posted on January 18, 2008 05:30
Critically-acclaimed French conceptual electronica producer Hector Zazou doesn't look too pleased with your CLUAS Foreign Correspondent (Paris).
It's April 2007 in the bar of La Flèche d'Or, the French capital's popular alt-music venue, just after a concert by Nina Hynes. In a sudden fit of professionalism, your Paris correspondent has decided to get a few words (and, more importantly, the set-list) from Ireland's astral-pop princess. We spot her in the bar, deep in conversation with someone or other but we resolve not to let social etiquette get in the way of our duty to the CLUAS readership.
As politely as possible, your blogger butts in to ask Nina some questions. The guy she's talking with (youthful-looking fiftysomething, bespectacled, neatly-trimmed grey hair and beard) looks a bit taken aback, but still offers us a polite 'bonsoir' as Hynes introduces him.
His name, Hector Zazou, is familiar to us. His 1994 album 'Songs From The Cold Seas' is something of a cult classic - electronic treatments of folk songs from Alaska, Siberia and the Arctic regions, sung by the likes of Bjork, John Cale, Suzanne Vega and Siouxsie - as well as astounding vocal performances by native traditional singers. Fans of Sigur Ros and their gorgeous icy bleakness probably already know and love it. Zazou recounts the geographical and technical challenges of making this album (for instance, why you should never record an album in the Hebrides, unless you fancy spending all day in a toilet) in a fascinating 1995 interview with Sound On Sound Magazine.
How come he's chatting to Nina Hynes? Well, she sung a track called 'Under My Wing' on Zazou's 2003 album 'Strong Currents', as part of an all-female vocal line-up including the likes of Jane Birkin, Laurie Anderson and Lisa Gerrard. It's a matter of speculation as to which of them (if any) owns the female bottom that graces one version of the album's cover.
In 1998, between 'Songs From The Cold Seas' and 'Strong Currents', Zazou recorded and released an album of traditional Celtic music entitled 'Lights In The Dark, featuring vocals by Katie McMahon, Breda Mayock and Lasairfhiona Ni Chonaola. The album sleeve does not feature any ladybuttocks, but rather a glowing crucifix on a black background that bears a remarkable similarity to the cover of Justice's 2007 debut long-player.
Zazou is back in the news with the release of his new album, 'Corps Electriques' (left). Recorded in the studios of Radio France in Paris, and leaning towards electro post-rock with its distortion and dark vibes, the record features former Daisy Chainsaw singer Katie Jane Garside, Norwegian jazzman Niels Petter-Molvaer, American singer-songer Lone Kent and occasional R.E.M. drummer Bill Rieflin.
It's an impressive piece of soundscaping. You can listen to tracks on the album's dedicated MySpace page.
If Nina Hynes doesn't feature this time around, that may be because Hector Zazou just didn't get a chance to ask her. Perhaps something - or someone - got in his way.
Here's a clip of Zazou and Bjork in the studio, recording 'Visur Vatnsenda-Rosu' for the 'Songs For The Cold Seas' album: