Review Summary: Anouar Brahem brings an unique sound, blurring the limits of the Arab traditional improvisation with oud and the improvisation that is a classic jazz component. It's very beautiful and climatic, at the same time relaxing and thoughtful.
AnouarÂ*BrahemÂ*is a Tunisian oud player that delivers a very hard to describe and unique sound. I can say that the music made by him is a little hard to listen in first time, or better, it's not hard to listen but it's hard to remember really in details what is all about.Â*
Â*That happens, I think, due to the very ethereal feel of the songs, they just become more and more part of the ambient at the same time molding that in a very reflective touch. It may calm you sometimes, and another day you just float away wandering in trips to wherever your mind let you go.Â*
Before I can describe the songs, it's relevant to wonder in what category his sound is fixed, I understand the â€śWorld Musicâ€ť category as a big bag to put all together every musical expression that is not Â*understood as in the same nature of the eastern musical movements. AsÂ*AnouarÂ*BrahemÂ*plays an oud, a very traditional instrument in the Arab culture, it's very easy to understand his music as â€śWorld Musicâ€ť. Edward Said, an anthropologist, already theorized in his book â€śOrientalismâ€ť how the image of the orient is socially constructed in an opposed way to what is understood as occidental. For me, his theory explains how the â€śworld musicâ€ť thing works. Â*
Luckily,Â*AnouarÂ*BrahemÂ*himself blur this limits while bringing the Arab improvisation in a helm closer to jazz. That improvisation thinking (BrahemÂ*already said in interviews about Keith Jarrett influence in his work), is what bring the powerful music that we can hear in hisÂ*LPs.Â*
So, the music: Le Pas du Chat Noir is executed by a trio, beingAnouarÂ*BrahemÂ*with theÂ*oud,Â*FranĂ§oisÂ*CoutourierÂ*on the piano and Jean-LouisÂ*MatinierÂ*on the accordion, it's a very odd mix, for sure, but the thing is that it really works under the command ofÂ*AnouarÂ*Brahem. The sound by itself makes me fly over Â*a big number of images, since the title track â€śLe Pas Du Chat Noirâ€ť with soft piano melodies,acompaniedÂ*by theÂ*oud, it just sound beautiful, very soft and sad at times and very slow and atmospheric for sure, it makes me think in little details, raindrops on the window glass, trees moving slowly, a black cat over the roofs....
Yet the songs had a Â*quite similar structure that glues them together, usually a piano plusÂ*oudÂ*melody, with the accordion bringing a new color when the song is progressing and finally coming to the improvisation session, you don't really realize that, cause it's full of moviment and variations. I have to say, these three men have each one great skills, not only of playing but to bring a lot affects to your ears. Â*
The songs are really difficult to describe one by one, if you listen without looking the names or paying attention to the beginning and ending of the tracks, you will feel that there is a line that goes through all the album, you can feel the exchange of the moods, but it's all under the same feeling of dark and climatic sound, the same atmosphere, sometimes happier, sometimes almost gloomy. Â*
How I said, it's hard to describe, but I will try to show some of the mood changing.Â*
While the song â€śLe Pas du Chat Noirâ€ť and the second â€śDe tout ton Coeurâ€ť have a similar feel, tripping in beautiful melodies withÂ*oudÂ*and piano duet, and accordion add, more like a wandering feel, slow yet very big and strong, the third one, â€śLeila au Pays du Carouselâ€ť bring a waltz touch, it makes me imagine a dark city at night, while you drive and look all that is around you, like every detail in the walls and windows and the few persons that are walking on the streets are more like shadows.Â*
Songs like â€śPique-niqueÂ*aÂ*Nagpurâ€ť and â€śLesÂ*ailesÂ*duÂ*Bourakâ€ť bring a more warm and happy feel, the first one bring my head to some caravan through the desert, full of children and women, with a very slow wind in some oasis, these songs are very catching, at the same time very ambient.Â*
It's difficult, listening to Le Pas du Chat Noir and not remember ErikÂ*SatieÂ*works, the most Satie influenced track may be â€śToiÂ*QuiÂ*Saitâ€ť, being that one, the saddest and perhaps less ethereal music on the album, everything here is very beautiful and most of the songs are composed in minor tones. Sometimes, like on â€śL'arbreÂ*quiÂ*voitâ€ť,Â*BrahemÂ*sings more like whispering hisÂ*oudÂ*melodies, these moments are very memorable, the most beautiful moment being the last track â€śDejaÂ*laÂ*nuitâ€ť in which Brahem whisper words slowly and in a comfortable way. This song is perhaps the most different song in among the 12 ones in this album, and one of my favorites. Listen to the beautiful piano melody and the way the oudÂ*sounds just like a smoke slowly dismantling into air in a semi-dark room with a night wind touching your face... Â*
To finish, Le Pas du Chat Noir is a big recommendation to all the ones who are in ambient or Arab-like music, and for the ones that are on a more experimental jazz niche. It's a wonderful album to study or to sleep, it really fills the space and maybe the time too, making it easy and slow. Â*
It's pretty cheering to me, to think that there are works like that in a world so full of ugliness and despair. Here you can sit or lay down, and just appreciate how the little things in life are worth looking...