Saturday, May 12, 2007

Pascal Languirand-Minos,LP,1979,Canada

Pascal Languirand is one of the most important avantgarde composers from Canada. Since his first album, in 1978, he has proved his imagination in everything he has done, from soundtracks for television to dance electronic music as is the case of his song Living on Video (Trans-X), which sold more than two million copies, and which got a platinum disc in Mexico.
Through long encounters we have had with him in different occasions during these last years, we have been able to get to know his viewpoints on the musical avantgarde, as well as his most important artistic ideas.
Living on Video has become a classic of Techno, and one of the most avantgarde samples of dance music in the eighties. Yet Pascal is not exclusively involved with Techno. Since his first album in 1978, he has explored various fields within the alternative musics, following his particular musical path that in the late 1970s took him towards Cosmic Music. Composing Living On Video and founding the band Trans-X responded to a momentary amusement, a sporadic incursion outside his usual artistic line. This prank opened him the door of fame and money. It would have been very easy for Pascal to reject his more personal artistic ideas and allow himself to be seduced by the promotion to Pop Star, a temptation that so many artists that at one time in their careers used to be radically alternative ones have fallen prey to, thus becoming dully commercial ones. Of course, having become Big Business for the record companies, caused him to suffer great pressures so that he kept to the path he had started. "They wanted to tell me what I had to compose. It's not strange, since many people have got luxurious houses and cars at my expense. All these intermediaries from the recording companies wanted to continue exploiting my success to their own advantage. This is why I left the game. I wanted to follow my own career, not to become a puppet of the recording companies."
Choosing artistic freedom over commercial success is a trait that magnifies the figure of any artist. Thus, in the case of Pascal Languirand, nobody can accuse him of composing under the influence of commercial requirements.
The son of Canadian parents, he was born in 1955 in Paris. Although he was brought up in Canada, he often travelled to Mexico. The reason for this was that he used to accompany his father, a writer, who felt fascinated by this country and found there the necessary inspiration to write his books. Pascal told us that because of this, at age four he had already learnt some Spanish while playing with Mexican children his age.
At age 18 he developed his interest in composing music. Because of that, he began to study electronic music and communications at the McGuill University, as well as some cinematography at Concordia University. "Above all, I loved experimenting. I used to do so with tape, especially with my four-track recorder, with the electric guitar, something like Pink Floyd, playing with echo, the bass. Therefore, I based my work on the manipulation of sounds. My university studies, in actual fact, did not have any real usefulness for me. I preferred to experiment on my own."
In 1978 his first album, Minos, was released. According to him, it was not difficult for him to get it released. He attributes this ease at the fact that back then electronic music was something new, something that attracted a lot of attention, which is why his television appearances were quite frequent, and he was often interviewed about his peculiar musical style.
With his second album, De Harmonia Universalia, in 1980, he shaped one of the most typical traits of identity of his music: the abolishing of the frontiers of time. He merged, with an astonishing perfection, Gregorian chants and cosmic melodies with synthesizers, thus creating a style that has been defined as the New Classical Romanticism. He defined his musical concept as "Music from a rising civilization."
Of his latter work composing soundtracks, the album Vivre Ici Maintenant was released, which contains his music for a Canadian television series.
After his stage as Trans-X, Pascal kept silent for several years, during which he lived in the United States. After that, he appeared once again on the public stage with his album Gregorian Waves, the prophecy of the advent of a New Renaissance, through the cult to the Goddess Earth, an avantgarde and at the same time a classical work, shrouded in warmth and mysticism. In this album he incorporated Latin texts written by himself.
Ishtar appeared in 1993. Almost at the same time, Pascal Languirand, a compilatory CD gathering songs from his first two albums plus a new theme, was released. Soon after, Michel Huygen (Neuronium) collaborated with Languirand as the producer of a new work by him and Henri Chalifour as Trans-X.
It must be noted that Pascal does not consider himself to subscribe any given musical trend, nor does he distinguish between acoustic and electronic. He does not hesitate to admit he utilizes the computer, yet at the same time he takes advantage of the possibilities offered by acoustic sound, voices and ideas expressed in his texts: "The texts that I sometimes include in my music, are an inseparable part of it. They form a whole. I would never merge a music and a text that didn't fit together. It's very important for me that the texts have their poetic side and that they always have some meaning. That they are not the typical unimportant lyrics to fill in. On the other hand, I think it vital to sing in other languages besides English. It's very important to spread the culture from many different countries so as to prevent being immersed in the culture of a few, the Anglo-Saxon one. This is why I try to diversify the languages I incorporate to my themes. I also love exploiting the different vocal texture of each language."
When we asked him about his method for composing, he answered: "To have any musical ideas occur to me, I must have something within myself. The mere wish to compose does not cause me to have any ideas. Instead, when I notice I have some idea, a mere ten minutes may suffice to leave a piece almost finished. The melody is a very important element in my music. As a result of this, I can, for instance, compose something I will record with synthesizers with the help of a simple acoustic guitar."
He believes that the artists should reflect what happens in the society, that music should not be merely an art but show what happens around us as well instead. In this sense, Pascal declares himself committed to his environment.
Pascal Languirand and Michel Huygen have known each other since about fifteen years ago, and mutually admire one another's work. However, they have never felt influenced by the other, as they stated when we asked them about this possibility.
The human side of Pascal Languirand is by no means what one might fear from a musician having been awarded a platinum disc, who sold more than two million copies of a song, and who was in the lists of the top ten in several European nations. Every time we have met him, we have felt we were with a friend with whom one speaks about music, instead of being journalists interviewing a famous star to write an article about him.
Pascal Languirand may roughly represent, by himself, the Canadian electronic music scene in the 70s/80s. Sure, there is Mychael Danna, who released his Elements in 1979, although his prominence would come much later with his connection to both Hearts of Space and the Mirage label and would relate far more to ambient and melodic styles. Languirand's style was sort of a cosmic, symphonic take on the influential German styles, a step forward from the music of Klaus Schulze and Tangerine Dream done in a truly idiosyncratic way. Languirand's debut was entitled Minos, and it inaugurated his style from the get-go. Long electronic drones, atmospheres and effects fade slowly up from silence with guitar accompaniment. The ambiance is definitely of the Schulzian ilk, with its long drawn out, desolate moods, an effect close to Timewind's "Wahnfried 1883" or Picture Music's "Mental Door," except any overt sequencing does not come until later on in the album. Minor keys prevail as always in this style of music, although there are occasional forays into eastern modal territories which bring into the picture some pleasant female vocal accompaniment. However, while Languirand works dominantly with electronic motifs, there are also more conventional moments, including a ballad with acoustic guitars and male vocals as well as a piece with drum accompaniment. Unfortunately, not only are these moments diversions, they also aren't very impressive, forgetting the trance-like elements of his influences that tended to make those works so mesmerizing. As a debut, Minos is a bit patchy, surely trying to take a step away from his dominant influences, but not quite making it out of the looming shadow.
However, De Harmonia Universalia was far more successful in its attempts to blend influences into something newer. While Minos was more like a list of the various things Languirand was bringing to electronic music - the acoustic guitars, eastern tinges and vocal accompaniment - there was actually an attempt to fully blend all of them for his second effort. There was also a move here to a less morose and more uplifting sound, a move in keeping with the new age-like title. Here, Languirand was finding his voice among the waves of crystalline electronic patches, floating delicately through twinklings, shimmerings, vocoders and the like. There is still a dominant sense of the ethereal and transcendent, however this cosmic prevalence always avoids the melancholy teutonic overtones, even at its most intensely meditative. Nowhere are there any startling transitions into different stylistic territories, and the entirely does well with its flow among quiet drones and symphonic climaxes. By now, Languirand had far more in common with artists like Michael Stearns than Germans like Klaus Schulze.
So it's sort of strange to find the guitar back so prominently at the beginning of Vivre Ici Maintenant, droning on modally like an outtake from Minos. However, Languirand was not exactly taking a step back, as one can tell from the crystalline bell sounds that follow the guitar ramble, yet like on Minos, there is a breakdown into stylistic elements that give an effect far different from the homogeneity of its successor. It's clear that the eastern sounds and titles (like "Danse de Shiva," "Sitar," and "Mandala") are yet more aspects of the sort of holistic/new age spiritualies that fuel the concepts to his albums. As the advent of the 80s brought to the fore labels like Windham Hill and Narada, it might be said that Languirand was one of the earliest creating a new age music of a sort, at least in a day where it did not quite yet mean brightened up fuzak and bland world music. Vivre Ici Maintenant's methods are probably closest to those of the early Aeoliah albums in that there is an analog sound to the electronics and a sense of experimentation and exploration that likened it more to a strain of progressive and symphonic rock music far removed from its influences. It's probably not quite as successful as its shimmering, cosmic predecessor, however its placement in country and era is intriguingly anachronistic.
It would be a long time before Languirand would create his next album, and even to this day one will see a release every now and then that fleetingly becomes part of an electronic catalog only to fall back into obscurity quickly. There was even a compilation of music from his earlier years at one point, whose lack of availability points to its lack of solid distribution. Based on his early albums, one would hope that this will eventually improve so that reissues of these three original works will find their way to permanent and available digital format and that his modern work will also fall on more ears.
Mike McLatchey 4-October-2002 Overview (1979-81) for

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