Stéphane Pigneul – Bass [Bass Vi], Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Drum Machine, Sampler
Gareth Davis – Bass Clarinet
Frédéric D. Oberland – Electric Guitar, Mellotron, Electronics, Keyboards, Alto Saxophone, Sounds [Field Recordings]
Ben McConnell – Percussion, Drums

CD and LP on Sub Rosa, released 4 May 2015


1 – Omen: Divided We Fall
2 – Ütopiya / On Living (feat G.W.Sok)
3 – Someone Must Shout That We Will Build The Pyramids
4 – Fortune Teller
5 – Yallah Karga (Dance Song)
6 – Soudain Le Ciel
7 – I Terribili Infanti
8 – Portals Of Tomorrow
9 – Requiem For Tony
10 – Aslan Sütü (Santé, Vieux-Monde!)
11 – Palindrome Series (Live at Saint-Merry)

ÜTOPIYA? not only continues their first album, but it extends it. The travels move this time to Istanbul and Sicily providing the food for its urgent energy and indomitable drive. While the structures still hint at moments of post-rock, they go further now, almost into the area of free-jazz yet without loosing a directness rooted in punk (highlighted perhaps by the presence of G.W.Sok from The Ex). In addition, the bass clarinet of Gareth Davis references both the roughest of experiments of Akosh Szelevényi and of The Stooges Fun House.

There are, so the story goes, sea birds that reveal themselves only at times of approaching storms. This story though, is a little more complicated. For some, the pipers riding the deluge, yet for the mariner the prophets in the lingering final moments of calm. Thus, ultimately, are they the creator or created if the existence of one requires the other? It is this Mediterranean Sea that OISEAUX-TEMPÊTE chose to roam. In 2013, on a trip to Greece, they returned with an account of the political upheaval and spread of discontent which is now so easy to follow two years later. An album of tension, cinematographic as it rides the storms which it documents. A disc positioned, ultimately, in the statement.
More or less anchored in Paris, OISEAUX-TEMPÊTE is the result of the meeting between Frédéric D. Oberland & Stéphane Pigneul (members of both Farewell Poetry and Le Réveil des Tropiques) and Ben McConnell (Beach House and Marissa Nadler). For ÜTOPIYA?, the group is expanded with the addition of bass clarinet virtuoso Gareth Davis.




Paris-based post-rock outfit Oiseaux-Tempête released their self-titled debut album in 2013, and the foundation laid there has been built upon by its follow-up, ÜTOPIYA?. Their last album was intrinsically tangled with the politics of Greece, its collection of field recordings synched with its production, but the group entered the studio for ÜTOPIYA? first, with Benoît Bel recording the whole thing over the course of three days in Lyon. Afterwards, those live sessions were linked with the sound and feel of Istanbul and Sicily, to add the simmering urgency to their free-jazz- and Krautrock-inflected improvisations.

The new arrival of bass clarinettist Gareth Davis altered the dynamic of the group slightly, too, pushing the role of Stéphane Pigneul towards different sounds, adding drum machine and electric/acoustic guitars to his credits on this album, while Ben McConnell keeps on the drums and Frédéric D. Oberland works the keys, guitar, alto sax and field recordings. Its sense of drama is heightened by the appearance of G.W. Sok (former frontman of the Ex), who lends guest vocals on “Ütopiya / On Living” in reading a Nâzim Hikmet poem, as well as a Mellotron flute-led interpretation of Giorgio Moroder’s Scarface theme called “Requiem for Tony.” The sax and noise-laced crescendo of “Someone Must Shout That We Will Build the Pyramids,” meanwhile, is as epic as anything Godspeed You! Black Emperor ever did. Cinematic, political, dynamic and nuanced: this is post-rock at its best.

Alan Ranta

A closer listen

Certain albums lend themselves to certain natural environments: home listening, club, car ride, airline trip. Ütopiya? is the perfect album for a stroll through an urban environment. I realized this last week while walking in Manhattan with my iPod. Unlike other personal listening devices (Beats by Dre, for example), an iPod allows in the sounds of the outside world, which helps one not to get hit by a car. In this case, it means that a certain fluidity is established between the various languages in dialogue, both inside and outside the music. For those who miss the vocal samples on Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s new album, Ütopiya? is the place to turn. There’s even a spoken word track, G.W. Sok’s reading of a poem from Nazim Hikmet Ran on the album’s first single, “On Living.” My eyes can’t get enough of the trees … they’re so hopeful, so green.

When Sok intones, “the point is not to surrender,” the music swiftly kicks into high gear: purposeful, powerful, unbroken. It’s the first explosion of a simmering set that more often seems coiled, hiding its menace in folds of neo-noir. The addition of Gareth Davis on bass clarinet is a huge contributor. One might call this darkjazz, but it’s more of a free jazz/post-rock hybrid, at times resembling one more than the other, bursting forth in thick clouds of something resembling doom (especially on “Someone Must Shout That We Will Build the Pyramids”). These timbres suggest protest, upheaval, revolution in the streets, and indeed some of the inspiration comes from political unrest, not just in France but in Greece and other nations visited by the collective. The building volumes and viscosities suggest voices joined by other voices until they can no longer be ignored. Yet unlike many of their contemporaries (including GY!BE), Oiseaux-Tempête holds onto a modicum of hope. As an interviewee intones on “Fortune Teller,” “no matter how much oppression there is from the state … at any period in history, somehow a magical community happens.”

02 OISEAUX-TEMPETE 2015 photo Pamela MaddalenoOiseaux-Tempête is itself one of these magical communities, a collective related to FareWell Poetry, Le Reveil des Tropiques, and through Frédéric D. Oberland, The Rustle of the Stars. The fluid borders provide an ongoing exchange of ideas; the international travels open new frontiers of understanding. The album’s shortest track, “Yallah Karga (Dance Song)”, provides the largest metaphor. Filled with ambient sound ~ sirens, street traffic, conversation, Arabic song ~ the track might be identified with one city or any city, as multicultural as the world has become. In parts of Manhattan, for example, this might be a collection of sounds within or without one’s personal plastic earplugs. And this seems to be the collective’s point: that cultures can be preserved in a melting pot, and need not be eradicated in the service of a new blended identity.

Is such hope unrealistic? Pluralism is not an easy concept, and the interrogative title Ütopiya? poses this very question, as does a guest speaker on “Portals Of Tomorrow”. And yet, should one embrace the opposite concept – that cultures must be preserved at all costs, even that of the eradication or expulsion of other cultures – one will find few happy antecedents. As Auden so famously writes,

There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.
But let’s not end on such a dour note. The final sound of the album is one of friendship: of drinks poured into two glasses. It’s a sound that everyone can recognize, and all can embrace.

Richard Allen

Ombre sur la mesure

Deux ans après nous avoir conviés à un périple à travers les eaux grecs, Oiseaux-Tempête restent fidèles à la méditerranée et posent les jallons d’un nouvelle oeuvre politique, cette fois-ci entre la Turquie et la Sicile. Emmené par Frédéric D. Oberland (guitares), Stéphane Pigneul (basse), Ben Mc Connell (batterie), rejoints pour l’occasion par l’illustre clarinettiste Gareth Davis, le groupe avait subi malgré lui à ses débuts un trop rapide étiquetage « post-rock ». La présence d’un instrument à vent leur attribue aujourd’hui tout aussi hâtivement une connotation jazz. D’autant plus étrange, pour un groupe qui « silencieusement » construit une utopie où les humains seraient encore pénétrables avant tout de par ce qu’ils ont à partager, et où les castes et frontières seraient à démonter comme autant de murs de la honte.

Peu importe le genre auxquels on les associe, il existe des disques dont nous contemplons l’artwork et que nous sommes immédiatement persuadés d’aimer. En d’autres lieus, on nommerait ça un coup de foudre. Ici aussi donc, peut-être encore, en fonction de notre attirance pour les naufrages où le gros temps coule dans des mers démontées. Peut-être parce que malgré l’issue (in)certaine, certains courageux, férus de révolution qu’on leur volera de toute façon, acceptent encore de s’y jeter par dessus bord. Pour nager au milieu des capitaines épris de lâcheté, des embarcations de fortune et des oiseaux mazoutés. Pour arracher un pavillon blafard avant la définitive coulée, le remplacer par le dernier étendard qui mérite d’être porté. Celui du noir, représentant de ce peuple colérique aux yeux rougis. Celui qui rêve de crever lentement le regard des états complices et hypocrites avec ses pouces, celui qui ferait bien du capitalisme un Picasso. Le sourire sournois corrigé au cutter, c’est vrai qu’il serait tellement plus beau.

ÜTOPIYA? relate donc ce périple en eaux troubles, en territoires complexes, où le coût de la vie est aussi dévalué que le franc CFA. Non loin des plages lybiennes où on égorge à tours de bras, à quelques embardées des échoués de Lampedusa. Avec peut-être une batterie moins éclatante que par le passé, mais avec un caractère incisif dans les riffs qui donne un peu plus qu’un côté punk intelligent à tout l’ensemble. La clarinette de Gareth Davis apporte une plus-value incontestable, évoquant ces nuits d’Orient où les âmes se promènent et où les sentiments sont vrais et indélébiles. Tout le caractère somptueux du disque est contenu dans un titre, qui arrive peut-être même un peu trop tôt pour ne pas écraser le reste lors des premières écoutes. Ütopiya / On Living, où la mélodie est juste imparable et où la ré-interprétation en anglais du poème de Nazim Hikmet par GW Sok (The Ex) renvoie à autant d’espoirs que d’impuissance. Parce que c’est juste beau, foutrement triste et que ça pousse à surtout ne pas déposer les armes.

Le reste se révèlera avec le temps comme tout aussi indispensable, cousu de plages plus propices à la contemplation et d’autres où la tension se sublime dans des élans oniriques. On retiendra plus particulièrement Yallah Karga (Dance song), suite à peine masquée à Buy Gold (Beat Song) de l’album précédent, où on ne sait si les appels à la prière trouveront l’écho qu’ils méritent dans le coeur des assiégés. Les deux longues pièces Soudain le ciel et Portails of Tomorrow, probablement issues de sessions plus improvisées et où les field recordings ont un écho tout particulier. Difficile aussi de ne pas citer le surprenant Requiem for Tony, dont on ne sait s’il est un véritable hommage à Moroder où à Tony Montana lui même.

ÜTOPIYA? est un album magnifique, un pavé dans la gueule des charlitudes de façade, des révolutionnaires de boudoirs, qui veulent bien s’émouvoir du sort des pauvres mais de loin, pour préserver la nouvelle sacrosainte gentrification. Il évoque cette époque formidable, critique, où l’Europe des lumières regarde ailleurs pendant que d’autres ne peuvent que conjuguer leur futur au passé décomposé. Grand disque.

Kaspar Hauser