The universe is making music all the time

Step Right Up: Dale Cooper Quartet

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Interview with Dale Cooper Quartet.

“I think — as every creation — your life, place you live, travel, meetings have an evident influence. Maybe it is the windy weather mixed with our landscapes we’re in that got an influence on it. But then, it is more a confluent meeting of three persons.”

—Christophe Mevel, Dale Cooper Quartet

Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry


Named after a central character in David Lynch’s cult-classic ‘Twin Peaks’ TV series, Dale Cooper Quartet & The Dictaphones create a similarly beguiling atmosphere through their unique blend of dark drone, 50s jazz, soundtrack music and ambient flourishes (at times augmented by heavenly string arrangements). The latest album is the cult-French collective’s follow-up to the acclaimed 2011 album ‘Metamanoir’ (the second release for the German experimental label Denovali). The latest venture, entitled ‘Quatorze Pièces de Menace’, released last September on the ever-formidable Denovali label, was inspired by the live experience of the band and their everlasting love for the local landscapes. The eleven brooding and hypnotic sonic creations captured on ‘Quatorze Pièces de Menace’ reveals an intensity of emotion that uncovers new meaning upon further encounters.

A wonderful cast of musicians guest on ‘Quatorze Pièces de Menace’ that adds new dimensions to the ethereal soundscapes. New Zealand artist (and Denovali label-mate) Alicia Merz (whose Birds Of Passage moniker is responsible for creating utterly captivating worlds of song), adds vocals to the spellbinding album closer ‘Lampyre Bonne Chère’. One of the album’s defining moments is beautifully arrived upon as Merz, close to a whisper, sings “hold my hand again” amidst swirling strings, mournful piano and reverb-drenched guitar tones. The fragile words forms a new horizon of hope and solace, as a tragically beautiful ballad brings Dale Cooper Quartet’s enriching journey to a stunning close.

Elsewhere, guest vocalists include the gifted talents of Zalie Bellacicco (who appeared on the debut ‘Parole de Navarre’), Irish-born Ronan MacErlaine and Gaelle Kerrien (Yann Tiersen). The deep tones of MacErlaine’s voice on ‘Céladon Bafre’ is a joy to behold, as the songbook of Scott Walker comes into full focus. MacErlaine sings “Winter face” continuously over a gentle ripple of minor piano chords on the final verse that brings to mind Frank Sinatra’s ‘Sings For Only The Lonely’. A sense of melancholia permeates the atmosphere, as the piano chords drift by: “The clear hat is gone”. The introspective mood (dominating much of Side B) serves the perfect counterpoint to the opening flurry of experimental noise unleashed by ‘L’escolier Serpent Eolipile’. It is the dynamic range (and indeed, eclectic range of styles) that is most striking about Dale Cooper Quartet’s newest venture.

The dreamy tones of reverb-filled electric guitar serves the opening notes to ‘Ignescence Black-bass Recule’, before a hypnotic drumbeat leads you on a voyage into the heart of darkness. The menacing world of David Lynch is never far away. Later, a seductive double-bass groove creates the rhythmic pulse of the slow-burning, chaos-filled transmission. Moments later, audio recordings of Italian spoken word arrives that heightens the sense of impending doom. The inevitability of disaster, it seems, is a stone’s throw away. The epic album opener ‘Brosme en Dos-vert’ contains looped spoken word fragments, eerie strings and striking ambient pulses beneath a hiss and crackle of vinyl. The middle section evolves into drone of choral bliss as drums and percussion and noise conjures up the sound of The Haxan Cloak. A resolution is found, as the closing section of calming trumpet sounds (think ECM’s back-catalogue) ascends into the air. A vintage sound is masterfully formed.

The eerie piano notes and mesmerising strings of ‘Calbombe camoufle Fretin’ is effortlessly blended with the addition of female vocals. An organic, cohesive whole is this created that is steeped in a strange beauty. The lyric of “Slow is the maker” sung by MacErlaine on the brooding lament ‘Nourrain Quinquet’ resonates powerfully. Undoubtedly, ‘Quatorze Pièces De Menace’s suspense and beauty creates a deeply fascinating experience. From the wintry windswept shores of Brittany, France, Dale Cooper Quartet have created a tragically beautiful opus for each and every one of us to truly savor.


‘Quatorze Pièces de Menace’ is available now on Denovali Records.


Interview with Dale Cooper Quartet.

[The Dale Cooper Quartet are: Christophe Mevel, Gael Loison, Yannick Martin]

Congratulations on the stunning new record, ‘Quatorze Pièces De Menace’. The enthralling soundscapes explore a seamless array of genres – jazz, experimental noise, ambient, modern-classical – that captures a mood and atmosphere so vivid, and beguilingly beautiful. Please discuss for me your aims from the outset in recording the follow-up to 2011’s ‘Metamanoir’?

Christophe: Hello, thanks a lot Mark for the kind words. Well, I guess there were no aims but each of us had many ideas to follow. The record is a result as a collective act at a d-day. That’s maybe why we can hear some jazz, improvised, electronic, ambient, written music and many genres that we’re in actually. Metamanoir was very orchestrated and sophisticated sounds, we wanted something more rough in the musical approach maybe closer to the live acts…with the accidents, the length & general mood. We didn’t have any concept before starting the recordings.

Yannick: Thanks, Mark. Except from the first album which had a general aim (to make improvised music inspired by Twin Peaks soundtrack), we just record different parts at several moments (mostly night sessions) and mix the whole stuff. The tone and colour of the last album then appeared during the mixing session and we tried to get back to the simplicity of Parole de Navarre but also have more songs-like tracks.

Gael: We spent a lot of time recording to real instruments and voices to breathe life into sampling materials, making a huge catalog of sounds to choose from when we assemble tracks and songs.


What I also love about the record are the guest vocalists that appear on ‘Quatorze Pièces De Menace’. The voices add new dimensions and textures to the deeply captivating sonic canvas of the album. Can you please recount for me your memories of first coming across these amazing talents – Alicia Merz, Zalie Ballacicco, Ronan Mac Erlaine and Gaelle Kerrien – and the resulting collaboration that ensued?

Christophe: Oh, each vocalist here have a different story. Concerning Alicia, it’s just a stunning discovery we did because she produces albums on the same stunning label (Denovali). And, she asked us to do a remix of one of her song (with Brother & Sister Moon project) two years ago. It was the first time for us, and a supa’ great surprise we heard her vocals on our universe while working on. We thought it could be a lovely guest on some songs. Particularly these ones. She’s got an incredible voice and way of recording, very rough.
Zalie, was the first vocalist we worked with, now ten years ago; she’s a friend and can work on all the textures she wants, technically a killer! She works regularly with Gael as well on vocals improvised experiences with electronic. Hope it will see the day one day.
Ronan is an Irish-born friend, non-singer until Gael discovered his voice that we really love. 😉 It sounds good with our universe. Gaelle is a very old friend, cos’ we used to start the music together in the early 90’s. Since these days, we’ve always had different projects and bands. For Dale Cooper it was the perfect universe to work together. So, this is it. And there’s always secret singers that we can hear as well. 😉

Yannick: Yes, the vocals are really inspiring to us. We use them as instruments, especially with the girls’ voices. Ronan has a dark tone that fits perfectly with our moody atmosphere too. The other day, we summed up people we would like to hear on our future releases. We’ll probably find other great vocalists as we are quite happy with the 60’s classic songs tracks on the last album. Maybe we would release 4-songs EP on 7″ vinyl record that has to be played on jukebox only. With the scratchy sound included.


Album closer ‘Lampyre Bonne Chère’ is such a divine sonic creation. The instrumentation of strings, percussion, guitars swirl majestically beneath Alicia Merz’s achingly beautiful vocals. I would love to gain an insight into the construction (or de-construction) of this particular song and the arrangement of ‘Lampyre Bonne Chère’. It’s a fitting close to such a triumphant album.

Christophe: Yes, in this case it’s more a deconstruction. As a final track, we like the idea of a pop song (as on Metamanoir), this one with a classic three basic chords. Then, from this state, we try to make it sound in our universe, we try many possibilities and from all of these we keep the basics, with many silences. We had another a different guide vocal on this one that we did before sending the track to Alicia that she decided to sing it differently and it is just so great, fitting perfectly with these silences. She sent us the track when we were closing the mix of the album. It should have figured on the next album then but it was the track we needed!

Gael: Yes, it is like a final song in a motion picture soundtrack, and we had to mix it in one night.


My current favourite is the brooding opus ‘Nourrain Quinquet’. The lyric “slow is the maker” resonates powerfully. The song feels it belongs somewhere between the worlds of Scott Walker and GodSpeed You Black Emperor. The saxophone releases a cathartic energy throughout. I would love to learn about the range of instrumentation utilized on the record and indeed, the recording process involved?

Yannick: We sent the mixed track to Ronan who wrote the lyrics. He recorded on his own in Paris and the result was brilliant. I guess the saxophone was the latest part recorded. Krystian flow is now a trademark to our sound and in a couple of takes, the track was completed.

Gael: Philippe’s trumpet plays a big role here too, the song has so many layers, keeping the night feel out of sampled vinyls and real instruments, bass was the last recorded instrument and gives the final structure of the song. We use some vintage microphones and mixers for the way they sound.


Can you discuss for me the influence your native Brittany, France has had on your music, and how the local landscapes filter into your unique blend of sound?

Christophe: I think — as every creation — your life, place you live, travel, meetings have an evident influence. Maybe it is the windy weather mixed with our landscapes we’re in that got an influence on it. I think you know that in Ireland! But then, it is more a confluent meeting of three persons. Any of us could separately have this sound, ideas and songs.

Yannick: Don’t know if we live in Istanbul the music would be different. I guess Brittany is in us and in our music. But I do think that night and its mysteries run into our sound. And if it is breezy and rainy, maybe it drives our songs to that special atmosphere.

Gael: Rain, seashore, coffee: ideal mood!

Can you reminisce and talk about watching ‘Twin Peaks’ for the first time. What were your immediate impressions? Do you have favourite episodes? For me, I still remember the profound effect (and shock/suspense!) of seeing Laura Palmer’s father transform into evil; in the living room while a vinyl is being played. I couldn’t think clearly for days afterwards.

Christophe: when I was 18 or something, Saturday night watching. I have an exciting souvenir from this series and period, it was so uncommon at this time, for me, and it stayed the same, I haven’t watched it since this time. So it’s quite a troubled vision, that’s how I want it to stay.

Yannick: Watching ‘Twin Peaks’ means such great memories to me: it was broadcasted on La Cinq (Channel 5), a new channel as there was only 4 TV channels in the 80s. It was really different from the other TV programs. It has nothing to deal with a detective soap with one case/one guilty man. All was mixed up, there were no real head character, no good/evil, just a bunch of weird people. I loved and still love Audrey Horn as she is beautiful, childish, somehow stupid but she seems to be the master of many scenes.

Gael: Yeah, I’ve seen the series back in the 90’s, loved the mood.


Lastly, I read somewhere that Angelo Badalamenti described his own music as “tragically beautiful”. I think the same description can be used for the incredible works of yours. Are there certain records out there that has served major sources of inspiration for you?

Christophe: Personally, ‘Laughing Stock’ & ‘Spirit Of Eden’ Talk Talk records were a real shock, and stays after all these years. I can still listen to it after a thousand times, every listen is different, it is a majestic and powerful record that got a big influence. It is the reference point for me with the jazz and improvised music I’m working in. And then there could be other hundreds of records, films, people that got an influence…but taking time is the best influence. 😉

Yannick : I listen to a wide range of music. But I guess the records I listened to when we started the Quartet are still somewhere there: Bark Psychosis, Labradford and Flying Saucer Attack.

Gael: I always loved the way Brian Eno talks about music, especially ambient music.


‘Quatorze Pièces de Menace’ is available now on Denovali Records.


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  1. […] Read our interviews with fellow Denovali labelmates Birds Of Passage (HERE), and Dale Cooper Quartet (HERE). […]

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