May 20, 2024

Click Interview with Collection D’arnell-Andréa: ‘I Tend To Let Myself Be Overcome By A Certain Form Of Melancholy Or Rather Nostalgia’

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Collection D’arnell-Andréa

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Collection D’arnell-Andréa is now active for nearly forty years. Originally set up in 1986 by 1986 by Jean-Christophe d’Arnell, Pascal Andréa (who left the band a few years later) and Chloé St Liphard the band has released an impressive number of successful records. Somewhere in between Gothic, Neo-Classical and Dark-Wave music this French formation clearly created a very own sound-DNA. Their newest album “A Forest Inside” -released by Trisol (Germany) and Meidosem plus Infrastition Records (France), revealed a more Electronic driven composition although holding on the melancholic, acoustic, elements of their sound. It’s a new masterpiece filled with delicacy but still danceable passages. I talked about it with core member Jean-Christophe d’Arnell.  

(Courtesy by Inferno Sound Diaries)

Q: Collection D’arnell-Andréa was set up nearly forty years ago now and your sonic voyage clearly doesn’t sound like coming to its end. What holds on this creative fire and how did you see yourself evolving throughout the years?

Jean-Christophe: Indeed, our first record “Autumn’s Breath For Anton’s Death” (maxi 45T 4 titles / Valotte Records) was released in 1988, almost 40 years ago, at a time when none of us would have imagined that our ‘collectionism’ adventure would last that long! All of this seems quite incredible to me today, dizzying and at the same time really stimulating. The reasons for such longevity are obviously numerous, but to be honest, I must first mention the ‘luck’ factor. This chance to have, at each moment of our history and from the beginning, met people who not only felt ‘connected’ with our universe, but often also, who demonstrated a desire to share this interest. All this attention, this dynamic and so benevolent support from one or the other (fans, bands, labels, radio shows, magazines, concert organizers, webzines, fanzines, sound engineers, graphic designers, etc.) has been essential and still is.

Then, from a more pragmatic (and economic) point of view, the presence of labels at our side, ready to invest and get involved, has obviously largely contributed to our longevity. It always seems easier to create when we feel a form of desire, or at least an expectation from the ‘external world’.

We are currently witnessing, with pleasure, a strong comeback of groups who, like us, started in the 80s; but most of the time, these bands have, at some point, ceased all artistic activity for several years. This is not our case: Collection D’arnell-Andrea has indeed existed ‘full-time’ for more than 35 years and the solidity of the links which now unite all its members also obviously has a lot to do with it!

Q: You previous album “Another Winter” was released in 2019 so I can imagine the first songs for “A Forest Inside” must have been written during the pandemic and the confinements. How did you experience this period and its restrictions and did it have an impact on the new songs?

Jean-Christophe: Being lucky enough to live in the countryside, the effects of confinement were much more bearable for us than for others. I also realize that the title of the album A Forest Inside nevertheless also expresses, and in a completely unconscious way, a certain idea of confinement; this natural and external world, this forest that the constraints of confinement made inaccessible and which therefore condemned us to a form of intimacy, of interiority.

Even if it was obviously difficult, if not impossible, to bring together all the musicians in the group during this period, my research and composition work using keyboards made it possible to lay the synthetic bases for future pieces (rhythms, bass lines, synths). In any case, we had already gotten into the habit for several years of composing with 2 or 3 musicians at the same time maximum, and not with the whole group together. This working process allows more flexibility in terms of everyone’s schedule (a significant aspect when there are 7 in a group!) and also much more freedom in terms of inspiration for everyone.

Q: “A Forest Inside” is clearly holding on your ‘classical’ influences although you never released an album which became that Electronic and danceable. How did this evolution happen and can you give us more details about the writing- and production process?

 Jean-Christophe: To understand this evolution, I think we must first return to our album “Another Winter released in 2019. My desire at that time was to modify my usual composition process. My new work constraint was quite radical: a ban on using my old drum machines and my vintage synths (DX21, CS 01). So I only composed from new instruments and used different drum kits from previous albums. Then, another development, the idea was that the strings (viola & cello) do not systematically intervene on all the titles. Likewise, Carine proposed using only piano on this album. Thus, all these changes have allowed our sound to evolve, and, under the leadership of our sound engineer Pierre-Emmanuel Mériaud, to further highlight our ‘synthetic’ dimension (which has nevertheless been at the heart of our music since the beginning!).

Then, still in 2019, there was the release of the album A Recrafted Winter”, the initial idea and production of which came entirely from our sound engineer. This is a spontaneous initiative on his part; his bias was to emphasize the most electronic parts of everything we recorded for “Another Winter(synth lines, rhythms) while keeping the original vocals and structures of the pieces relatively intact. Of course he also added a lot of programming and felt completely free to reinterpret the pieces as he wanted. He started by reworking 5 tracks and then played them for us. Chloé and I were initially surprised, but quickly totally seduced by the new sound textures and the general more Electronic atmosphere that resulted. I had the impression of listening to pieces that were both completely new and so familiar… a strange feeling indeed!

It is therefore in this context that we approached the composition of “A Forest Inside with the desire to accentuate this evolution of our sound (while retaining the same instruments) and thus to offer an album, which allows us to renew a little, and therefore, to be of particular interest to all those who are interested in our music. Moreover, the ‘machines’ bias was not decided at the time of mixing, but well in advance. I started composing the tracks on the synth, with much more Electro atmospheres in mind; inevitably the programming of the rhythms followed, as well as the choice of sounds and the place that each of the other musicians could take in this process. There are still some very ‘collectionism’ string arrangements remaining, but in general each member of the group has adapted without difficulty to this principle of more punctual interventions, and more effective, too. It happened that some musicians only discovered the lines composed by their comrades in the studio, since most initially only had the basic structures of the pieces (rhythms, electro bass, synths). Adjustments and modifications were necessarily necessary to maintain consistency of style and sometimes also… harmony!

Q: You’ve been often inspired by nature so I guess “A Forest Inside” is clearly connected to this theme but what’s the deeper meaning and exposure of the title and the songs?

Jean-Christophe: Absolutely, Nature once again remains a central element of this new album, but the question of ecology is addressed in a rather unique way: there is no question here of guilt or despair, but of an evolution, of a ‘return to the sources’; an invitation for Man to definitively blend into Nature until the ultimate hope of becoming a constituent element and thus aiming for a little eternity: “Lichen On My Name”.

Furthermore, the much more Electro treatment of the compositions accompanies and describes feelings of revolt, of doubt, in the face of a rather dark ecological reality.

Finally, each of the titles describes in a more or less explicit manner Man’s struggles with the Nature that surrounds him, and his difficult and often painful awareness of the evolution that is imposed on him.

The title of the album was chosen at the very end of the process. The song A Forest Inside was already written, and we found that all the symbolism of these 2 words; completely corresponded to the album: the immensity ≠ the intimate / the concept ≠ the particular / the plant ≠ the technological

And then this title gives food for thought: is this a representation of the forest that everyone carries inside themselves? Is it an intimate forest (only known to oneself)? Is it finally about these indefinable, intangible elements which are linked to the forest (and to nature in the broad sense) and which allow us, we humans, to live and dream?

Q: I noticed the digital version of the album has been released by the end of 2023 on Trisol while physical formats are available today on Meidosem Records (vinyl) and Infrastition (CD). How comes? And what does it say about the music industry which is evolving and wherein physical releases became rare? 

Jean-Christophe: Indeed, physical releases are no longer necessarily in tune with the times because sales themselves have collapsed. However, it was inconceivable that our album would only be available on digital platforms, even if we are perfectly aware of the evolution of the record market and the economic constraints which inevitably weigh on labels. Also, we sought to set up a sort of partnership with 2 French labels that we know and appreciate very much (Meidosem & Infrastition) so that “A Forest Insidecould be available on vinyl and on CD/Digipack. We had already collaborated with Meidosem for the vinyl editions of “Another Winter” and the reissue of “Villers-Aux-Vents”. As for Infrastition, this label already offers part of our back catalog (digipack) for sale; our proposal therefore responded to certain logic, even evidence. Their positive response to this proposal and their enthusiastic participation gave us great pleasure. It took a few weeks for things to come to fruition (artwork, pressing, etc.), which explains the different official release dates, depending on the formats!

Q: In a previous interview you said you’re definitely nostalgic. So I would like to know how you experience modern times referring to evolutions like streaming platforms and the lack of interest for physical material, labels closing their doors, (r)evolution of software, but also ChatGPT? ao

Jean-Christophe: It’s true, I tend to let myself be overcome by a certain form of melancholy or rather nostalgia; fortunately, these feelings are always accompanied by an overflow of positive and dynamic energy (even optimism!)… A paradox which inevitably shines through in CDAA’s compositions and in my musical tastes since always. This emotional distance that the past imposes on us has often been a great source of inspiration for my texts. In any case, I remain passionate about the period which extends between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th.

As for technological evolution, we have experienced it up close, whether it concerns recording techniques and/or the media for our music. Our first album Un Automne à Loroy was recorded on magnetic tape, we attended the mastering at Translab and the record was released in 3 formats: K7, vinyl and CD! Obviously, I have remained very attached to the physical medium and I admit, I still buy CDs and do not yet consume music via streaming platforms. As for vinyl and its big comeback, it is with nostalgia and amusement that I see in the record store bins reissues of albums that I bought when I was 18!

Indeed, I have the impression that the artistic offer has developed in an incredible way thanks in part to technological progress making it possible to compose and produce music. It is obvious that with a home studio you can more easily and at a reasonable cost, produce an entire album, distribute it and sell it (possibly) via the internet. As in many areas, the monopoly of the big record companies tends to eliminate independent networks (labels, press, distribution). Fortunately, there are still a few independent labels courageous, competent and motivated enough to offer a real partnership with groups, there will always be some, and that’s so much the better. We started with New Rose / Lively Art (a true reference in terms of independent label) and today we could not imagine not collaborating with a label. Our (small) notoriety and our music have always allowed us to have this chance, and to be honest, we would have a hard time changing how we operate….too much ‘nostalgic’ perhaps!

Autumn & best regards…

author avatar
Inferno Sound Diaries
I have been working for over 30 years with Side-line as the main reviewer. My taste is eclectic, uncoventional and I prefer to look for the pearls, even if the bands are completely unknown, thus staying loyal to the Side-Line philosophy of nurturing new talents.

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