The first album of
since Gotan Project

the sound track of the Hash Club of Paris

Out October 12th 2018

“Once in the Middle East, there was a formidable sectarian order, led by a Sheikh who claimed the title of Old Man of the Mountain...” From the outset, the first words are in tune with an album on the edges of phantasmagorical ecstasy while the chorus is singing a hallucinatory rallying cry: “Hashish, hashish, hashish...” Philippe Cohen Solal, founder of the record label Ya Basta that in the early 1990s was at the forefront of electronic music, is at the helm and for the first time on the mic. He is known as an artist and producer in charge of many projects, including Gotan Project and The Moonshine Sessions. As master of ceremonies he presents never before experienced perfumes. The soundtrack of Le Club des Hashischins is a reference to a secret society initiated by Dr. Jacques-Joseph Moreau. From 1844 to 1849, the club brought together no less than Charles Baudelaire, Théophile Gautier, Honoré Daumier, Eugène Delacroix, Gustave Flaubert, Alexandre Dumas, Gérard de Nerval and Honoré de Balzac! They all frequented the Hôtel de Lauzun, a private mansion in the heart of Paris, where they met at hallucinatory parties to enjoy “dawamesk”, a hash jam served with Turkish coffee, and to experiment with artificial paradises. At 17 Quai d'Anjou, on the Île Saint-Louis, this place was just as famous for its smoke as it was for its music room. Here, everyone could lose themselves in sweet delusions, subtle delights...

For posterity, Gautier wrote a novella entitled Le Club des Hashischins. The club itself, inaccessible since its closure, remained mythical for any intellectual. As luck would have it, Philippe Cohen Solal managed to get the key – as if in a dream – and to reopen the mansion in March 2017, during the Paris Music Festival. “At first, the idea was to present a creation directly inspired by the site, its history and the texts of Baudelaire and Gautier.” Solal would invite a host of personalities by the wainscoting and gilded decorations to accompany him into what he calls a “teenager’s fantasy”. Marie Modiano and Chassol, Maia Barouh and Olaf Hund, Elodie Bouchez and Patrick Bouchitey, the Argentinian plastic artist Tasisto and the writer Selim Nassib, and so on. The motto of this session and with broad scope: focus on experimentation. “A creative party, where music, literature and the psychotropic meets, just like in a dream!” It then became a reality, for four days, a milestone for those who had the opportunity and the joy to participate...

The story could have ended there, but by then Philippe Cohen Solal wanted more. As soon as the doors of the Hôtel closed again, he began to extend the narrative with long studio nights partnering with Marc Damblé (aka Babylotion/La Dame Blanche) and Florent Cortesi (aka Lazy Flow) to weave a tapestry of soft waves on a silky canvas that pleasantly caresses the post-modernism of the 1990s. “I think I am a paradoxical nostalgic, for I am as drawn by the past as I am by the future, and this disc is quite simply an album of paradoxical nostalgia.” Composed somewhere between the shores of Zanzibar and the streets of Paris, this soundtrack is fully connected with a vision of the world in essence, both open and without any taboo in nature. At the same time abstract and melodic, organic and electronic, refined and raw, the music evokes / summons many styles, from shimmering music to reconfigured dub. Like a pop trip fostering sound reverie, it offers the space a healthy break in these hectic times. “I like the mix of genres and instruments, the collision of cultures and styles. In fact, I have no taboos nor boundaries. Music journeys are still the only time you don’t have to go through police checks and security gates.”

“During the nineteenth century Orientalism was much loved and for me, it was important to introduce it to this project.” insists the one we know to be a retro-futurist ahead of his time. The album echoes this Orientalism through the gentle notes of the blind sitarist Narandra Bataju, the seventy-year-old disciple of Ravi Shankar, those of the accordionist Daniel Mille, the sensitive strings of the Swedish guitarist Peter von Poehl and the no less subtle touches of the young Moroccan oud player Yacir Rami. In these connections that loosen the cemented identities, Maïa Barouh converses with the Palestinian-Japanese soprano Mariam Tamari. Other voices are truly here: Alice Lewis, Amelia Teale, Edie Blanchard, as well as Samito, a Mozambican singer living in Montreal. Each in their own remarkable ways, they invite us to muddy the water, not to keep straight in line of collection of “sung French poetry” and to just meander on wayfaring paths. Long confined behind sound machines, Solal dares to take the mic, reciting as a lead singer of these “bonged” moments. He gives a very personal reinterpretation of some of Gautier's texts – Le Club des Hashischins – and of passages from Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal. “I use my voice as a musical instrument and I sometimes apply electronic effects to distort it.” With Marie Modiano at his side for the ultimate song Rue Baudelaire, he covers the many Parisian addresses of the writer in an atmosphere rich in esoteric melancholy, concluding with the one where he died: 1 rue du Dôme.

As they see fit, it is the listeners’ responsibility to imagine oneself in this soundtrack. Without question, Solal favours the atypical, just like the cover of the album signed by Chicago’s Carlos Rolón: the work Gild the Lily, Decadence Upon Decadence IX depicts a bloom of colours with a strong hallucinogenic fragrance. “I would like this to be the soundtrack of a festivity, a party, a fiesta... Like the famous fantasia of the Club des Hashischins.” A meeting without prohibition, with suspended senses. Emblematic of this desire to break gently from the codes of good conduct, the song A celle qui est trop gaie honours the memory of Apollonie Sabatier, muse of the poets and elected “president” of this club of poets and painters all gathered round this private altar. This courtly muse even had Baudelaire as a lover, who devoted to her a cycle of his Fleurs du Mal. This poem, the penultimate theme of the present opus, earned its author a piece in the newspaper Le Figaro. In an article from July 5th, 1857, it says that “this book is a hospital open to all of the dementia of the mind, to all the putridity of the heart; if it were at least to heal them, but they are incurable.” Following the condemnation of Baudelaire and his publisher in a trial for contempt of public morality and violation of religious morals, the collection was thus expurgated of six poems, including these engorged with transgressive lines. It was not until 1949 that Baudelaire was finally rehabilitated, and his masterpiece reissued in full integrity. And this album “Artificial Paradise(s)” is needed so that “the hour of pleasure sounds”… Jacques Denis

Translation: Amélie Chaboureau

Photo Credits : Prisca Lobjoy - taken from the music video "À celle qui trop gaie"

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