The artists for this review article hail from Italy and produce music that is quite different from the electronic side of our coverage. After Slow Machete and Judy Kang, we are experimenting with bringing the rock/organic music back to our blog and we give you ‘Hey’ by Le Gros Ballon.
The ‘Hey’ EP kicks in with an indie-esque self-titled intro, greeting the listeners by group shouting ‘HEY!’. As far as intros go, this is perfectly done, setting the tone for a very multi-layered EP to come.
The second track seems to be an ode to the late Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock and the riff commencing at 0:47 is definitely indicative of what the aim of this song is. It’s light hearted horror film stuff. It is difficult to come across a riff in this day and age that hasn’t been heard before but we potentially have one right here. The rest of the song develops around the same riff but with huge emphasis on cinematic & psychedelic sounds coming at us from every corner. Enough sounds offered here to leave you discovering layers in 2nd, 3rd and 4th listen.
The third track ‘Happiness Accident’ is definitely difficult to explain. Maybe that comes from my disability to express happiness. Or maybe the music is just accidentally happy and that’s all that can be said. It’s definitely a different route from the previous track. Le Gros Ballon don’t compromise on the number of instruments and objects to create sounds and that’s truly admirable.
The fourth track ‘We Are Sinking but Together’ starts with an Explosions in the Sky attitude, but with added miscellaneous ambiance layers in the background. It might be accidental but using the above comparison, ‘We Are Sinking but Together’ could be a prequel to ‘Six Days at the Bottom of the Ocean’ by Explosions in the Sky. There is much emotion within the sounds created here which makes the listener appreciate the underlying sadness that gives birth to the need for happy music.
All in all, ‘Hey’ is a great listen for fans of cinematic folk/rock/post-indie/post-rock music. Each of the four songs has a distinct flavour which is proof for the broad range of the band’s ability.
Composition-wise the EP is ace. Mixing and mastering are also generally great, however at some points such as on the title track it slightly verges on the more treble-y side of the spectrum.
Another beautiful aspect of the album is that despite the richness, it COULD well be a soundtrack for a film, it COULD have vocals, it COULD help solve a writer’s block, it could, could, could... The point being that it really does leave a lot for the imagination to nurture but it does so without compromising the music.
The only real fault found with this release is that it is mighty short. Four songs clocking in at around 11 minutes makes you crave more and leaves you wondering about the band’s potential not offered yet!
Talking of which, let’s ask Le Gros Ballon:
A) Why is the album so short?!
As we were composing our second album, “Orange”, we noticed we still had something interesting left to develop, that could inspire us to create more songs. We basically had four slivers that sounded different from the album but we still didn't want to loose. So after releasing “Orange” at the end of last year we decided to pick them up and give them a life on their own. Like all of our songs, they were pieces of improvisation that we enriched with some overdubbing. This is how “Hey!”, our new EP, was born.
B) What does Le Gros Ballon mean?
The funny thing is that the name came before our project even existed: we were just about to start recording our first improvisation session and we needed something to name the file... We stopped a few minutes and came up with Le Gros Ballon. We liked the sound of these french words, the word “gros” (=”big”) and “ballon” (that means “ball” and “balloon”) and we thought this “big balloon” in the sky well represented the concept of travelling light that our music embodies, the freedom of flying on a balloon like the free form of our music that originates from improvisation. Hence “Le Gros Ballon”, a music balloon you can board and let carry you away.
C) Can you tell us about the band and a brief history?
It is summer 2008: at the end of a long adventure in an alt-rock band, we – Marco and Francesco – decide to do something new together and with no idea in our minds, we head straight to the studio. Here we set up many instruments and with no preconception we... simply press the “rec” button and start playing. After a few days of improvisations we decide we really enjoy what we've come up with and we turn it into a record. Le Gros Ballon is born :) . From then on, we played several concerts, and released more records: one acoustic EP, “La Nuit”, which features two songs with vocals, our recent album “Orange” and our brand new EP, “Hey”.
D) A question we often ask, do you think multi-dimensional cross-genre music is the future?
Yes. Actually, “multi-dimensional cross-genre” music is something that already belongs to the present. It's a natural evolution of music: now we are in this phase where different genres are mixing up and blending together, but probably after this “genre contamination” has reached its climax we'll see a new phase where music goes back to the pure genres.
E) Can we expect a tour?
We've been touring in Italy recently and are going to play some more concerts in the next months to showcase our new EP “Hey!”. Unfortunately the situation in Italy at the moment is not the most favourable, with fewer and fewer clubs willing to invest on live music, especially when it comes to independent projects. As for playing abroad, we have no plans at the moment, but in the future who knows...
F) It is hard to tell from the music but are any of it electronically arranged or just layers and layers of recording?
What you hear in our songs is the result of pure improvisation that we record and we later enrich with overdubbing. Basically everything is played by us, we don't use samples or ready-made loops. We also use very little electronic sounds, basically just a few synth notes every now and then. The thing is that we really love to play anything that naturally makes a sound, and we would rather play around with an unusual acoustic instrument or an object than looking for the right electronic sounds.
G) You play a lot of instruments. Your Facebook page says you play mosquitos and mafia threats. How do you do it?
Yes, we play anything that makes a sound! We love to experiment, trying out new instruments as well as objects from daily life... Apart from the indie-rock standard pieces like drums, guitar and bass – the instruments we've been playing for many years – we really like to get in touch with new instruments and play them instinctively trying to achieve the sound we are looking for. For example we have played a metal plate, a spray can, and mosquitoes. Well, for that sound we actually used a violin bow on an indian one-string instrument. It's just part of our totally free creative process, where even jokes and the most bizarre ideas might come true...
H) I can see that you produce songs for other films. Are you planning on releasing a Le Gros Ballon film?
You mean a film made by us? Or about us? :) We like movies and the connection between images and music. Besides many of our songs, being instrumental, have a good potential for becoming soundtracks, so some of our tracks have been featured in documentaries while others have been created for that purpose. Without giving up our live performances and our studio releases as a band, the “cinematic” path is something we enjoy and feel comfortable with, so we would surely like to go on with it in the future.
Thanks for your time!
Thank you Outtallectuals! Keep it up! Thanks everybody for reading and make sure to grab our new EP “Hey!” :)
You can alternatively find Le Gros Ballon at BandCamp, Twitter, MySpace, SoundCloud, Reverbnation, Itunes and Last.fm.