With Roadtrip, released on November 17, 2023, Palipnol sets off to meet seven different upright pianos over the course of seven days of travel, in places that mean a lot to him: Tarbes, Pau, Le Porge (near Bordeaux), Aigrefeuille d'Aunis (near La Rochelle), Niort, Châtellerault and Tours, his new home town. The album is a journey through time, through his memories, through what makes him who he is. These eighteen tracks, improvised or more written, soaring, minimalist, intimate, dreamy and nostalgic, carried us away.
For Hémisphère son, I met Marin Michelat at the Malguénac festival, with the band!GeRald! of which he is keyboardist, a crazy, saturated, metal, psychedelic rock band with unbridled energy, cultivating both the art of rupture and long trance tracks. And then recently, Marin came back to me to talk about his latest solo piano project, under the name "palipnol", an anagram of "butterfly".
Let's face it, the music on Roadtripvery different from !GeRald!, literally transported me. I listened to the record over and over for days, unable to tear myself away from it, overcome by a deep melancholy, and unable to bring myself to stop reading it. It's one of those albums that, for me, had the power to mark an era, a transition, a passage in life. It happens sometimes. Not that often, in fact. Is it by chance? I sometimes resign myself to the idea that there is no such thing as chance, and that certain things present themselves to us because they have to, at a specific moment in time. I also think that when a musical project has the power to fit into such a window of existence, it's proof of undeniable strength and quality.
These eighteen pieces, "which reveal the contemplative side of (Marin Michelat's) personality", are nourished by direct and indirect musical influences, which he lists as Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, Erik Satie, Hania Rani, Nils Frahm, Chilly Gonzales, Tigran Hamasyan and Olafur Arnalds. From "When I was not", played on the first piano of his childhood, an atmosphere of melancholy and extreme slowness sets in. The theme of this piece resurfaces here and there, like a gimmick, in other pieces on the record. Each evokes "the love of travel as much as the love of music" for the pianist, who has been improvising since he was ten years old.
The sound, as close as possible to the mechanics of the instruments, often noisy, is both pure and impure. It unfurls in a halo, a veil of reverberation or echo, giving it a padded, hushed color, sometimes troubled, blurred, almost unreal. Such is the sound of one of the album's most moving tracks, "Camille", dedicated to a musician friend with whom the young pianist often improvised.
In "Hollow Night", which evolves in a wide tessitura and exploits reverberated silences, the instrument's range of frequencies is explored through haunting, theatrical resonances. The title is inspired by the name of a video game.
For this project, palipnol was accompanied by a sound engineer and a videographer, who immortalized these travels and recording sessions in five quarter-hour films that can be viewed on youtube. It's jovial, chaotic, gossipy and rather far removed from the music on the record.
As we see in these films, this Roadtrip is an opportunity for human encounters, of which the pianist is very fond, but he also tells us that " meeting a piano is sometimes stronger than meeting a human being. He continues: " For me, pianos have a soul; I see them almost as living beings. In the course of the pieces, we also hear outside sounds captured on the recording, street sounds, cars, birds. This is particularly true of "Time slows down", where a bird seems to respond naturally to all the chords and harmonies under the pianist's fingers.
Throughout the album, Palipnol draws on his innermost thoughts and concepts, as in "Nostalgie du vide", which is rooted in his relationship with existence, silence and the immaterial, and in a reflection on Taoism. A whole program in just 2'30: one of the characteristics of this record is that it is based on short tracks.
We end this review with perhaps the most nostalgic and erratic improvisation on the record, "I remember", whose crescendo-decrescendo arpeggios accompany the dreamlike floating of thoughts, while embryonic themes occasionally emerge. An invitation to meditation.
In concert on February 17, 2024 at Cabanes Urbaines in La Rochelle
Listen to Palipnol on Radio Bro Gwened