Travelling Through Stories: Tryphème Talks
It’s the mid '90s – the internet is proliferating and much noise is being made about its capacity to democratise our access to information. Skip a few years, and similar discussions are being had about its role in levelling the playing field for creative types who will surely now have a platform which allows their work to be seen and heard for free. Skip a few more, and evidently, the apple of Tim Berners-Lee’s eye is wormy and rotten. The decentralised soft-utopia that once was has long been infected by the top-down business model. And yet, for Tryphème, the internet remained that same vital stepping stone; a stepping stone to becoming a CPU Records signee and one of electro’s most vital up-and-comers.
“I actually lived in Triors, until I was 15", she explains over email. "It’s a small village in the countryside in the south of France, where monks and cows live in perfect harmony. It was kind of idyllic." It’s a background that’s satisfyingly at odds with the position she finds herself in today. And yet, when she later mentions: “I have a lot of images in my head, I like to create a kind of imaginary film, then I immerse myself in it, then I make the soundtrack. It's very funny”, it’s clear that she has a propensity for escapism, perhaps catalysed by this humble beginning. A greatly anticipated move to nearby Lyon at age 20 proved vital in allowing these soundtracks to flesh themselves out. “I found it very intriguing and poetic”, she says. “I knew I had to go down there, it was magnetic, so I followed my instinct… I left to settle there without knowing exactly what I was going to do there. It was an ideal atmosphere to create; I was just starting to make music and it has contributed greatly to the development of my musical identity.”
Initially, I found it hard to fathom a path that runs from rural Tryors to romantic Lyon all the way to CPU Records, whose output compliments Sheffield’s industrial backdrop. But as Tryphème continues, this unlikelihood serves only to illustrate that her work wouldn’t have become what it is without a background unique for an artist inhabiting her world. Every surprise she reveals is accompanied by a facet which indirectly helped sculpt last year’s Online Dating, her debut LP for CPU, into the practically overflowing melting pot that it became. “All the tracks, except 'Acid Dream' and 'Somewhere New', were composed between January and August 2016. During this period, I hosted a lot of couch surfers from all over the world at my place. It was magic because I traveled through their stories, and their presence influenced my way of composing music. When I made them visit my city, I rediscovered it through their eyes; these are moments engraved in my memory.”
Online Dating made clear that it’s not only her own memories Tryphème finds merit in engaging with, lifting as it does from the playbook of the hauntological electronica of the late '90s that made electronic music personal; Boards Of Canada et al. At no point is it derivative, however. In fact, her musical outlook directly contradicts the possibly florid pretensions of that era. I ask her how she feels about musical trends now that her signature brand of melodic electro has found her at the forefront of one. She replies: “It’s paradoxical because I do not really feel like I make electro; to me what I do appears as a derivate of pop. There is such a difference in my head between what I think I do and what I actually do.” Perhaps this is because her work contains the occasional signifier of IDM without explicitly embodying it. This association is often all a listener needs to mistakenly take a record too seriously, and begin to ascribe meaning that was never supposed to be there. She has trouble with this tag anyway, and, well, all others. “In my mind, everything was intimately linked with each other: the music has colors, shapes, emotions, but no categories. Electro is one of the styles I love, but honestly, it’s not what I listen to the most. But, I’m really happy that there’s all this new scene, which I feel is going to new horizons, to the future…"
Chris Smith, as CPU’s boss, is at the vanguard of this scene. I’m curious about their mutual decision to release an LP first, subverting what one might consider to be a ‘typical’ ascent up the label ladder, EP by EP, before even considering an album. She puts it down to naïvety, though she regrets nothing. “When Chris submitted the idea of releasing an entire album, everything was very intuitive for me. I was a total novice, I did not ask myself any questions like, 'Is this the right way or not to do it?' I wanted so much to share all these tracks, it was like an emergency, I was afraid they would fly away! Even the ordering of the tunes was done this way: in five minutes, it was finished.” The narrative came full circle when she was invited to play at a Boiler Room event hosted by CPU in Sheffield, a trip which she describes as a 'pilgrimage'. It was creatively enlightening, as a pilgrimage ought to be. “When I went to Sheffield, I felt this super cold, mysterious and industrial atmosphere, which gave me the keys to understanding well the artists from this scene and put their music in perspective.”
We conclude with a discussion about electro in France. Artists such as Maelstrom and Djedjotronic have successfully defected from the strain of the genre her home country made globally popular, and used it to coast into the attention of followers of the new movement, but I want to know which other French up-and-comers Tryphème would like to recommend. She names Apollo Noir and Domenique Dumont (“his music is soft and wobbly, like a first date”) as ones to watch, and is keen to promote small labels like Serendip and Da Heard It (“gold mines of sincere and bizarre music, I have a lot of respect for the work they do"), hinting at the democratic sensibilities of someone whose work has the internet to thank for its platform. She concludes with the following remark: “When a piece is finished, I have a feeling of lightness and satisfaction, I feel free and in the right place at the right time." The physical distances her music transcends are testament to the talent which has rightfully earned her a spot right there: just where she needs to be, and not a moment too soon.
Tryphème plays Nuits Sonores on May 9th, tickets are available here.