Introduced by the French pianist, composer and sound designer living in Bordeaux as a project entirely based on sound whereby “the aesthetical sound is more important than the musical style”, Julien Marchal’s Insight LP was self-released on Bandcamp on April 20th 2015 last. Nine new compositions complete the initial four tracks published last year in his Insight EP. Where many studio recordings tend to “airbrush” any sound imperfections and noises from the final mix, the Insight LP was recorded in the musician’s home studio with ambient noises and the sound from the piano hammers or keys becoming an integral part of the organic recording process.
To emphasise the focus on sound, all tracks are simply numbered with Roman numerals from I to XIII thus leaving any interpretation of the music entirely up to the listener. Transposed visually, many of Julien Marchal’s videos consist of a static shot whose focal point remains the hands of the pianist on the keyboard.
Even though all the music is recorded and performed on an acoustic upright piano, there is also an electronic inclination underpinning the music. Like many musicians of his generation, Julien Marchal is constantly navigating between electronic and classical music.
In addition to his work as a solo artist, Julien Marchal is a composer and arranger with his “Altered Perceptions” project which includes a string quartet and himself on keyboards and electronics. The ensemble has recently posted new compositions as well an arrangement of “Abandon Window/Nightfall” by Jon Hopkins. Over the last few months, the artist has also been involved in several “reworks” (Nils Frahm’s Me), collaborations with French painter and experimental musician Philippe Lamy or most notably with ambient/drone and experimental artist Pleq on a superb remix of Ben Lukas Boysen’s “Only in the Dark”:
Piano: Julien Marchal / Cello: Peter Hollo
Experimenting with electronic textures, drones or tone and this constant search for “space” within the music finds an obvious echo in Julien Marchal’s playing and in his approach to recording an acoustic modern classical album.
Every track was conceived as a piano exercise. On X, I wanted to approach several “classical” styles at the same time – starting with Bach and then navigating through different periods while touching on composer’s quirks (Beethoven, Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Debussy…). Conversely, XI was totally improvised […]
Whether it relates to rhythm, melody, harmony or effects and being as open-minded as possible, what I love doing ultimately is to extract the quintessence from a particular passage I like in the music of any kind of group or musician, turn it into a practice exercise, experiment with it and create something new.
But always coming back to the mechanics and the physical presence of the upright piano in a room, the pianist uses the damper pedal throughout to create this incredibly muffled and cosy sound, almost “taking the listener inside the piano”. In the process, Julien Marchal elicits genuine “goosebump-inducing” themes from the keyboard.
The Insight LP is available to download on Bandcamp and includes two remixed versions of Insight I by Sleep Orchestra and Haring.