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"Etoile pâle" from Motifs
Sample Track 2:
"High, Low, In" from Motifs
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Paris Combo, Motifs (KOCH Records) View Additional Info

The Undefineable Paris Combo: Motifs of Ambivalence & Signs of the Times


I'm going round and round in my box, like a fish in a furnished apartment....
—from Paris Combo’s “Aquarium,” a song about life lived through TV

Paris Combo’s new CD, Motifs, (released earlier this year on KOCH Records), is a far cry from the punk-rock groups where front woman Belle du Berry got her start singing, but this orientation can still be heard in her idiosyncratic and mischievous lyrics.

The group, which will perform once again on American and Canadian stages this fall, includes Australian pianist and trumpeter David Lewis, who has performed with the likes of Cameroonian saxophonist Manu Dibango and Waitsian singer Arthur H. “Each member brings their own unique background to the project, which is both a result of his or her own cultural origins and living in a cosmopolitan city like Paris,” says Lewis.

Guitarist Potzi—born to Algerian parents—adds his love of gypsy jazz, Django Reinhardt, and Arabic music to the mix. Drummer and Frenchman François Jeannin has played a huge amount of swing but is influenced by recent grooves ranging from New Orleans funk to electronica. “His sense of humor shows in his playing and seeps into our overall sound,” Lewis comments. Madagascar-born bassist and singer Mano Razanajato is conversant in jazz and Latin styles. His singing is an essential part of the Paris Combo sound.

“As on previous albums,” explains Lewis, “Belle explores different themes that are both personal and a view of the world as she perceives it. Perhaps what ties this album together is a feeling of ambivalence and anxiety which characterizes some of the lyrics; no doubt a sign of the times.”

“We went on tour with this repertoire before recording, and we have tried to achieve performances very close to what we do live,” Lewis continues. “Oz Fritz, who co-produced the album with the band, was very in tune with this approach. He does both live and studio sound and he decided to work with us after having heard a performance in the US. There is more detail in the way each individual sound is treated in the mix, compared to previous albums. Although we are an essentially an ‘acoustic’ group, Oz used the studio to create subtle textures.”

Belle du Berry offers her sharpest observations to date on this album with lyrics that are keen to explore the relationship between the personal and the universal. Take the portrait gallery of “Calendar” for instance, dwelling on lives not that ordinary, or “Ennemis Siamois” (“Siamese Enemies”), offering a half-amused, half-disillusioned take on our love lives at this start of a new century. She expresses doubts about the progress of our planet, explored from pole to pole by a “Touriste d’une vie” (“Tourist of a life”), who “has never packed his bags / but in his heart of hearts / boredom waits for him to set up home there.” Motifs also offers more personal reflections: about marriage on “Baguée” (“Ringed”) or the importance of speaking out in “Motus”—”Silence is the same thing / In every language / Words are like seeds that aren’t sown / Wherever silence reigns.” As a counterpoint, the album provides an elegant instrumental interlude led by Potzi’s gypsy guitar, as well as a delicate “Discordance,” featuring the timbre of double-bass player Mano, the combo’s second singer.

As Don Heckman of the Los Angeles Times wrote, Paris Combo plays “music with the sort of engaging appeal that bypasses any need for definition or category. This, when you get right down to it, is what all music should—and too often doesn’t—have to offer.”

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The Undefineable Paris Combo: Motifs of Ambivalence & Signs ...
Song descriptions and excerpted lyric translations

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