D'en haut - a.k.a. Pairbon (Roman Colautti) and Tomàs Baudoin - hails from Gascony, a pocket of southwestern France where Occitanian language and traditions live on. Once a hub of troubadour arts and letters, the region has maintained a vibrant folk scene, not least of all through such proponents as these. In light of this history, D'en haut might just embody the closest thing we have to a contemporary troubadourian culture. Such is the duo's sound, bare as bone.
Indeed, nakedness is D'en haut's strength. From the sparse instrumentation (which includes bass, flute, Tibetan bowls, metal plates, and other percussion) to the runic vocals, Colautti and Baudoin skirt the edges of tradition while maintaining a freshness of effect. As part of the experimental collective known as Familha Artús, whose motto is “We play what we are,” the young bards extol their particular brand of washtub folk in such a way that transcends the minority status of Occitan speakers. This transcendence is accentuated by the music's rawness and focus.
For this debut, D'en haut offers up a program of nine songs, each with a story the listener can't help but feel a part of. Whether in the rounds of “A nau denièrs son los garçons” or in the harmonies of “Tres son seroletas,” an organic, homespun quality abounds. This is music one experiences through multiple senses; it is fecund with possibility. Rhythms are simple yet staggered, the singing unadorned and transparent, the drama rich between voices and instruments, coming to a head in the epic “La batalha d'Achòs.” Sounding for all like an Irish dirge for the fallen, its button accordion and pizzicato bass create tension.
Other tunes would seem to reference Sephardic (“Qu'èi hèit l'amor”), French Renaissance (“Liròta” and “Au miei deu bòi i a nau ausèths”), and medieval streams of consciousness. In the latter vein, a self-titled hurdy-gurdy toy solo acts like a funnel into the album's final act, whereby the duo rides us out to the clop of a horse's gait and ends on a high note with “Capitèni Salias,” the album's densest track.
If the above indicates trends to come in the interpretation of regional music, D'en haut is worth keeping an ear on. We have much to learn from the project, if only because it doesn't belabor us to do so. - Tyran Grillo
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