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Open the gates, let the giant panda into town!
At the end of 2016 the Belgian master of the Fender Rhodes, Jozef Dumoulin, realized an old fantasy, combining the sound and the dynamics of post-seventies alternative guitar rock with the energy and the poetic power of music played by musicians playing other instruments than the one they are trained for. Sun Ra – in his seminal «Strange Strings» with his Astro Infinity Arkestra (Saturn, 1067), already did the latter part when he asked his musicians to play stringed instruments collected from pawnshops. Sun Ra called this kind of idea «a study in ignorance».
Dumoulin called friends-improvisers from the Paris alternative scene – singer-bassoonist Sophie Bernado, pianist-electronics player Léo Dupleix, sax player Julien Pontvianne and reeds player Hugues Mayot. Dumoulin asked Bernado and Dupleix to play electric guitars alongside himself. Pontvianne was asked to play the bass guitar and Mayot the drums. As already happened with Sun Ra Astro Infinity Arkestra, it was clear right from the very first get-together that these musicians can play on anything. Just give them instruments. The new band was baptized as Trojan Panda. The band performed at the prestigious Jazz Middelheim festival in Antwerp, Belgium, and later on, the music gradually adopted a more improvisational approach. «Peau» is the debut album of Trojan Panda was recorded in August 2019.
«Peau» tells the story of Trojan Panda, beginning with its experimental improvisations («Black Madonna»), adapting Johann Sebastian Bach’s «Christus Der Uns Selig Macht» or Dumoulin’s beautiful ballad «Animal», and settling on a free-improvised interplay («Sylvie Coiffure», «Joie De Vivre»). The sound of Trojan Panda is straightforward and based on repetitive, rhythmic motives, most of the time sounding sparse and less powerful as the sound of the influential guitar bands, from Television to Sonic Youth, but still playful and equipped with healthy doses of irony. The simple grind of Trojan Panda is obviously not as elaborate, inventive, or even thorny as the sonic palette of influential free-improvisers-guitarists like Fred Frith, Marc Ducret, or Thurston Moore. But it seems that Trojan Panda was conceived in order to make some exciting fun and express the love of music in a «peculiar way», as Dumoulin calls it, and «Peau» clearly delivers such fun.
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