November 2013 and while working on a project in Epinal, France, we took the chance to head up the snowy roads of the Vosges Mountains to find Christophe Toussaint, a musician who builds and plays a rather unusual traditional French instrument called the Epinette de Vosges. A beautiful sounding kind of harp, he’s built more than 3000 of them by hand and his workshop, like a magical emporium, was full of half-built instruments, strange-shaped tools and a huge collection of original Epinettes, some dating back to the 18th century!
The audiovisual project we were filming in Epinal is for the forthcoming venue Souris Verte (‘Green Mouse‘ in English) that’s being built in the city centre. Currently still a building site, the project involved us working with a fantastic group of musicians, filming over two freezing days in the half completed structure where, as it happened, all the artists were also keen to be part of Orchestra of Samples, so we took the opportunity to record a number of improvised sessions.
The artists included Dioday and Chaplin – two great local rappers from Shake Down Baby Rec, nimble fingered guitarist Robin Boucher, from French heavy metal band Days of Crisis and two talented members of French indie-pop band Coco Business Plan – their guitarist/singer Julien Bouchard and percussionist Ottavia Simonin on her glockenspiel – the band recently released their debut album Hold On.
Vincent Hermon is the fantastic drummer with rock band (The) Silent Days. As well as a drum session, we filmed him (in Stomp-like fashion) playing ‘the building’ – drumming on walls and open pipe work, even scaffold towers! Joining him for both sessions was experimental artist Romain Hantz aka Erachehcare, who’s drummer with the post-hardcore noise rockers Le Commander Keen. And playing traditional music to electronic trance projects, was the insanely talented multi-percussionist Cyrille Lecoq, who plays everything from congas and balafons to the UFO-shaped hang drum and a beautifully crafted didgeridoo he bought in Australia. He’s also one half of the duo Yakch’e with singer Aurélie Jung, who we also recorded, singing in a way that made the hairs on the back of our necks stand up.
2014 UPDATE NOTE: One year later, after La Souris Verte had opened, we returned to perform Orchestra of Samples there, performing with a number of the musicians we recorded, including Cyrille Lecoq, Aurélie Jung and Julien Bouchard.