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On Deck: Pacha

By ; February 20, 2013 at 12:16 PM 


Multi-instrumentalist and composer Pierre-Guy Blanchard has been releasing music as Pacha for well over 10 years. Having received a degree in percussion performance from the University of Moncton in 2003, he immersed himself in the thriving and diverse musical scene in Montreal, coming away with a deeper sense of where his music was heading. Drawing on Middle Eastern, Turkish and Balkan influences, Blanchard has frequently collaborated with experimental bands like Ensemble Thalassa, Djoumbush, and fellow Constellation Records artist Radwan Moumneh’s Jerusalem In My Heart project. He has also been instrumental in composing numerous theater and film scores. During his time abroad, he spent a good deal of time studying under darbuka master Misirli Ahmet in Istanbul, while also curating performances at the Sanayeh art house in Beirut. Throughout his discography, he has managed to combine these oftentimes disparate elements to form cohesive musical statements. Affaires Étrangères, his latest release for Constellation Records, was recorded in a converted home studio that is located in Charlo, New Brunswick. Blanchard recently sat down with Beats Per Minute to talk about some artists and records which have had a strong influence on the direction of his own music. Check out his picks in our latest On Deck feature.

Abdel Halim Hafez
Abdel Halim Hafez

Abdel Halim Hafez is one of my favourite Egyptian composer-conductor’s of all time. I really love this guy. You can find a lot of his live performances online, and they’re all fascinating. The first time I saw a video of one of his live concerts was late at night on TV in Beirut. Everything about this particular concert is classy. From the way Hafez conducts his band, to the elegant professionalism of everybody in the orchestra; even the way the performance was filmed is sophisticated. I find Hafez’s concerts to be very engrossing; once you start, you don’t want to stop, as you’re entranced and waiting to see how the music develops. His music ranges from formal traditional Egyptian music (strongly percussion-based) to stuff that’s a slicker and smoother in character, lounge-like almost. I find this to be a great balance of elements, and it really goes to show how Cairo was the place to be for a very long time. The way Hafez introduces electric organs and the electric guitar to his music works amazingly. They just don’t make music like this anymore… Here are 2 of my favorite concerts:

Edward Artemiev - Solaris OST
Edward Artemiev – Solaris OST

The original soundtrack to Solaris by Russian composer Edward Artemiev is a true «coup de coeur». The fragility of the opening Bach organ chorale is striking; so thin and reedy. But then Artemiev breaks it up with extended passages of eerie electronic music, and suddenly, the sense of the chorale shifted; it’s no longer merely beautiful, it becomes this oddly tense recurring theme. Later, I learned that the electronic passages for the soundtrack were made with an ANS synth, which makes music by translating drawings and light patterns into sound. I’m a bit of a synth fanatic, so knowing this makes this soundtrack even better.

Beaute Parfaite
Alla Francesca Ensemble – Beauté Parfaite

Everything about this album is perfect, from the performance to the piece itself. This recording is by the Alla Francesca ensemble, but unfortunately it’s out of print. I spent almost 6 years trying to locate a copy before I was able to find a used one for $50. I have a (small) secret infatuation with music from Paris and Flanders in the late 14th-century. I honestly believe that this brief period in history produced some of the most experimental music to this day. «Le fumeur fume» by Solage is this gorgeous, smoky sounding piece full of obscure and cloudy harmonies; it can take up to 30 seconds for them to sing just one syllable.

Sun Ra - Space is the Place
Sun Ra – Space is the Place

Space is the Place is a Sun Ra classic, and I’ve had it blasting on repeat in my house. I first heard this album in ‘98, and it was instant love. The first time I heard this album, I was drinking gin and dancing on a table. It’s now become the default soundtrack to my life–sonic comfort food. For fun, I make myself focus on only one instrument or player for a good 20-minutes or so. Just to see where one player or sound starts and then where it ends up. It’s a pretty fun game to play, and it means that this music never gets old for me.

Le Révélateur – Fictions

Everytime I listen to this project by Roger Tellier-Craig, I end up in this hazy meditative state of mind. I feel like I’m repeating myself, but this sense of open drifting in music is something that’s very compelling for me. It’s the musical equivalent of taking a walk in the woods in the winter, or alongside the ocean, something I do often when in Charlo. You start off with no specific plan, but also not quite direction-less. After a bit, you look up to find yourself–seemingly suddenly–in a perfectly tranquil suspended state-place. It’s as if this process of being unaware leads you to the perfect conclusion. Roger’s talent at smoothly subtly shifting direction in his music reminds me a lot of this experience. It’s the ideal balance of compositional craft and gorgeous sound.

Pacha’s latest record Affaires Étrangères was released toward the middle of last year, and you can head over to the Constellation Records website to pick up a copy.

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