L'Attirail - Kara Deniz
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L'Attirail
Kara Deniz
Fairplay, France

What makes writing about music fascinating is that we cannot grasp music physically. CD booklets and cases are not the sounds that sway us emotionally. With instrumental music, we have no 'narrative' in the sense of a literary outline to follow. The 'text' of analysis floats before us, ephemeral and shifting. An analogy: we like to be the captains of our aural pleasure, detailing new maps in an ocean of sound. Challenging music makes for active listeners.

The cover of L'Attirail's latest CD, Kara Deniz, seems to hold the keys to the kingdom within. The artistic direction portrays a nude man by the sea; gazing off into the distance, he holds two ships, one appearing like a sloop and the other as an ocean liner. He is festooned with a paper hat that could be a crown or a pirate's chapeau, but just as easily could be another ship. Lines cross and trail off over the artwork, indicating destinations (Constanta - Varna - Batumi - Istanbul…). We appear to be offered a great adventure, and one not without humor: the design brings to mind cut-and-paste Terry Gilliam's animations for Monty Python's Flying Circus.

The band L'Attirail could be considered a cut-and-paste entity: their name, according to a Mondomix.com article, refers to "a collection of objects needed for a certain use." Whether this definition is accurate or not, the idea is not far off from what postmodernists refer to as 'bricolage,' a piecing together of sometimes disparate elements into a new cultural work. The band's instrumentation itself could be out of some old junk cabaret: Xavier Demerliac alone plays bouzouki, trombone, tuba, guitar, and piano. Accordions, doudouk, saz, and plenty of horns also contribute to L'Attirail's unique, Gypsy-influenced sound.

Kara Deniz evokes the feeling of a person grasping around in her memory, trying to focus and recall her travels. The entire album sounds like a soundtrack for Eastern Europe and the edges of the Mediterranean, but it sounds timeless, or out-of-time: as if someone had mixed together some impressionistic old 78's, and taken out the crackle and hiss. "Efes B," the lead-off track, sounds somewhat like a jaunty Serbian tune, and each successive track is like its own tone-poem. "L'Hospodar au bazar" is a prime example: a mechanical, cranking noise winds the tune up; horns on the street appear to honk; and gauzy piano notes seem to float by in some ghostly dream. We're left giddy and drunk, stumbling down the street, where accordionists beckon from cafés and people conduct their secret business. L'Attirail continually tease the imagination, and they allow bits of discussion and environmental noise, whether lapping waves or a passing tram, to occasionally filter through their songs.

The beauty of L'Attirail's Kara Deniz is that the band's destination remains a mystery. We, the receiving audience, have the pleasure of joining our individual impressions to this crazy quilt of sound. - Lee Blackstone

More about the band online: http://chantiers.sonores.free.fr/attirail

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