Then there’s Guillaume Gargaud. A trained improviser, Gargaud seems continually inspired by the possibilities within the guitar itself to create startlingly new sounds and textures, aided by software, loopers, and a small host of stomboxes to coax all the necessary timbres from just one instrument instead of aided by swathes of synth wash and field-recordings. On his latest record, 2011’s Lost Chords, Gargaud has created an essential piece of music for the electronic avant-garde, a masterwork that ranks alongside Fennesz’s Black Sea in regards to its sophistication, attention to detail, influence and brilliance. While being an electronic record, it also stands as a beautiful solo guitar record, recalling elements of Steffen Basho-Junghans or Nick Drake. Listening to Lost Chords is a journey through brittle and glitched timbres enveloping a core of beautiful and haunting melodies, bridling against their dissonant sonic partners to create a work of inexhaustible layers and complexity, all the while never losing sight of how important good songwriting is. It’s avant-garde noisemaking, for sure, but each piece feels like a song, not just an unmoving cacophony of knob-turning (not that indulgent knob turning isn’t intriguing, just rarely gratifying). The album is probably the finest example of contemporary guitar composition that I’ve yet come across, and its release at the beginning of this year seems to herald a whole new approach to traditional instruments that are ususally bogged down in the tube amp and three-chord world. Traditional adventurists and adventurous traditionalists should definitely seek this astonishing little gem out, just to see what’s possible. And for all admirers of the different and dynamic, Lost Chords is ten pieces of gorgeous sound.
Here Gargaud acheives visceral noise with an Americana twist; contorted guitar twangs, dust bowl acoustic guitar plucks that might accompany a low budget indie film of travelling over the Mexican desert, rocky horizons in the distance. Similar to James Ferraro's, hazy Old English Spelling Bee release early last year - 'Last American Hero', but harsher in sound and significantly less restrained. These are a rough set of textures, worn sheets of chords, and at the same time beautiful medody. Opening track Oeil Humide (the watery eye), and indeed the majority of the album flies between walls of noise, and other unheard-of noises from Gargaud's guitar. The density of the sound is almost overwhelming, thick and heavy. Seemingly erratic attacks at the guitar strings, somehow keep a coherency. Tracks 'Sortir' and 'Passerelle' fizz with pure electric energy, heavily treated through effects. Gargaud doesn't neglect any part of the guitar's range, from ground rumbling bass, to glowing single treble notes. Penultimate track 'Cesser' provides a respite for the listener, before ending on 'Rever de courier'; like being caught in a plane slipstream, the sun in our eyes. Lost Chords is a glisteningly fierce piece, exciting and unpredictable. The thought that Gargaud may well have improvised large parts of this album makes for an all the more absorbing listen. A great kick start to the year for Dead Pilot Records, and a welcome introduction to Guillaume Gargaud if new to his work. I'd urge you to pick up this album now, you won't regret it.
Sometimes, one can’t help but wonder about music's “what ifs”. The mind can conjure infinite possibilities: technology can be used or abused to breed something totally new, or new ideas can be grafted to the backs of the old. Similar thoughts wandered through my brain as I listened to French guitarist Guillaume Gargaud’s Lost Chords. I wondered, is this what a Tim Hecker/Christian Fennesz collaboration would sound like?
The first track tells all, as manipulated guitar chords are buried beneath a humongous layer of noise and feedback. The song captivates from its very first moment. The sound is so thick, the layers so wonderfully placed, that it instantly reminds one of Hecker's An Imaginary Country. “Sortir” then lands somewhere between Fennesz’ Endless Summer and Black Sea. For the first time on the album, a guitar noise is clearly apparent. We can hear it being played, or at least played, processed, cut up, stretched, filtered, transposed and crashed neck-first into a seabed of fellow guitar lines. The effect is enthralling; with the proper imagination, the song can give birth to an abundance of visualizations, daydreams and emotions.
But I’m being a bit unfair here. Limiting Gargaud’s music to the summation of two other musicians would be taking a lot from the man himself. Gargaud's music possesses a personal stamp, and the effort and detail he devotes to every track should earn him a place among experimental music’s elite. In fact, the album's production is one of its key features. One can sense certain sounds rising and crawling from a distance while others step back; some move right and dominate for a while, only to fall back into equilibrium and become balanced by sounds that appear on the left. These little things differentiate a great album from a very good one.
“Longue Route” and “Cesser” provide relief by offering contemplative room. In these tracks, one can occasionally recognize the notes being played, which allows the ears a break from the noise and glitches. The outer hums remain present, but in a more restrained sense, adding flavor and extending the array of moods. Album closer, “Rêver”, echoes the album's beginning. The trip is over, and the lost chords remain lost within an the layered sounds and effects.
Some albums stir up forums, cause waves of anticipation and ultimately disappoint. Others remain known to a lucky few. Lost Chords is one of the latter kind, and will definitely turn many heads if it receives its due attention. If the Hecker/Fennesz collaboration never happens, Lost Chords will remain the best approximation, and perhaps just a little bit more. -Mohammed Ashraf
"Upon first glance it seems that Guillaume Gargaud is a new name to me, but I vaguely remembered seeing his name before. He's one half of Aarde, who already had a CDR on Dirty Demos before (see Vital Weekly 601). That release I thought was pretty good, in terms of 12K like music and solo Gargaud is not far away either. According to the cover he plays prepared guitar and computer. In this music he stays close by the original ideas of microsound. Glitchy patterns, click-i-click rhythms hidden in background and occasionally the 'real' thing pops out of the mass of computerized drones. Like Aarde, Gargaud does a pretty decent job here. One never has the idea that one is listening to something unique or original, but Gargaud does a fine job at creating some nice moody textured music. Sit back and relax, it's worth it."
- Frans de Waard.
More lovelyness from the Dirty Demos label this week. Always an interesting label challenging the boundaries of music. How grown up did that sound.... Here's Guillaume Gargaud with a CD pressed a digipack edition of 150 copies in total. I feel like I've just done a bunch of droney noise CD's and here's another one. I like is sort of music a load of it in one go is a bit like eating too much chocolate. I don't feel sick yet I've had enough. Shame really as this is probably the best of the ilk I've heard this week. The lead track builds up into a huge swarm of fuzzing wasps which you want to put into a hot water bottle and stuck in the bed. It's bizarrely comforting. Very moving..... dark forboding yet comforting at the same time. Sort of droney doom with a nice melodic fuzz and crackles in there so fans of Tim Hecker and that sort of thing will have something to like as well. Very cinematic and hypnotic sounding and if I were to have a drone/ experimental album of the week I'd give it to this fucker hands down. It's been made with computer and prepared guitar whatever that is..... aren't all guitars prepared for playing?? If not then it's an unprepared guitar so why say it's prepared? 'Le Lieu' is absolutely lovely lovely stuff despite my enormous ignorance.
The unobscured natural photography on the cover of this disc sets up what is contained within. While the label is usually focused on the dark, opaque droning sounds, Gargaud’s contribution to Utech is much clearer and lighter, at least in relative terms. Mixing abstract electronics with some occasionally plaintive guitar playing, it stays relatively warm and organic throughout, with a few intentional, but compelling bumps along the way. At its core, it feels like a more stripped down version of Fennesz.
The comparison to Christian Fennesz is not just one of convenience though. Both artists meld the abstract chaos of electronics with some pure and melodic guitar, allowing the timbre and color of the instrument to shine through the mire at times. However, Gargaud is less focused on the complex composition techniques of Fennesz, and the result is a somewhat less nuanced and complex sound, but more of an improvisational one that allows more than a modicum of chance to come in.
Tracks like "Le Chien De Jose" push the guitar to the margins to focus on the electronics. The tracks is focused initially on a quiet, distant hum that slowly comes into focus, high end digital tones, gurgling noises, and ultrasonic squeals eventually come in, with what sounds like it could be some extremely unconventional guitar riffs buried in the low end of the sonic spectrum. "Clairiere" similarly keeps the guitar at bay by leading off with some subtle static and running water type sounds, a few shards of guitar tones buzz in and out, but the electronics stay the focus.
"La Legende Du Scarabe" does feature some soft, untreated guitar notes, though they, along with electronic strings, pings, and organ tones, are all fed through a dubby echo chamber that allows each to just bounce around the mix into infinity. The closing "Au Bord Du Lac" is similar, letting beautiful guitar notes shine through a hazy, opaque atmosphere of lush electronic tones. "Mer Du Nord" is perhaps the most overt, letting the clear guitar strums dominate while organic, atmosphereic ambience subtly punctuate.
While the album never gets "harsh," both "Lumiere Froide" and "Emissaire" are perhaps the most pronounced, both being focused on a swirling mess of sounds that, at least in the microscopic sense, sound orchestral, but are so jumbled as to be less than discernable, the latter adds some vaguely kraut rock guitar soloing, albeit heavily treated and somewhat obscured by the chaos.
Once again I have to give kudos to Keith Utech for releasing yet another young project that, even without a major discography, has already developed a definite and specific sound and style. While the label is mining somewhat consistent territory, it is widely encompassing enough that I know roughly what I will get with each new release, but it’s never a faceless or generic disc at all.
.......That sound: according to the cover he plays improvised guitar and electronics, so yup.. you got it -- classic micro(-ambient-)sound with all the attendant glitchy patterns, (a)syncopations and rhythms buried in a sturdy mass of processed electronic fuzz tones and buzzy drones. Nothing too special and nothing much new? It's more than just the same-old same-old. You know you're not listening to something utterly unique or original, but with "Here" Gargaud is working some magic of his own and has conjured up a curious thing that is both solid, dependable, reliable, as well as just a little bit fresh. Here are the requisite impurities and the organic tonal washes, but here also are the threads of guitar noodle clawing their way to the surface, into the fore. There is an important carefully studied and steady presentation of the guitar aspect within "Here". Sometime doodling, sometime dominating -- Gargaud is clearly an excellent guitarist. Track 7 "Aediinae" stands alone on this disc as a pure guitar improvisation and it is a stunning, moving piece of free music, which -- weirdly it's true -- recalls Richard Thompson. And the closing track, a brief plaintive flurry of gently stuttering multi-tracked guitar called "Sans Corps" ("Without Body"? That's has to be the most poetically apt titling I can remember for a long time.. you gotta hear it) more than recalled the ethereal cosmologies of one-time Popol Vuh guitarist Daniel Fischelscher.
I believe there is a case for periodic consolidation in a sound or genre or style or whatever. Every once in a while it is good to just be able to hold up a good, solid piece of work; to put a stake in the ground, a psychic line in the sand, file a touchstone for the future, and at the same time it must be worthy of one's attention in its own right. "Here" makes a strong case to be considered such. In fact, "Here" is a goddamn rock, a reference-point, but with sparkly highlights, markers pointing out a way ahead. "Here" is your tying together of several cosmic threads of music history: combine Fennesz slash Hecker-school guitar+electronic sonics, the deep-space electronica of Biosphere, the European Free Improv tradition of Derek Bailey's guitar-playing, and the propulsive benzodiazepine blur of über-minimal dub-techno wizards like Basic Channel or Wolfgang Voigt's Gas project, the seminal tonal tape+guitar forays of Fripp & Eno, somehow... and it starts to look more like a rare-earth element that turned up for the first time last week in the guts of a meteorite.
Step neatly over that WTF first track and forget it. I say you will recognise a lot of "Here" but you will find yourself coming back time and again because of the little distinguishing differences. "Here" is dark and light, it's new and it's old, it's very evocative and it's unquestionably beautiful. 9/10
Although limited to a mere 150 copies, Guillaume Gargaud's wonderful Le Lieu is the type of record that deserves a large-scale release. This is a magnificent drone album that ranks among the best I have heard. Armed with only a "prepared" guitar and a computer, France's Gargaud has created an inspired and inspiring mood piece that is a joy to behold. You'll want to find yourself a pitch black room and a comfortable chair so you can best immerse yourself in the atmospheric bliss that comprises Le Lieu.
The record begins with its most intense composition, the eleven minute "Téphrosia." Soaked in a reedy electronic hum, it introduces a dense, pulsing drone that is somehow dark and tense, yet miraculously calming. There is a sense of something brooding - a brittle image of the unknown lurking under the surface - yet the result is meditative in a manner akin to Biosphere's work. Similarly dense and bass-heavy is "Mille plis," a hazy mass with an oddly regal glow. On a different note, "Au milieu" is clicky and finicky, drenched in reverb but strangely anxious and a tad overwhelming. A similar formula is employed on tribal "Le lieu" which makes use of acoustic guitar and woodwinds to build towards a wonderful climax. However, the album's hidden treat is the brief "Les feuilles des forêts vierges," a composition so overwhelmingly haunting that you'll want to leave a nightlight on.
This recording proved to be a real gem for me. Limited-edition drone albums have reached Starbucks-calibre ubiquity on today's music scene it seems, but it is rare for one disc to be so exceptional. Dark, cinematic, and unfailingly emotional, Guillaume Gargaud's Le Lieu has solidified its place as one of my favourite releases of 2008. Very recommended for serious music fans.
90% Matt Shimmer
The cover art for 'She' by French improviser Guillaume Gargaud depicts a spider mercilessly cradling it's prey in it's silky yet deadly webbing. It's a beautiful yet unnerving image that speaks volumes of the music contained within. Gargaud weaves a web of mystery and suspense with his own brand of drone and phase based improvised soundscapes with the assistance of guitar and shit load of synths, tone generators and various other electronic devises. Gargaud is determined in his mission to take the listener to new places but I'm not sure if these are places your usual pop loving listener would want to journey too. You need strength, guts and gritty determination to venture to such outposts of improv noise rock but if you make it the rewards are plentiful. A hauntingly beautiful collection of spaced out noise and drone from Utech records.
......We highlighted a more recent Gargaud disc on the Kvist label, entitled Here, on our last list, and that's when we realized that this French guitar and electronics improviser already had a cd out on Utech, this one, which is equally lovely and interesting, basically part 1 to the Kvist disc's part 2, more shimmering yet sometimes quite sinister stuff that again makes us think that folks who dig the moody Type and Miasmah label "sound" would enjoy what Gargaud is able to conjure spontaneously with his guitar and other gearThe disc starts off quietly, with a buzzing, hissing drone gradually emerging and increasing, as if slithering out from a malevolent mist. It's hard not to think of fog and wind and rain and other weather phenomena when listening to this. Some sunshine breaks through the clouds on the second, more pop ambient-ish piece. Gauzy, gentle, drifting, vaguely melodious fuzzzzzz. Nice. The other tracks here tend to either get physical with the grinding, dramatic drone, or stay on the soothing side of things, sometimes blissfully both. There's various degrees of abstraction as well, as Gargaud adjusts his admixture of guitar and electronics. One extreme would be the crackling crinkling night-noises of "Clairere" (how can that be a guitar?), but elsewhere on the disc the guitar is more recognizable, in fact, on "Mer Du Nord", you can actually hear strings being strummed, how 'bout that!Recommended - and in future, we'll definitely pay attention to anything Gargaud releases!
His album, She, is dark drone, ambient electronic, mostly buzzing and insect invoking. It is mostly a mix of electronics, sounding like insects or frogs in a subtle way. Guillaume keeps the listener guessing and intrigued. The sound is perhaps inspired by nature, sometimes at its creepiest. The album also features some of his dreamy guitar work on track 5. Track 8 ends softly.
DESPERATE ISLANDS (CDR by Dirty Demos)
..Aarde, being the duo of Lois Laplace and Guillaume Gargaud, already surprised us in a pleasant way with 'A Whole Day' (see Vital Weekly 601) and here return with 'Desperate Islands', a shorter release then before with six pieces continuing their interest in somewhat more crude variations on glitch and micro ambient. There is guitar doodling, sturdy sound processing, a bit more louder things then before and sometimes totally in line with Line, such as 'Looking At The Coast', with its icy, glacier feel and sustained bowed sounds. Like before I think this is a really nice job, well produced and nothing much new. But as said before, sometimes that is not necessary.
A duo divided between French artists Lois Laplace and Guillaume Gargaud, Aarde could well turn into Dirty Demo’s most important discovery. Laplace holds the same penchant for the Kyma Soundsystem as Drone pioneer Richard Lainhart and a similar talent for using it to create outwardly appealing and inwardly complex musical structures. Gargaud’s Guitar, meanwhile, provides for the necessary impurities and organic washes, sometimes extending into veritable solo explosions just underneath the surface – such as on the tense psychotrip “Not really alone”. On “Coming to Life”, the album comes to a yearning end, trying in vain to grasp that last straw before sinking down into an disturbed state of sleep, drifting off into a darkening horizon like the hot air balloon on its cover.
Encore une trouvaille que je dois à mes aimables lecteurs, en l'occurrence une lectrice : merci Eleni, d'Athènes, de m'avoir signalé ce musicien français qui avait échappé à mes oreilles de lynx ! Il associe la guitare et les sons électroniques.
Lost chords, sorti en 2011, est le neuvième album de Guillaume Gargaud, le troisième en solo. Le début est flamboyant. "Oeil humide", le premier titre, décolle sur un mur de particules agitées lacéré par la guitare saturée, hurlante, qui plonge pour finir dans le magma incandescent. "Sortir" commence plus doucement, pour lâcher vite une guitare qui joue des distorsions et des envolées troubles. Le son est incroyablement dense. Déchirements de textures, crépitements voilés accompagnent la guitare, tantôt aérienne, tantôt grave à se fondre dans le tapis oscillant, hoquetant. Le ton de l'album est donné : on reste au cœur des magmas d'étoiles, dans le maelstrom des fusions, des naissances fulgurantes, des arrachements, même si certains morceaux sont plus classiquement planants, comme le très beau "Pas là", presque une ballade, mais dans une nuée agitée, pulsante. Guillaume Gargaud réussit à magnifier la matière même du son, son épaisseur, ses raclements. Écoutez l'étonnant "Passerelle", d'une rugosité hypnotique. L'ouïe rencontre le toucher, grâce au travail à l'intérieur du son : pas de lissage, surtout pas, Guillaume Gargaud lui laisse son étrangeté, son aspect brut, en élargissant son spectre pour en révéler la complexité. La beauté n'est pas le fruit d'une réduction, d'une élimination des résidus, elle surgit au contraire de l'attention donnée à la moindre des composantes. Expérimentale, sa musique l'est au plus noble sens du terme, en effet une recherche des accords perdus comme l'annonce le titre. Perdus au nom d'une conception du son appauvrissante. Ici, le son foisonne, se brouille, on pense aux ondes courtes de la radio, ce en quoi le travail du français rejoint celui d'un musicien comme Ingram Marshall dans ses premières œuvres électroniques, ou d'une Annie Gosfield. Au total, un album passionnant, entre fulgurances et rêves pour un voyage dans l'inimaginable des espaces infinis, des trous noirs et de l'antimatière. Et un hymne à la guitare, lumière arrachée aux ténèbres natives.
She, le second album solo sorti en 2009, paraîtra d'abord plus monolithique, plus planant, ce qui n'est pas un reproche. Lente montée du premier titre, "Le Chien de José", très noir, science-fiction qui donne des frissons : noyau compact de drones dont se détachent à peine des excroissances tournoyantes, avec une coda de comète. "La Légende du Scarabée" ne dément pas l'impression : des boucles d'orgue font pulser un corps astral aux rayonnements de plus en plus intenses, parcouru de frissons imprévus. Le son se fait plus transparent pour "Mer du Nord". La guitare se détache, évolue tranquillement sous les nappes électroniques légères : la mer est un champ paisible. Album bucolique marqué par les écoulements aquatiques. Cette "Clairière" doit être marine, parce que la lumière coule, circule à la surface du sol de drones, tout à coup envahi par des écarquillements stupéfiants. L'inconscient est un cosmos enfoui au fond de nous, que Guillaume Gargaud écoute gargouiller. Qu'est-ce que la lumière, sinon la levée de l'inconnu dans l'aube éternelle ? "Géante rougewave", est-ce le nom d'une étoile double, ou celui, secret, de la beauté qui s'offre soudain dans ses dentelles déchirées ? Ou comme un écho au nom du groupe électronique français Lightwave ? Chaque morceau est une rêverie émerveillée, je prends rêverie au sens fort : pas de mièvrerie, il suffit d'écouter "Lumière froide", cyclone radieux de pur anthracite sauvage, prolongé par un "Émissaire" strié d'accents plaintifs et acérés de guitare, véritable vortex incandescent. Il est vrai qu'on termine "Au Bord du lac", un morceau qui sonne furieusement comme du Tim Hecker, orgue grandiose enveloppé de rets électroniques mélancoliques : ne faut-il pas un reposoir pour les voyageurs émus par le périple odysséen aux territoires de l'Imaginaire