Manu Katché went to the Conservatoire but his musical origins are to be found in rock music. Even though the drummer extraordinaire has listened to a lot of jazz music, he hasn’t played that much of it. The case gets even harder to crack when you listen to Katché’s tenth album, The ScOpe, where he digs deep into the roots of groove music all the while incorporating the modern sounds of machines. The album cover designed by Arno Lam appropriately pictures Katché sideways – « an African profile » he says, and indeed Africa is the underlying musical theme of the whole album.
But this sensual statue – with a face as if made of salt, bathed in neon light – is highly flammable if you consider that Manu Katché also knows about dancing – he practiced it as a kid, goes out dancing in clubs « and after all, you need all four limbs to play the drums » he himself remarks.
The drums are then naturally at the center of The ScOpe, an electro album with both a carnal and a celestial touch – a sort of frenetic spasm lingering on with pleasure and revival. The album comes to complete, rather than strictly break with, his past discography – that of an expert musician who has been solicited by Sting, Peter Gabriel and Véronique Sanson among others. « I have built the tracks around the drums, and it is no wonder I’ve always played that instrument – my dad’s from the Ivory Coast. I wanted to see people move, dance and sing the gimmicks when they listened to it. »
In order to start shaping The ScOpe, Manu implemented strict composition rules for himself so as to overcome writer’s block, with studio time from 10am to 11pm punctuated with breaks, trials and errors. « During this phase of retreat, I don’t listen to music, I let my mind wander about and delve deep inside me. Then I make contact with musicians that I feel like working with. » Old-time partners as well as newcomers make up The ScOpe’s quartet : Jérôme Regard (bass guitar), Patrick Manouguian (guitar) and Jim Henderson (keyboards), an electronic music producer invited by Yael Naïm to make a remix of « Older ». The 26-year-old pianist and composer has made The ScOpe under his real name, Elvin Galland. « Elvin and I have intertwined my experience as a session musician with his own as much as our influences since we belong to different generations, even though I listen to the heirs of Stevie Wonder like he does - Kendrick Lamar, Anderson. Paak. »
The album pieces together polaroids, thoughts, mantras - « my reactions to what bores, uplifts or shocks me ». The outcome is a ceaseless effort to maintain the bond between minds, as advocated for instance by « Keep Connexion » and the lull of its kora – a solo specifically written for Kandia Kouyate – which eventually collides with the flame of a guitar. The ScOpe is thrilling for both body and soul, with a luminous and ethereal anthem to love, « Let Love Rule », sung by Jonatha Brooke, a weightless ballad, « Don’t U Worry », (vocals by Kayla Galland) and the pulsating softness of « Glow ». Meanwhile « Tricky 98’ » illustrates the ascent of champions – the track was played for the U-Arena entrance of the French football team last June, twenty years after their World Cup victory.
« Featurings are essential because they are a human voice hailing people with its singularity and its rhythmic pulse ». Faada Freddy is one such guest on « Vice », warming up a winter ambiance with his scansion. « Paris Me Manque », which welcomes Jazzy Bazz’s rap flow, is a nostalgic exhortation to contemplate ‘P.Town’, the Paris of yesteryear, complete with the harrowing lament of a bugle.
With The ScOpe, Manu Katché scrutinizes his own emotions, anatomizes the alchemy of sounds with minute precision and relentlessly probes our beings, always reaching out for musical and spiritual harmony. Let’s ScOpe it!
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