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Category: The story

1984/1985: Alésia Cosmos in full maturation

1984/1985: Alésia Cosmos in full maturation

After the release of the first album Exclusivo! In the spring of 1983, followed by a few concerts in the east of France (Strasbourg, Limersheim, Metz) and the participation of the members in the event Sous-Paradis in Strasbourg in June of the same year, the members of the group are resolutely turning to consistent projects. A mail order service of K7 and discs, a sound magazine for radios, telephone musics, living room musics and a second album.

On the cover of the Alésia Cosmos Aeroproducts box

Unlike most of the underground groups of this time, A.C. had been structured, starting in January 1983 by creating the Planetarium organization. Their goal was to find public funding for their creations and activity. As early as 1984, applications for public grants resonated favourably with the Ministry of Culture in particular. Directed by Jack Lang, he sought to support the free radios across France.

Planeta, the new music sound review

This radio project existed from 84 to 86. The programs were recorded on cassettes. A whole network of local radio stations in France broadcast them. Reports in festivals, interviews of musicians, composers, excerpts from concerts and discs were mounted in documentary modules of 15 mn each. An issue of the magazine Planeta counted each time 4 different and autonomous sequences, ready to be broadcast in the new music programs. In total, Planeta produced 9 hours of documentaries from 84 to 86. Listen to our reissue (2018) in podcasts on this blog and on digital networks: the Planeta Podcast. This funded radio production put on more professional rails the Planetarium organization. It also helped strengthen the hard core of the group, the trio Marie-Berthe Servier, Pascal Holtzer and Bruno de Chénerilles.

Living Room Music

It is under these conditions that the new creations developed in 1984 : compositions for the 2nd album of A. C., but also in the form of a series of long-lasting K7, Living Room Musics, intended to serve as domestic soundscapes. We can also imagine a digital re-edition of this musical series. Why not in 2019?

While developing its network in France and abroad, the group also intended to establish itself more strongly in its homeland Alsace. He was often regarded by some in the artistic and cultural milieu, as a band of Martians. Some cultural officials were more inclined to see them go elsewhere to not have to support them (they will recognize themselves…). Fortunately, not all decision-makers were of this opinion, and valuable support allowed them to continue and consolidate these projects.

Musical crossbreeding and cultural action

A programme of pedagogical actions on musical crossbreeding, electronics and voice took place at the Agricultural High School in Obernai in partnership with the Cultural Association of Obernai: workshops for students, musical creation and concerts. Alésia Cosmos and Planetarium were already defending at that time a double articulation between the local and the planetary. The network functioning of the musical underground of the time gave a framework to the reflections of the french philosophers Deleuze and Guattari on the model of the rhizome, as well as to the concept of Global Village approached a few decades earlier by the canadian sociologist Marshall McLuhan .

A planetary rhizome

At the bottom, it was indeed a gigantic planetary rhizome. The first furrows were dug by the artistic avant-garde of the first half of the twentieth century. They were then heavily recovered, institutionalized, dried up and neutralized after the Second World War. And the youth surge around the world against the Vietnam war, against the old world in general, had revived an underground rhizome in the sixties. A reaction against rock and pop very quickly merchandised. Free jazz, free music, progressive rock, then punk, industrial music etc… All these more or less subversive musical nebulae were thus born in the analogue era and just before the next era of digital media and the Internet...

In this context, the members of Alésia Cosmos began to work on their 2nd album at the end of 1983. The first album had been fully autoproduced, but recorded and mixed in studios in Alsace and Paris. The very small Planetarium broadcast network allowed to sell 300 copies in the first year. This result and the good feedback from the press were encouraging. But the work of prospecting and networking had been very heavy.

The 2nd album: Aeroproducts

They decided to record and to mix by installing a studio in the apartment of Bruno de Chénerilles in the centre of Strasbourg. Another innovative and pioneering idea. At the time, the analogue equipment, therefore quite heavy, suggested that this was not possible. The devices were borrowed right and left to finally assemble a complete 8-track studio. 2 rooms of the apartment were mobilized and soundproofed. The formula allowed, at a cost close to zero, to have the studio for several weeks and to gain more creative freedom.

Recording and mixing the entire album at home was a challenge. After observing and experimenting the studio work for the first album, but also at Radio France on several creation projects with expert sound engineers, the members of the group were ready to operate themselves. The hard core of the group took control of the production. They re-invited the other two members of the group, Pierre Clavreux and Lotfi Ben Ayed, on a large part of the prepared titles.

A greater place was left to improvise, with a series of free impros generally in different trios. These improvised titles were generated instantly and without prior consultation. The only specification: a duration around the minute and a top start. The process gave birth to several small spontaneous, but definitive and well designed compositions. They all appear in the album. They can be easily taken for more written compositions. The creative cohesion of the group and especially of the hard core was at its peak.

The publication

Spring 1984, A.C. had recorded the complete album for the LP project. And at that stage, talks were engaged with several better-established labels that could have published the album. The American label DYS was a most probable time partner, but renounced during the summer.

Then the group had the idea of turning to the Swiss label Hat Hut. Although very focused on avant-garde jazz, the label had just released the Catalogue album by Jac Berrocal. With Gilbert Artman (drums) and Jean-François Pauvros (electric guitar), Berrocal played a knock-off cocktail of free-rock, very improvised, both wild and subtle. Alésia Cosmos was a fan and saw themselves as quite close, kind of cousins… So after all, the Swiss label might be interested…

The cassette was sent and immediately aroused the interest of the label. A week later, the answer fell. The label proposed to release the album in the same collection Hat Art. Just as with Berrocal’s album, the box should contain more than a LP, at least one single or a maxi-EP, in order to be included in the collection. Having more material ready, the group recorded quickly, this time at the Studio Weekend in Gambsheim (Alsace), where they had recorded Exclusivo!. They quickly recorded and mixed 4 titles for what was supposed to be a 12inch maxi-single. The label proposed to make this addition the side C of a double LP. The 4th, face D, would be carved with a silent groove.

Thus, at the beginning of 1985, on the Hat Art label, appeared Aeroproducts, the second album of Alésia Cosmos.
Long out of print, for more than 15 years, Aeroproducts will be republished in an augmented and remastered edition in 2019.

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Planeta : new music sound review – 1984/1986

Planeta : new music sound review – 1984/1986

Listen to the Planeta podcast

A new music sound review with Interviews, musical snippets, concerts : an anthology of the musical undergound in 38 episodes of 15mn, more than 9 hours of sound and music.
To follow the Planeta podcast : subscribe here on this blog or on Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud, Stitcher, ITunes, Deezer, Podcast Addict…

PLANETA – Interviews, editing and mixing: Pascal Holtzer, Marie-Berthe Servier and Bruno de Chénerilles. NB: Some groups participated in creating their own modules.

30 years later, we rebroadcast here this sound magazine ( 9 issues, 38 audio modules, 9 hours of audio documents) in the form of a podcast available on this blog, but also on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Soundcloud, Stitcher, ITunes, Deezer.

Listen to Planeta on ios and androïd - Apple Podcasts and Google PodcastsStay with us : subscribe to the blog to stay informed of new releases!

Spring 1983: first album by Alesia Cosmos

Spring 1983: first album by Alesia Cosmos

Following the story…

This fruitful period of musical experimentation of all kinds – see post: Premises -1977-1982 – ended with the launch of the first album of Alésia Cosmos.
End of 82 Pascal Holtzer and I Bruno de Chenerilles composed and prepared sketches in their respective home studios.

NB: the term did not yet exist, only a few electroacoustic composers and some sound tweakers ventured to analog mixing and recording equipment. Some Revox stereo recorders, a mixer, a few microphones, speakers and then analog synths, the first rhythm boxes, some effects – reverb, delay, fuzz, our electric guitars. It took us a few years to acquire these expensive machines.
At this time there was no computer software and the first affordable multi-track recorders appeared a little later. But with this equipment we could compose and rehearse. We found traces of some of these sketches recorded during the phases of preparation before recording this first album Exclusivo!

 

Beginning 83, we also founded a non-profit structure  to carry the first album’s project. Planetarium was founded in March 1983 at the very moment when we formed the group.

In addition to Pascal and myself, we invited Marie-Berthe Servier, who was involved in Corbo Combo in the previous decade, as well as an excellent Tunisian percussionist Lotfi Ben Ayed burning to mix his darbukas, bendir and bagpipes with our drum machines. A fifth strange character also joined in: Pierre Clavreux, a fake wacky breton ex-barde, who returned from Japan where he had hit the big drums of the group Kodō in Sado island.

In February or March, we were ready for recording the album at Studio Weekend in Gambsheim North of Strasbourg. A brand new small studio with a TEAC 8-track recorder, a professional mixing console, a few good microphones and a few analog effects. The studio was owned by Guy Mas and Jean-François Issemann. They  ensured all takes for a good week, which is very short for an entire album.

The project had matured for several years. The album was very well prepared. The members of the group were inspired and this very minimalist music was based on a mix between electro, rock, traditional music, composition and free improvisation. Each brought his particular feeling and the sauce had taken immediately on previous rehearsals.

We had decided to entrust the mix to another person in order to have an outside view of our music. We had met Michel Risse, ex-drummer of the french group Herbe Rouge and also electroacoustic composer. He was then beginning with his to become famous company Decor Sonore. Michel was involved in Sous-Paradis and he was in charge of producing the album in which all members of Alésia Cosmos contributed individually.

Appointment was made with Michel to mix the album at the Anagram studio in Paris. Pascal and I borrowed an old car to Jack Nietzsche (ex-bassist of Alesia Cosmos furi show duo). I remember an old Citroën Ami 8 which the engine went to smoke on East Highway in a downhill slope to Verdun.
Our tapes under our arms, Pascal and myself we joined Anagram studio by train, then by metro and stayed all night to mix the album with Michel Risse.

The launch of the album took place in mid-April with the first 3 concerts at L’Ange d’Or theatre-café our favorite venue in Strasbourg, France.

Concerts

Press extracts

Reissue

Exclusivo! will be reissued on vinyl in September 2017 !
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Premises 1977-1982

Premises 1977-1982

The story of Alésia Cosmos really began with our first album Exclusivo ! composed and recorded at the beginning of 1983.
But before that, the core members had together some decisive artistic experiences. Back in 1975 Pascal Holtzer and I, Bruno de Chénerilles met in the bars in Strasbourg. Pascal being a photographer at that time took snapshots of my first free music group Corbo Combo.
Basically consisting of Michel Froehly (el guitar and bass) and myself (el guitar, drums, trumpet, trombone, tapes, turntable and any sound device found on location) playing as a duo, this very radical free music group had different lineups.
Saxophonist Dominique Gasser and cellist Didier Laroche joined regularly for some concerts, as did Marie-Berthe Servier on vocals or Ismaïl Safwan on piano.


Even Pascal Holtzer joined Corbo Combo for a series of shows under the title of Vegetabble.He designed a very creative and elaborated slide show on a double giant screen.The musicians were improvising an hour long set in direct relationship with his pictures.

At that time in 1976/79, a bunch of improvisers were playing in Strasbourg. A small local free music scene was trying to exist during 3 years with Musik Aufhebung, Corbo Combo, Yves Dormoy, Philippe Poirier, Ghislain Muller, Jean-Baptiste Antonioni, Mike Laurent, Dominique Courtadon and others. Approximately 15 concerts were mainly organized by Bruno’s record shop Tympan Sorcier, under the titles of Musique Mouvante (Moving Music) or Académie de Musique de Strasbourg (funny, no?)

In 1978 Corbo Combo as a trio (Dominique, Michel and myself) had another decisive experience composing, improvising and playing live for Bernard Bloch‘s theater show. Faust de Goethe was something like a free rock musical theater quartet. It was performed over 40 times in Elsass, Germany and in Lyon.

Then Pascal and I formed Hamburger Blues Band to express our blues roots. The quartet lineup also featured Michel Froehly on bass and Mike Laurent on drums.

Here I have to mention another highlight of experimental music in France. Because it was very local and short, it is generally ignored by most specialists but still unforgettable for some hundreds of people who attended these 3 shows in 1979 in Strasbourg and Saint-Avold (my hometown in Moselle).
Under the name of Danger, Michel Froehly and I performed a very special electric guitars duo. Backed by a roneotype machine groove tape (there was no laser copier yet), we were switching our amps up to highly distorted larsens. At that time, we probably invented what will be named further noise music.
On the first show some very excited young people broke and threw chairs.
On the second show Pascal joined Danger in filming it with a super 8 camera.
On the third one, he projected his film from the second show. This third and last concert was an opening for the well-known french group Atoll and nearly ended in a riot.

During these years, I also composed and wrote some sci-fi radio plays for french state radio channel France Culture. Under the influences of William Burroughs, John Cage, Pierre Henry and others, I developed a personal tape music work in my studio beside the scenic and collective experiments.

Then in the early eighties, I appeared for the first time under the name of Alésia or Alésia Cosmos Furi Show. It was a solo performance on guitar, voice, analog synth and tapes. Sometimes in duo with bassist Jack Nietzsche and with images and texts. There I mixed a lot of my previous musical practices as singing, writing, composition, blues, rock, tape, electronic and free music.

This experimental show led step by step to a music project based on my and Pascal Holtzer’s experiments and compositions.
At the end of 82, both of us appeared on 12 Pour 1 compilation LP on French label AYAA with 2 solo titles : Horst Karmann and Anniversaire.

Then Marie-Berthe, Pascal and I recorded solo pieces for another compilation LP Sous Paradis : On the Road Again Memorial 1 to 5, Udi 14 and Sweet Angelina Lost in Paradise.

These solo pieces were perfect exercises for a more collective project involving all our composition, improvisation and recording forces. At the beginning of 1983 we were ready for Exclusivo! , the real start for Alésia Cosmos‘s project.

Bruno de Chénerilles