French jazz trumpet player Erik Truffaz first collaborated with Mexican electronica artist Fernando Corona (aka Murcof) back in 2006 when both musicians toured with composer and tabla player Talvin Singh. Following a long distance exchange of tracks in 2008, Truffaz and Murcof recorded the stunning ambient/jazz/electronica EP Mexico for the Blue Note label. The seamless partnership between the fluid trumpet sound of Truffaz and the classically-influenced soundscapes of Murcof called for further joint thinking between the two musicians.

Erik Truffaz & Murcof - Being Human Being (2014)
Erik Truffaz & Murcof – Being Human Being (2014)

Released on Mundo Recordings in November 2014 last, Being Human Being reunites the pair around a new multimedia project centred on the drawings of France-based graphic novelist, painter and film maker Enki Bilal. A first meeting in 2012 between the illustrator and the trumpet player sowed the initial seeds for the current project where Bilal’s drawings served as the basis for new music.

Born in 1951 in former Yougoslavia but living in France since the age of 9, Enki Bilal is acutely aware of Eastern Europe’s tormented geopolitical history. A visionary artist, Bilal anticipated the fall of the Berlin wall or the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre in his graphic novels. Dark, violent and often pessimistic, his work depicts a dystopian universe whose salvation rests however on the “humanity” of homo sapiens and on Nature as a healing force.

[The album] suggests to us that being human and being a human being are not necessarily the same thing, but that human be-ing, with its delicate balance of sensuousness, violence, ethical sensitivity, ugliness and grace, is still being sketched out. Press Release.

In parallel with the recording, the project also exists as a multimedia performance whereby the musicians (accompanied by a percussionist) improvise against a backdrop of Bilal’s drawings projected on a triptych of video screens. This particular set up reflects not only Bilal’s tendency to publish most of his work as trilogies but also the three-part visual narrative format of each concert.

All the material is drawn from Bilal’s paintings and from his published comic books – the title of the longest piece on the album (the 15mn “Warhole”) refers to the name of one of the characters in his Tétralogie du Monstre (1998 – 2007).

Opening and ending to contemplative ambient and textured layers (“Origin of the World” and “Infinite Abstract”), Being Human Being builds up to more intense and composite sections paced by Murcof’s trademark micro-rhythms and glitches (“Warhole”, “Chaos”). The music soon becomes incredibly complex and tells its own story, irrespective of the suggested imagery. Ultimately, the futuristic soundscape is softened by the tone of the trumpet, by a cello or a clarinet (“The Eye”, “Skin”), thus revealing the “humans” behind their instruments and laptops.

An ambitious and moving soundtrack to a unique vision.