One man musical ensemble
Ensemble was created in 1998 as the musical project of Toulouse-born Olivier Alary in which he, in his own words, sought to make “experimental pop, drawing elements from the pop/chanson world as well as from the avant-garde music scene”. Thirteen years later he is world-renowned not only as a pioneer of this sound, but also as an award-winning composer for film and art exhibitions all across the world.
Alary’s musical journey gained a kick-start of the most lucrative variety after he caught the attention of Björk, leading to his re-mixing of two of her songs and their collaborative effort ‘Desired Constellation’ on her 2004 album.“It was an incredible experience. Björk was very humble and open-minded.These collaborations validated my work and made people aware of my music.”
Ensemble’s songwriting process is fascinating; he believes in immersing himself in various environments in order to consolidate the sound he wishes to convey. His latest album, Excerpts (a collaboration with Johannes Malfati and Darcy Conroy) – was recorded in Montreal, New York and Berlin.“I had locked myself in for a long time to do the previous album, it was only through travelling and working with other people that it finally unfolded and made sense.”
His proclivity to globetrot in order to produce music is not based on a desire to explore various music scenes however – he in fact seems downcast with regards this idea: “With globalisation, it’s harder to find a city that possesses a very distinct music scene. I am more fascinated with the soundscapes from cities than their music scene. I just came back from India, and Mumbai is probably one of richest sound environments I’ve been to – an incredible cacophony of music and noise.”
The concept behind his latest album is one that, he explains, reconciles many of his passions: “I have been subjected to so many films, records and books that I sometimes cannot distinguish what I’ve lived from what I’ve seen, heard, or read. I found this beautiful and dramatic observation to be a subject I wanted to write about.”
Alary’s work as a composer of film music takes up a great deal of his time, speaking to him it becomes clear that he readily blurs the line between both art forms, viewing the creative process behind both as holding similarities. “I tend to see music the same way I perceive filmmaking. It is for me a collaborative medium. When working with other people you benefit from their perspective, thereby expanding it.”
When questioned on his future plans it is unsurprising that Alary has a plethora; he tells of how he plans to “tour this spring and summer, work on some more film music, collaborate on an art project about generative music and sketch Ensemble’s fourth album”. For an artist of such relentless innovation, you would expect nothing less.