It would be a lie if we stated we were knowledgeable of French-Canadian multi-instrumentalist and composer Cédric d Lavoie. It was however a routine midnight foray taking in a plethora of mediocre sounds that allowed us to stumble across the talent of 36-year old Cédric D Lavoie. His latest album (simply called 88) a welcomed midnight break. A cultured, multi-layered pared down album of cinematic soundscapes introduces us to ambient classical inspired sounds. Composed ostensibly on the piano, this nine-track album, a debut release on the Preserved Sounds label pulses with a quiet verve; always holding your attention as bass, and of course the central protagonist the piano allows you to meld into the world of Cédric D Lavoie.
A person's formative years can tell you a lot about the person they are so to that effect tell us about childhood what was that like and how it had an impact on you as a creative person?
There were some extra-curricular activities in my primary school, and I chose violin at the age of 6. Three years later, I joined a choir where we also had piano lessons. I had my first touring experiences with that choir, traveling in USA, Europe and even South Korea. I eventually stopped violin lessons but started to play on my father's guitar and finally chose the electric bass as a teenager. I chose this instrument because I loved the feeling of the lower frequencies and because some of my friends were starting guitar, it was an easy way to join them and start projects.
It's an obligatory yet cliched question but we must ask about influences?
I listen to a lot of kind of music, and maybe all of them can have a certain influence on my own music, even if they are not even closed to my artistic universe. For example, I'm a big fan of Nine Inch Nails and really feel that behind an obvious intensity, they have such a strong melodic sense. I now have a little obsession with some Krautrock acts such as CAN and Neu! Really amazed by how modern they can sound even today, and I really like the repetitive, sometimes meditative moods of those records.
In terms of instruments what do you play and what does each instrument (if that is the case) bring to your music?
My main instrument is the upright bass. A few years ago, in a studio session, a composer asked me to record multiple tracks to mimic a small string orchestra. At first, I was a bit confused, but then realized what was possible to achieve with the instrument when multiplying the tracks. That studio session had a big influence on my way to arrange music around the upright bass afterwards. That's exactly what I have done on the album 88, as a complement of the piano compositions. Normally, piano is for me a tool to arrange and compose. Since I never pushed the learning of this instrument, it's easier for me to play and create without over-thinking.
Composing the tracks for 88 was a pause from my every day musical work-like a little cocoon. More generally, I like to play all sorts of things, from accordion to electric guitar. When a track needs a specific sound, I can spend hours trying to achieve it on my own!
Talk about your music and how would you define it, or should we think more in terms of the different influences?
I have a strong interest in introspective acoustic music. I presented a first album of original compositions in 2015 with the instrumental quintet Mismar, composed of an oboe, a bass clarinet, a guitar, an upright bass and percussions. Exploring music with such non-standard sound combinations is enjoyable. While jazz and classical influences are never far, I tend to compose incorporating a lot of pop music aspects such as simple melodies, repetitions and short and symetrical structures.
Your solo project 88 -discuss why you decided to release this debut project with Preserved Sound and how that happened?
When I finished the first tracks of the album, I started to contact little labels specializing in ambient/classical music. I was first light-headed by the large quantity of those labels, but discovered some amazing music doing all this. Preserved sound have such an eclectic selection which grabbed my attention. The contact with them was easy and human, it was a natural choice.
Emotionally the music is extremely powerful-talk to us about how it made you feel creating this music and indeed where you want to take listeners emotionally when they listen to this project?
It's always interesting to hear how people perceive a project like that. For 88, some listeners only feel the generally calm and soothing ambiance while other ones react more to the dramatic build-ups and tensions. It depends on so many factors and I like to leave it to the listeners to make their own path. On my side, the creating process had a certain therapeutic aspect, like a need to play music on another timescale.
“I also explored recording techniques emphasising the sound resulting from the mechanics of the piano and my fingers on the keyboard. These sounds are rarely acoustically audible but add an intimate and intriguing aspect to the recording” Talk to us about this aim and how this process added to the project.
The revelation came when I discovered the German pianist Nils Frahm. I already had a few compositions completed and thought that his aesthetic and the way he was recording the piano was really inspiring. It is now a clear signature of the neo-classical movement. I still really enjoy how intimate and soothing this approach is.
“My moods were inspired by the hours spent on the road and the isolated landscapes I encountered.” We love the idea of bleak landscapes allowing you to be contemplative-elaborate more on those journeys on the road.
Those journeys were mainly achieved as a touring musician. I'm sure other musicians could confirm, being on the road is a mix of boring and magical moments. In Canada, the distance between two venues can be long, sometimes without anything but nature. I composed part of the album before and after the sound checks, when we had a bit of free time. Those moments were always greatly influenced by the many hours spent on the road and the contemplative mood attached to it. It's something quite unique that is not easy to re-create in the everyday life.
Discuss how you tried to create different sounds for the project and indeed was that an enjoyable experience attempting to find new sounds?
Definitely an enjoyable experience! I had in mind what type of textures I wanted on certain tracks without knowing how to achieve them. I tried a lot of things before finding the right sources. Finally, the added sound textures and samples were mainly created using a cardboard box and a bag with a Velcro flap.