Pubblicato il Gennaio 5th, 2018 | by DDG


Odessey & Oracle: freedom is the word

Odessey & Oracle (Fanny L’Héritier – lead vocals, electric piano and analog synths, Alice Baudoin – electric harpsichord, analog synths, recorders and vocals, Guillaume Médioni – electric guitar, dobro, banjo and vocals) are a French band, quite difficult to classify: the definition of their style was the first issue in the long chat with Guillaume and Fanny.

A French avant-chamber pop group with a classical baroque imprinting, maybe?
Hard question… a three-part French band who tries to experiment as much as possible within pop song’s frame…

At least, the name reference is easier: the 1968 pop masterpiece of the Zombies, one of the reference records for the whole era, together with the more popular PET SOUNDS and SGT. PEPPER LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND, and the less celebrated Pretty Things S.F. SORROW.
We choose that band name because we love this record by the Zombies! But we never tried to make revival stuff, we took this name also because of its dreamlike imaginary… this album is also a symbol for us of a great freedom in music.

Freedom is definitely one of the keys to the Odessey & Oracle world: their 2014 debut mixed baroque, Canterbury pop and experimental music in a personal way, with the free approach of not-exactly-prog bands from the ‘70s such as Slapp Happy.
I think we never meant to sound like late-60’s pop band or 70’s stuff, though we know that our band name maybe refers to these periods… but it’s not a problem for us, if you listen to our music you can figure that it isn’t “referenced“ or “labelled” music! We understand that our music can refer to progressive stuff even though we were more inspired by avant-pop bands from the past such as White Noise, The United States of America, that are not considered as prog bands! But we even like some prog groups such as Gentle Giant and a lot of other bands who tried – like us – to make experimental pop songs… even if, to be honest, I never made the difference between that kind of music with complex structures and harmonies and prog.

Les portes du labyrinthe
s’ouvrent enfin
L’énigme est
au bout du chemin
(Le labyrinthe)

The list of possible influences, actually, is quite impressive, as for any hard-to-classify band: even the record label press release sounds bizarre – Brian Wilson, Caetano Veloso, White Noise, JS Bach, Moondog, Robert Wyatt… 
Yes, we also try to integrate several background influences we have, such as baroque or medieval music, vintage electronic experimental music, brasilian mpb from the 70’s or psychedelic folk and pop from the English and US 60’s. We always try to go somewhere we did not expect to and to surprise ourselves (whether it is in our harmonies, melodies, arrangements…) and above all we try to write “new songs”: most of the songs that are written around don’t sound really new we think… A kind of déjà vu.

The 17 songs and interludes packed up in the 46 minutes of …AND THE CASIOTONE ORCHESTRA (Les Disques Bongo Joe, 2014) highlighted all the above mentioned references and more, with the melodies calling to (maybe too lazy) connections with the classical ‘60s pop research of bands such as Left Banke, and the quite alien sound of the no-drums trio someway connecting Odessey & Oracle to Stereolab and other avant-pop combos.
The program includes baroque mini suits (The unicorn), classical songs (The cat with lipsticks) and French pop (V.I.A.G.R.A.).

The internal consistency in …AND THE CASIOTONE ORCHESTRA lies in the approach to the sound and to the composition, trying to stress the pop structures, more than in the taxonomy of styles…
We indeed chose to appear as a chamber pop mini orchestra, with no drums, because this appeared to us to be more original than the standard pop instrumentation: that’s our background, all three of us studied classical music and played (or written) some, but also played “pop music” (or rock) in several projects at the same time. Then, for us it was much more practical and enjoyable to use the song frame for sharing complex and surprising musical stuff, as if we tried to make “experimental easy listening music”, as Beatles, Brian Wilson, Caetano Veloso (in the 70’s) or that kind of great pop artists succeeded in doing – making people more interested in experimental and avant-garde stuff.

In SPECULATIO (Les Disques Bongo Joe, 2017) the experimental style is focused in compositions someway in line with the avant-pop of other researchers such as Field Music or Peter von Poehl, orchestral arrangements (and some drums, here and there) included.
Dreamy moments (the mini-suite Les Déesses, or the medieval La Princesse et le Lion), French pop openings (Sunflowers) and experiments (J’ai vu an croco) are part of a coherent program, and the different styles may converge into beautiful and complex 3 minutes songs (L’Horizon Tombe, Le Labyrinthe, Les Nouveaux Dieux).
Hooky melodies over strange harmonies and complex structures: the voice built up in the 2014 debut is now loud and clear.

SPECULATIO is an impressive evolution for the band…
AND THE CASIOTONE is like an eclectic compilation of songs written during a large period and that led to the creation of a band, whereas SPECULATIO is more responding to a classical way to make an album… The band, actually, was formed during the recording sessions of our first record. It is interesting that you think the second album is more ‘pop’ than our debut: we thought that it was a bit more proggy, in particular with respect to the use of synths… these instruments are very inspiring and we love to mix them with acoustic ones, whilst modern synth don’t fit as well with acoustic instruments. Old synths have this organic instability which brings them closer to voices, wind instruments or strings…

Les déesses de l’argent dansent
dans leur bulle spéculative
Les déesses de l’argent pensent
à l’argent à l’infini
(Les déesses)

Shifting to French was another challenge, but allowed to modify the approach to melodies, weakening the references to the ‘60s bands.
We choose to sing in French in the second album because we thought that that was logical as French is our native language: but French people are very attentive on lyrics, sometimes singing in English is easier to make the music as a pure sound… but it is a kind of shortcut, so we took the challenge of writing French lyrics, trying to make them sound as musical as English does!

Then, also the themes shifted to something else.
In the second album we tried to talk about important things: in particular money and capitalism, and how it perverts human relationships and society…

Avant-pop in France seems to be more popular than in other non-UK countries: a scene, maybe?
We don’t know if we are really part of it but there is a French psychedelic pop scene in France with bands like Aquaserge, Julien Gasc, Forever Pavot… And we still don’t earn enough money with it – some of us are giving music lessons such as Alice who teaches harpsichord at the conservatory. But things are moving, luckily: even a tour in Italy is in the plans. We plan to go to Milano this spring, some prog music organizers want to make us play in their venue, and we’ll try to book some other gigs on the way! And in the meantime, we take time but some new songs are on the way…

(Interview released on January 4th, 2018)

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