Mickaël Mottet is the brains behind one of 2008’s most bizarre yet accomplished albums. Angil + The Hiddentracks opus Ouliposaliva is centred on one musical and lyrical restriction (no Es – that means in the notes and the words), but without having that conceit govern the whole record. It’s a scintillating mix of lyrical dexterity and sparse but effective musical motifs. In short, it sounds really fucking cool. PM snuck a few detailed words with Mottet – watch him deftly explain our queries away, rendering the album experience a true interaction! Part two of this thoroughly interesting read will appear tomorrow, so check back!
For some background reading, have a look at PM’s review of the album, here.
With such a strong central concept for an album, did you find the lyrics made you less able to express yourself? In other words, did you make any sacrifices because of not being able to use the letter ‘E’?
I wouldn’t say I made sacrifices – I had to find different ways to express what I meant, but it was a very stimulating challenge. “In other words”, literally… It was like opening unexpected windows. I ended up writing faster than ever, actually!
The central conceit of the album could’ve been a quite debilitating one – was it your intention to make the album work even if the listener had no idea of the ‘rules’ surrounding its composition?
Oh yes, it was! I never want the process to go over the result. In Ouliposaliva, I didn’t use a restriction to show off; it rather was a personal creative device, really. And anyway, what counts in the end is the song itself, isn’t it?
The instrumentation of the album is reasonably sparse – has it always been your way to not use a more traditional rock ensemble?
My music has kept evolving in this direction. In our previous record, there was a song untitled “No more guitars” – there is indeed hardly any in Ouliposaliva, though we do use guitar quite a lot when playing live.
I’ve been inspired by people like Wyatt or Tindersticks, who sometimes use strings and brass in a very chaotic and noisy way. Also, French philosopher Gilles Deleuze’s notion of ‘becoming’ is quite central in our work. Ask a trombone player to think of a ‘becoming-animal’, or a ‘becoming-an-old-dignified-man’ while doing his part – most of the times it is a mind-opener.
Tell me about the piano you found for the album. Did many of the songs start on this instrument?
It is a 1904 Focke piano (what’s in a name), which was part of the setting in a clothes shop around the corner from where I lived at the time. They were doing clearance sales; I bought the piano for next to nothing. It needed some tuning, though, and some of the keys would play two different notes at the same time. When I started trying it, I realized I had all new melodic ideas thanks to these weird atonal sounds. I decided to not have it tuned, and to use it as a “randomly prepared” piano, so to speak.
The principle was pretty much the same as choosing a restriction for writing: many unforeseen ideas came from these “two-note keys” playing shadow harmonies that I’d never thought of otherwise. Being a huge fan of Gil Evans’ 1960s arrangement works (some of which, like Las Vegas Tango‘s, can be quite dissonant), I couldn’t have been happier… I wrote almost all the songs of Ouliposaliva on this piano, actually.