Monday, September 5, 2016

Pitstop: Armel Dupas

My introduction to the music of French pianist/composer Armel Dupas was due to the strange sense of serendipity that's become pretty commonplace in some of my most unexpected and most treasured music discoveries. A matter of happenstance found us sat next to each other at the record release show for Christopher Tignor's latest album Along A Vanishing Plane. At the bar with time to kill, Dupas struck up a conversation that went from stories of how we came to be at this particular concert to our musical interests and endeavors and an easy rapport ensured that we checked in after each set to discuss what we had just witnessed. Earlier in the evening Dupas shared that he was a musician and his interest in the pedal setups and gear of opener Patrick Higgins and of Christopher Tignor had me resolved to check out his music before he even offered information on where to find it.

What struck me immediately about Dupas' music, especially that of his most recent effort Upriver, was an incredible subtlety; a lightness of touch and a refreshingly sense of minimalism. Dupas' melodies are beautiful and free flowing but carry an ephemeral air. His use of electronics is sparse but effective often used for color than an actual composititional focus until its climatic use in "Sometimes I Need Some Time" and the interlude "Epilogue". Though Dupas has trained in jazz, his music transcends the genre while still applying skills and techniques he gained from it. Dupas has cited Nils Frahm as an influence but at times on Upriver, he more recalls Japanese pianist/composer Mashashi Hamauzu and his impressionistic lilt. Like Hamauzu, Dupas makes incredible use of space and silence as his melodies expand out like questions confidently asked and patiently awaiting their answer. The album effortlessly flows from one piece to another but not without each making a noteable impression. From sprightly opener "Les Plaines De Mazerolles" to the only vocal track "Aujord'hui il a Plu" to meditative closer "Upriver" no one song is the same but the album grows in such a way that none seem out of place and its end is wonderfully cathartic.

Armel Dupas is a gifted pianist, yes. But Upriver demonstrates a knack for arranging a rewarding musical voyage that's thrilling both in actual practice and its potential. Dupas evades easy definition while offering a collection of pieces that a brilliantly original. Upriver is a pristinely plotted soundtrack of nocturne's that's enjoyable and exciting in its presentation: effortless in delivery and engaging in its composition.

Armel's debut solo album Upriver is out now on Jazz Village.

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