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Samarkande: Oblivious to the future

img  Tobias

„In 2005, we were just getting a nationwide distribution with S.R.I Canada. At the time we only had 2 albums: '4 Cadavres exquis' in 2002 and 'Rude Awakening' in 2004. SAMARKANDE was not a live act then, but our sales representative insisted that we’d start performing our music in front of audiences in order to promote ourselves. He made it very clear that it was one of the main condition for us to get distributed by them“, Fillion remembers, „Nothing that we previously composed was meant to be performed live though, and what was about to come out later on in 2006: 'Douglas’ Basement' wasn’t thought that way either. So we started working in that direction in order to fulfill their requirement.“ First efforts ended up a half-hour melting pot of the most diverse ideas, which turned out to be far too complex to perform regularly on stage. As a result, Samarkande, who had always preferred good old musical instruments such as Woodwinds and Synthesizers, started searching for more atypical sound sources. An „acoustic“ approach started manifesting itself, with both artists working independently on different „layouts“, which were to be combined into a coherent entity at a later stage. Lamirande fondly remembers a particular episode of this naive quest for fresh forms of expression: „Every year I retreat for a couple of weeks to a house by the river St-Laurent near Quebec-City. While exploring its attic, I found a Violin which belonged to the Grand-father of the house's owner. It was in a very bad condition, the strings were probably the originals and it probably hadn’t been tuned in years - if it ever had. Since I do not know how to play the Violin, I had to approach the instrument in an unorthodox fashion in order to make it sound a little interesting. So the performance got rather... peculiar“, he laughs, adding: „I also used all the devices around the fireplace.“

When the time was ripe for gigs, they then returned to some of their favourite Hardware instruments to create an organic symbiosis of traditional and 21st century influences. As purveyors of a hands-on philosophy, they were (quote) „shocked“ to find out that some of the younger generation of laptop artists considered them „Rockers“ for their use of physical sound modelling: „We are from an old school of thinking, we’re not drawn to making music on computers, the medium is seemingly faster and more accurate, but so cold and far less intuitive“, Lamirande sums up their sentiments, „We find that blending old and new hardware technologies is far more satisfying soundwise, and as a wind instrumentist and improvisor, nothing’s better than feeling the music physically. Even synthetic music becomes real when it sparkles on the tip of your fingers. To me, a musical performance has to be sweat out, otherwise it is lifeless. It is how every type of music should be and I don’t see how you could get these sensations with your hand on a mouse…“ There can be no doubt that their results speak books about the effectiveness of this approach. The 23-minute opening piece „Synapse no 1“ starts out as a melodic Kalimba-pattern, which is mirrored as a giant, yet opaque shadow image and mixed with spoken word contributions by Cathy Thibault, whose „Past is left unspoken“ sample haunts the track until the pitpatting Sequencers kick in with their feverish pulse.

The flow of „3 Synapses“ has caused some to compare it to Evan Parker or Anthony Braxton – comparisons which go down well with Samarkande, even though they acknowledge that this was neither their attention nor that they feel worthy of these accolades. What makes these parallels interesting, though, is their suggestion that everything here is in constant flux and that nothing is set in stone. Since the music was conceived modularly, with new elements entering the mix continuously over time, it was also never completely „finished“, as Fillion points out: „I actually think we could keep on experimenting with it even more, but there is a time where we have to draw a line and move on to something else. By putting this work on a CD we have detached ourselves from its original embryo, it gives us an opportunity to go elsewhere with its main frame and we often use the 3 Synapses as a reference signal to get us back on the program once in a while. We constantly add new elements and put extentions to it, which always takes us to new places. We still get that feeling of the unexpected from time to time, it’s a constant work in progress, an ongoing learning experience between both members of SAMARKANDE and hopefully, the listener.“ He smiles: „That to me is the beauty of 3 Synapses. Being oblivious to where it may take us next time.“

„3 Synapses“, as well as the entire back catalogue of Samarkande, can be ordered directly from the band.

Homepage: Samarkande

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