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Hit the Keys, Jack!

img  Tobias

While many Rock- and even Metalmusicians admit to having roots in Classical Music and fans of Wagner and Stravinsky can at least intellectually grasp what excites people about a couple of deep and heavy guitar riffs, Techno is beyond both of these camps' comprehension. The rhythmical imperative, those dumb structures, all those repetitions... no wonder, then, as many claim, that you can only enjoy this music on drugs. Now, a French pianist is trying to rectify this picture.

Maxence Cyrin's story with music is the same as those of most teenagers - up to a certain point. He learns the piano at a young age, performing the old masters and indulging in Classical music. Then, at the age of 18, he discovers new wave and dark electronics and is hooked right away. He abandons his classes and rushes headlong into this new and fascinating genre, discovering techno and rave while he's at it. The energy and directness of the music are what fascinates him and he's right there, when those initial house hymns hit the ceiling. We are told that this was also the first time he actually releases material himself on French labels from the early scene, such as "Rave Age" or "Superstition". Don't try to find these, though, as there are no internet pages for this kind of underground outfits and it is also highly likely that he used a psyeudonym those days - as it was an unspoken etiquette at the time to disappear behind a nonpersonal mask. Seven years on, he has just turned 25, he turns his attention to Elvis Presley and Burt Bacharach and starts singing. His voice can be heard on different compilations and he becomes a regular performer at different clubs in Paris. It is only then that all of his talents come together in a new project, which will mark his breakthrough and bring together the music and aesthetics of two diametrically opposed worlds.

German music journalist Joachim Hentschel once remarked that techno was about one thing: Taking only the good bits of a piece and repeating them ad infinitum. There is something very true about that. As everyone who has seriously listened to those simple tracks will readily testify, the old notion of a brute beat and one single idea has long expired. So has the cliche that this is a music without melodies. Instead, techno is about energy transmission and a deliberate loss of one's intelectual faculties to find "salvation". Which is also the goal of Classical music, although it uses very different methods and actually endorses using one's brain. "Open your mind", means liberating your body and letting go of all preconceived concepts to fans of electronic dance music and it means expanding your knowledge and understanding to friends of Mozart and co. With this in (your hopefully open) mind, Cyrin's idea doesn't seem too bold or rediculous any more: At two performances, he played favourite dancefloor anthems on his piano to an ecstatic crowd, combining them with occasoional shout and vocal lines - and immediately won over famous label "F Communications", founded by a pioneer of techno and an experimental artist in his own right - Laurent Garnier. What fascinated them expecially, was that you could actually hear that he had virtually spent night after night with these "classics" and that he wasn't just playing the notes, but feeling them every time he hit a key.

Essentially, what Maxence does, is bring out the beauty of those pieces. He has a strong aversion to an "elitist" music and his search for simplicity seems just the right approach. As essayist Jean-Yves Leloup points out, there is a huge difference between his live performance and the studio album "Modern Rapsodies", which "F Communications" just released. While Cyrine uses the pedals of his instruments to simulate the movement of the bass drum on stage and heats up the club with energetic performances, the album is more about intimacy and solitude. At the same time, there was ample opportunity to add effects to the performance in the studio. There are 14 pieces on the CD, all of which arranged and performed by Cyrin and ranging from Synthie-Pop super stars Depeche Mode (their version of "Behind the Wheel" is stunning) to Ibiza-favourites such as Sueno Latino (which, incidently, is based on an early electronic music classic itself, Manuel Göttsching's "E2-E4"). Some versions work better than others, but in its finest moment, the album is much more than a mere bizarre covers collection. To Cyrin, it's a nostalgic trip to the sound of his youth, to others involved it's a tribute and to us, these are surprisingly touching pieces that make you go all quiet.

We have to warn you: This is not a real Classical album. It will not see ravers and Concert Hall-fans embrace each other in tears. But what it will do is create a sense of understanding of what techno is about and how versatile this music can be when played by the right pair of hands. And that you don't necessarily need drugs to enjoy it.

Homepage: Maxence Cyrin

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