It’s all about the tannins, apparently. Those cheeky little biomolecules that bob about in red wine that combine with certain foodstuffs to make everything that much tastier, or so I’m led to believe. I don’t see why this shouldn’t be the case with music either – we are more emotionally susceptible when we’ve had a couple, we’re really good at darts when the optimum blood-alcohol level is achieved (although when exceeded, we revert once more. And it’s a very small margin), and different beverages combined with different stimuli provoke different moods. Or at least it does with me.
It may well be a synaesthesia thing, but I can say without any deviation of certainty that this is a Red Wine Album. I know this not because I’d started the wine before the record, but because about 30 seconds into said record, my tastebuds went somewhat, and very specifically, mad so I had to stop, fetch a glass or two, and start over.
As indications of being gripped by a song go, an eleven-minute tale related in a language I don’t understand yet remain rapt by the performance of Tambours Et Ombres Denses is a prime one. Then again, by the time the song arrives towards the back-end of the track list, the listener is already completely at home in a world almost certainly unlike the one they normally inhabit. This is the work of septuagenarian Haitian artist, poet, playwright and actor Frankétienne, and Scottish guitarist Mark Mulholland (himself a current resident of Port-au-Prince), coming together once more to combine their respective artforms. Frankétienne appeared on Mark’s Waiting For The Storm collaboration with Craig Ward in 2012 for one song, and this new album continues in that same vein. The music here is more closely tied in to the Haitian side of things than the previous “Nick Drake channelling Chigley” (which I can honestly describe with a straight face, because that’s exactly what happened), so what we have here instead is something more akin to Hemingway relating a succession of doomed-romance ghost stories in a dead-of-night post-colonial port bar. The heartbeat that precedes the accordion-led waltz of Mots Et Rêves is an apt one, as there’s a genuinely tense feeling of “what’s going to happen here?” about the atmosphere that Chaophonies exudes.
Such is the nature of the delivery of Frankétienne’s words, it’s hard not to get drawn into the worlds he creates even if you can’t understand what he’s saying – passing (to these ears) between French and Creole as and when the situation requires him to do so. Le Petit Train does this so well, his locomotive and percussive performance with the passion with which he puts his words out cross all language barriers. The most curious thing about this record however is that, just when you get used to the mad rhythms and physical manifestions of the music, it all changes tack. The primal Potoprens Chouk is followed by Loco, something that wouldn’t feel out of place on Pink Floyd’s Meddle and it all becomes a bit more pastoral, with Sa Ki Lan Kè Mwen sounding positively country hymnal from the perspective of both voice and music, with Bleu Fou sounding as if it would be right at home on Waiting For The Storm and the epic Tambours Et Ombres Denses having an extended and haunted Three Hours about its patiently-creepy passages.
Chaophonies is certainly one to fire up the imagination and, in my case, the tastebuds as the bottle of red I had with this has never tasted nicer. Even without such accompaniment, Chaophonies is a collection of words and music that welcomes rather than alienates, and is sure to be the subject of many a late-night play. Available to order now from Jezus Factory.