Franz Kirmann is a French producer probably best known as half of post-classical/electronica duo Piano Interrupted. Whilst his 2011 release may have been overshadowed in terms of the title by the Daft Punk album of the same name which won several awards last year, Kirmann has just released his latest album 'Meridians' via Denovali Records and will certainly not be overshadowed in any aspect on this occasion. To celebrate the album's release, we asked Franz to talk us through the album one track at a time;
Dancing On The Edge Of The Void
A good friend of mine described that piece as a pebble falling down a well and landing in deep water…
I think this is an autumn track. And the colour would be something muddy looking, like the bottom of a lake.
The working title was “silhouettes” and I changed it at the last minute. So there is something shadowy in it. I imagine two little figurines dancing together, the camera zooms out and you see that massive cliff plunging into darkness next to them.
Like any musician I suppose, my influences, come from peers, other producers I admire but also certain filmmakers and writers. And then technique and technology can play a part as well; the gear you use will bring ideas to the table just because of the possibilities it offers or its limitations. So all these elements collide in a more or less subconscious way when you're working.
All that to say that it’s hard to tell what directly inspired "Dancing on the edge of the void" or any specific track for instance. It's a general creative process. All I know is after my first album I went through a phase where I was very unexcited by the music I was making. I would throw away everything I was doing. I found my way back by changing my way of working. I started sampling records and making music from samples, which I didn't do much before. I was trying to not play any note myself to see what would happen. I had to distance myself from my work to allow to be seduced by it again, if that makes sense. So most tracks on "Meridians" started like that. And eventually I began playing my own parts and doing arrangements. I always look for something specific in the records I sample. It is usually something I cannot play or do myself, a female vocal or a guitar sound for example… And it has to bring a certain emotion. I also spend a great deal of time, transforming the samples not to be sued!
For that record, I wanted modern digital technology and abstract sound manipulation mixed with older sounds like piano and vintage synthesizers, superimposing familiar sounds with alien ones where the source is unclear.
That was the sonic palette I was going for. I put "Dancing on the edge of the void" first on the album, because it's probably the most seductive one, the easiest to get into and it also encapsulates the mood of the record well. It felt like the right way in.
He Watched As She Disappeared Into The Crowd
This track feels like a purple colour to me. And it would be winter or autumn.
It's one of the last tracks I have made. There are 4 tracks that were produced slightly differently than the rest of the record, and explore the idea of slowing things down, like wanting to stop time.
Filmmaker Wong Kar Wai uses this trick where he asks actors to move extremely slowly while he cranks the speed of the camera down. So when the film is played back at regular speed, characters appear in slow motion, captured in some personal emotional state while the rest of the world is going super fast. It's very beautiful to watch, totally cinematic and evocative. In retrospect I think that’s what I was trying to do with sound.
I massively slowed down an orchestral arrangement, and then fed it through various effects. It became this massive cinematic piece of sadness. But I also have all these textures playing fast under it and interfering with the music. I remember blasting it really loud in the studio and feeling very emotional.
That Day We Threw The Keys Out The Window
This track is yellowish, like a fading old photograph. It’s a summer track I think. It’s like remembering a summery afternoon. It’s one of the one I like the most on the album. It's a very calming piece. The first arrangement had a four on the floor kick and felt like a Balearic house tune. But I didn't want to do a dance record somehow. I think, I hear so much dance music trough running my label Days Of Being Wild and perhaps this album is a kind of reaction to that, but not in a conscious way. I used lots of dance music technique though, and it's very apparent on this particular track.
This piece is constructed around a montage of samples all taken from the same song. I had the edit of samples for a while before I did the piano and synths arrangements around it. I used a small analogue drum machine with a step sequencer as well here. I wanted the record to be simple and not sounding slick. I wanted it to sound real and warm. I kept arrangements and rhythms very simple while the underlying sound textures can be very intricate.
They Drove All Night Only To Find Themselves Where They Started
This piece is dark blue… Maybe a season is not so relevant here… it's night time, on a road. It's a very cinematic and grand and builds slowly over time.
As for the previous piece, I had all the textures and built the music around it. It’s probably the track I struggled the most with. It took ages to get right. It has real drums sample on it, which I used to do a lot in the past. It has a "post rock feel" to it, and it felt right to put these big rock drums, but I decided to keep them really low in the mix. I wanted the album to be discreet and not in your face. It ends with the same sound that it starts with, hence the title.
Where Did We Go Wrong?
That’s also one of the last minute additions to the record. It’s dark and spiritual. Winter again and the colour would be black. I wanted a contrast with the previous piece, something more meditative and non-engaging; Music that you can drift away to. It closes the first part of the album in a nice way.
It’s spring and it’s green! I decided to put it at the start of the second record on the LP edition to shift the mood a bit. It's the most uplifting piece on the album while retaining the fuzzy, distant quality of the rest of the album.
Only When Your Eyes Are Closed
This one is like a summer day on a deserted road. It's light blue. I was trying to do something like Pan American on this; Very still and static, with muffled percussion. It is also one of my favourites on the album; I like the way the synthesisers' sequences weave in and out towards the end. I was thinking of a film like The Hitcher (the original 1986 one), a thriller in the desert. I love the way these 80's soundtracks used to mix ambient / concrete music with synthesizers sequences.
Good morning bright star
3rd of the late additions to the album, this is a jam I made and edited down. Another high light for me because it’s totally organic, sounds come in and out, in focus and out of focus in a random way. The synth pad at the end is like the sun shining trough the window in the morning. It’s spring and it’s green. This is a direction I'm probably most likely to explore in the future; it is basically live takes edited together. It was so refreshing to be playing and jamming rather than thinking the music too much.
Back to darkness here! It's black. No particular season. It’s very David Lynch; the working title was Leland Empire!
I was thinking of Lost Highway while working on it. Something mental. Like the house in the movie reflecting the psychosis of the character. It's the only one that has a dance beat and it's the oldest track I had. I had it for 5 years on my hard drive but only the drum track remains from the original demo. I wanted it to sound like an Actress track. Lo fi and scratchy. I love the vocals samples; I think they work really well. I had an uplifting ending to it but I ditched it. You hear a bit of it at the end, but then it fades away quickly.
Ghost Of A Smile
This is one is the logical follow up to Excelsior. It’s the Lynch section of the record! So I'd say dark blue and winter again. It has a horror soundtrack feel to it I find. It started from an experiment I made on an iPad app on the plane. I then finished it in the studio a couple of months later. I love the fact that a piece of music can be created from elements recorded in various places and at different times. With modern technology you can be killing time by playing around with bits on an iPad or a phone and that ends up being part of an album!
With Such Sweet Despair
Last one of the late additions; this is “He watched her as she disappeared…” little sister. It's made with the same principle of slowing the music down. It's a very sad piece. Because of the way it's made, it somehow took a life of its own in the studio. I was almost letting the music unfolds in front of me like I wasn't in control. It's interesting when that happens because you feel outside of the music, you become more of a listener and less of a creator and therefore you are more likely to be moved by the sound.
You Fall In Love With Someone Else
This is green and it's autumn. This was made in one evening. It’s very simple. But it’s very touching in its simplicity. I stole the title from The Cure. He sings "You fall in love with someone else tonight" I always liked that line because it encapsulates perfectly this notion of the little control you have on someone else's feelings. He sings it like there's nothing he can do about it.