On his debut solo album Tancade, French cellist Gaspar Claus take us on an imaginary journey to a remote beach, lost between the rocks and the sea, the earth and the sky, where a group of like-minded individuals retreat to find themselves.
Driven by desire, Claus moves from one musical universe to another with an open ear and an open mind. Film soundtracks, post-classical, ambient, neo-flamenco, pop, electro, contemporary jazz,: his field of investigation expands ever wider. With his favoured instrument, the cello, he explores a richness of sound across diverse environments whilst establishing a vibrant singularity. Continuously seeking out fresh exchanges and impulses, Claus has made collaboration his teacher, developing his own unique sound and understanding of musical storytelling by working with an impressive host of artists from various backgrounds.
Rubbed with a bow, plucked, brushed, bumped, caressed, jostled, transfigured (sometimes with the help of effects pedals), the cello is the only musical instrument used on the album, but it is used in such an inventive and suggestive way that one has the impression of hearing a myriad of string instruments, each one endowed with rich harmonic, rhythmic or melodic potential.
The album is the result of a long creative process that began in 2017, when Gaspar Claus spent a few days alone near a small village in the Luberon, ‘Barlande’, (also the name of his first album recorded for InFiné with his father, the “Flamenca” guitar player, Pedro Soler). Fully experiencing the anguish of creative solitude, he warded off his fear of emptiness by retrieving memories that resulted in the recording of sketches for a dozen pieces. The Covid-19 pandemic curtailed Gaspar’s globetrotting habits and his relentless pursuit to play in ever more challenging configurations, paradoxically enabling him to refocus on his own music, and to mould his pieces into a fascinating collection of impressionist compositions.
Entirely (or almost entirely) instrumental, Tancade contains a total of eleven tracks. The result of slow, painstaking and sometimes painfully elaborate work, the album nevertheless has a remarkable fluidity and drive. From the opening track, ‘Une île’ (an island), enveloped in a powerful auroral glow, one is carried away – far away – from the everyday by a music that is both majestic and adventurous, stormy and radiant, dreamy and rigorous. Defying all attempts at categorization, the album evokes chamber music suspended in the fourth dimension, the soundtrack of an experimental film or the strange folk music of an undiscovered tribe.
Gaspar aims to zoom into our mind’s eye like the director of a movie: arriving on the mainland, our eyes turn to the shoreline (‘Un Rivage’) before recognizing the presence of a group of individuals. ‘Une Foule’ starts by tiptoeing, shuffling timidly on a plucked beat. Then, at the halfway mark, it swells into something more precise, driven, energetic as the night picks up energy.
On ‘2359’ (one minute before midnight) the cello, used as a hypnotic, percussive arpeggio, is then joined by another, played through a distortion pedal like a lead guitar. Claus has not just made the cello his own, he has freed it from its own limitations. The album then begins a progressive movement towards the sky and extra-terrestrial landscapes with ‘Au Confins’, before summoning cosmic entities on ‘Ô Sélénites’.
Fiery, eventful and underpinned by an unfathomable melancholy, the journey ends with ‘Mer des Mystères Amoureux’. In subtle shudders and shifts, the track gradually takes to the sea and evokes the glimmer of a new dawn, accentuated by the appearance of a soft female voice (the only human voice on the album) reciting a poem in Arabic.