In light of the recent release of his latest album Big Sun (9th March), I thought it'd be a great time to introduce you all to Chassol:
Chassol? Who's he when he's at home?
Christophe Chassol is a pianist, composer, arranger and musical director. From the age of 4, he studied at the Conservatory of Music for 16 years, earning a scholarship at Berklee College of Music in Boston. Chassol then spent a further 15 years composing music for TV and film, while simultaneously becoming a conductor from 1994 – 2002 (I must mention that although this was released in 2013, a recent example of his film soundtrack work would be Dark Touch, a supernatural horror movie based in Ireland).
Chassol then moved on to work with prominent French musicians such as the pop-rock band Phoenix and Sebastien Tellier on his album Politics. Ugly Betty fans may have come across Tellier's later works in the form of Sexuality's Look.
I mean that's what I heard - I never saw Ugly Betty.
Alright, I get it. He's a good musician. What about his own stuff?
Official Website posted:
'X-pianos', the first album of Christophe Chassol, is a shift in itself. A double album containing 35 tracks, many of which, while dazzling, do not exceed the three minutes straitjacket imposed by the radio; i.e an object that stands nobly. And, at a time when the music industry is more like accountants than ever to show metronomes, takes the off-beat tempo. Here we could extend over 1300 pieces composed by Chassol and store them on hard disk.
X-Piano, as the quote above may suggest, was quite an unusual album. Having the likes of renowned composer Steve Reich and Jazz trumpeter Miles Davis as inspirations, Chassol's début is a strange mix of avant-garde and ambition. Still, the beginnings of a new type of sound was developing in his mind, as Nola Cherie – Easton hints towards. As it stands, considering how long it took him to make an album between the first year he became a musician by trade, and X-Piano's release, Chassol could've done much worse!
Having brought this after Chassol's following album, I was left slightly wanting – it is still quite good on it's own, but it doesn't feels as grounded as his second album. For what it is, it's still a good album to listen to, but compared to his later work, it doesn't quite grab you the same way his second and fourth albums do.
Indiamore Excerpt posted:
"He Told Me That He Was seeing Indian music as two horizontal lines. The first one, usually played by a tempura, symbolizing the bass. It was a flow, a tone, a trunk. A root that defined the anchor points of harmony. The second line represents the melody and its sinuous paths. It would arise from the first one, cross over and under it, and, as if magnetized, would always go back on it. He was telling me he wanted to play his favourite chords inside the intervals that looked like the American Indians' mountains"
It would be Chassol's second album that would properly focus on what he calls 'Ultrascore' - that is, finding harmonies within the world around him. Indiamore has Chassol visiting India, filming the world around him and composing songs based on what he sees, ranging from a street fiddler (Fiddler in the Street) to a woman expressing her idea of deities and music correlating (Music Is God My Love), Indiamore captures the essence of Indian life, while enhancing with compositions and video edits.
As well as the normal musical album, Indiamore can also be brought in video form, showing off the footage that make up the album. Below is a 20-minute live performance by Chassol to give you some idea of how it all works:
(Oh, and while I'm here, here's Chassol's take on Obama singing, and his full speech at New York).
Indiamore – to me – is one of 2014's albums of the year – the peculiar sounds of Indian life mixed with Chassol's piano playing is almost perfect (I say almost, because – much like other types of music, like jazz, some tracks go on longer the necessary and lose their initial impact), and I cannot recommend enough to those who enjoy something a little left-field to listen to while relaxing.
I'll admit – I haven't yet listened to Ultrascore; Chassol's third album isn't so much an album, as a collection of songs he composed over the years that were previously unavailable, though there's selections from both X-Piano and Indiamore. I dunno, I don't really enjoy compilation albums very much. I'm sure whichever unreleased songs are on there are good enough for the purchase alone, but I cannot say, either way. Sorry, that's all I got
Official Website posted:
With Big Sun, his fourth album, Christophe Chassol closes his trilogy of 'ultrascores' (the method of harmonization of the reality he develops), which started at New Orleans Creole (Nola Cherie, 2011) and continued in India (Indiamore , 2013). In March 2014, he left for Martinique, where his family is from, at the heart of expressing more personal and more universal music. With cinematographer Marie-France Barrier and sound engineer Johann Levasseur, they film and record meetings, scenes of everyday life, the carnival: an impressionistic documentary which is the Big Sun matrix.
As the quote mentions, Big Sun is to be the third and final 'ultrascore' album – heading to his family's home country as a closing statement. By now, Chassol has begun to gain critical acclaim, particularly in his home-country France (though there are future shows confirmed for other countries such as the UK in May).
Although I was convinced that I would enjoy Big Sun just as much (if not more so) than Indiamore, I was a little intrigued to see what form West Indian life according to Chassol would take (namely, I became a massive racist and assumed everybody he met would be "all reggae all the time"). Thankfully, once the video for Dominos Part 3 was released I was, happily, proven wrong (serves me right for disrespecting my own heritage, I suppose).
Big Sun, I feel, is a great successor to Indiamore and I couldn't recommend it enough to anybody who either enjoy likewise musicians such as the aforementioned Reich, or Tellier; enjoys music catered for people who like to listen to something a little different from the norm; or even those interested in learning the piano (though I've always wanted to learn a musical instrument, Chassol has convinced me to give piano a try, and – from what little I've learnt – I enjoy it, immensely). It takes getting used to, but I hope you all savour the works of Christophe Chassol!
Other stuff to consider:
|# ? Mar 10, 2015 04:39|
|# ? Mar 23, 2019 09:25|
started listening to the newest one, Big Sun. I really like Pipornithology Pt 2. was vaguely hoping Mario would be a riff on the SMB 1-1 theme, but oh well. Thanks for posting about this!
|# ? Mar 10, 2015 15:01|
Pipornithology Pt 2 is pretty great, I agree. I like the subtle samba sounds you can hear in the background. I also like Dominoes pt 3, simply because the idea of playing a conch is a bit insane!
Speaking of Mario, wouldn't it be great if Chassol did a videogame soundtrack, too? Or even did a composition over Mario's voice, at least?
|# ? Mar 10, 2015 23:38|
It works really well as music for SimCity-type game. If you listen to the SimCity4 soundtrack, I feel like there was a lot of Reich influence (I have no musical education so I can't speak to any concrete things), so it makes sense in that regard.
The bird tracks, where he's following the birdsong with piano, make me think that he could do a great procedurally-generated soundtrack for a rhythm-based platformer or something. (Kind of like Bit-Trip Runner.)
|# ? Mar 11, 2015 15:28|