trumpet phrases drawn from the earliest days of jazz, as if King Oliver is muttering in his ear. But the trumpet is often masked: somehow it plays a baseline like a tuba, or else the mute is jammed into a beaker of bubbling water.

On the screen the monochrome Fritz Lang world of relentless Meccano is invaded by a beautiful fountain of blue bubbles. Like a blend of Philip Jeck’s heartbreaking turntables and Max Eastley’s lost-in-space musical sculptures, Bastien has created an elegant display of genuine musical surrealism.

He has been refining his approach for over two decades – ten years ago Aphex Twin released Mecanoid on his Rephlex label, and this show made it clear why Richard D James was so mesmerized. Bastien wound down his mechanical mysteries after 45 minutes, but I could have happily watched for hours.

Clive Bell, The Wire – Dec. 2010


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