CCS132 / CCCD024
Artwork : Artwork by Alice Sfintesco / Graphic Design by Brest Brest Brest
Mastering : Matt Colton @ Metropolis Studios, London
Released on : 17.05.2024
Format : LP + CD + Digital

With his new instrumental album Ventas Rumba, the French composer (and singer) returns to his signature instrument, the piano, blending it with warm synth tones. This album represents a “return to his roots “, allowing Ezéchiel Pailhès to reinvent himself in a seamless way while still exploring ballads and ritornellos, halfway between light-heartedness and melancholy.

Ezéchiel Pailhès has been meaning to write a solo piano album for as long as he can remember. Hardly surprising, of course, for this academically-trained pianist, brought up on classical music and then studied jazz. Yet, since his 2001 debut with the electro-pop duo Nôze, and his subsequent four albums, the artist had constantly postponed this project that was so close to his heart. Then in 2022, just as he was getting ready to start producing an album of new songs, this long-standing aim finally materialized. The melodies he wrote seemed to stand on their own naturally, spurring him on to compose this series of fourteen tracks, recorded in sessions split between France and Latvia.

A new piano: the Una Corda

Ezéchiel wanted this project dedicated to the piano to begin a new narrative, to explore new instrumental terrain and new tones, something far removed from the familiar piano he has been playing all his life. He opted for the Una Corda piano, designed by David Klavins, a groundbreaking instrument builder renowned for his distinctive pianos with vertical shapes and frames.

The Una Corda, created in 2014, is an upright piano with a single string per note (unlike three strings on traditional pianos). Enticed by the “crystalline and unique” tones of this instrument, which is hard to find in France, Ezéchiel travelled to Kuldiga, Latvia (where David Klavins set up his workshops and studios), to record the first part of the album. Although the title of the album may initially conjure up images of a distant, sensual dance, the reality is quite different. Ventas Rumba indeed refers to the waterfall and rapids (in Latvian: rumba) of the river Ventas, which runs near this small village in the western part of the country. Ezéchiel chose to blur the lines, as the sound and musicality of the title likely evoke both his short stay in the Baltic country, and also a form of distant exotic imagery perfectly in tune with his own mischievous wit.

Tracks as short stories

Back in France, Ezéchiel enhanced the first tracks recorded in Kuldiga with subtle synth tone layers, and added other tracks composed and recorded at his Montreuil studio. The album reflects a deliberate and sensitive orchestration of piano, synth keyboards and digital effects, as he puts it: “playing to erase the differences between the tones of the various instruments”, as if each instrument’s texture echoed the others. According to Ezéchiel, you can listen to Ventas Rumba as you would leaf through “a collection of short stories”, through compositions that rarely exceed three minutes and evoke figures of movement, lightness, curves or modulation, such as “La ligne”, “La valse des singes” or “Fly Finger”.

Others more seriously relate to a kind of spirituality, which quietly infuses such different tracks as “Ferveur”, “Éclair” and “Louanges”. Ezéchiel adds: “I’m by no means religious, but I like what God has managed to get musicians to achieve (laughs)”. “Louanges”, for instance, despite its electronic edge, “refers to Olivier Messiaen, a very devout composer who I greatly admire”. Other tracks are directly inspired by the classical music he listens to on a daily basis. For example, Chopin’s “8th Nocturne” formed the backdrop of “Pianovado”. Likewise, the harmonic structure of Beethoven’s “Waldstein Sonata No. 21” inspired “Opus 53”. Aside from these multiple references and inspirations, which quickly recede behind a style that is uniquely his, Ezéchiel Pailhès keeps exploring ideas already found on his first solo albums, this time in an instrumental format, undoubtedly purer, fostering an imaginary world that evokes the shapes and themes of ballads, ritornellos, light-heartedness, passing time, reverie or a universal subdued melancholy. 

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