Plapla Pinky: Mass as a DJ set

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Plapla Pinky are the French duo of Maxime Denuc and Raphaël Hénard, working between Paris, Brussels and Bucharest. They released their first self-titled EP in 2011 on the Japanese label Sonore. Their second EP Succession from 2014 interpreted five pieces of Baroque music. Their latest “Appel EP” was released on 1 June on their own newly-founded Choral Records, merging rave influences with organ music. They were nominated for SHAPE by RIAM Festival.

Can you talk about the project that you are doing at the Skanu Mežs festival? (5 September 2015)

Plapla Pinky (Maxime & Raphaël): It’s our last project, called “Raver Stay With Me”, an electronic / organ piece written to be played in a church. This work is focused on our fascination for the rave experience, as an immersive sonic situation. The starting point was to use the organ as a primitive source to make a techno record (our last Appel EP) and Maxime met Cindy before in Brussels. We discovered that organists have quite a similar approach to music like electronic musicians because they create sound with different tones of the organ. It’s not easy to transport the tone of the organ onto a record and share the full emotion of the place and the situation. So we had the idea to make it into a live piece in an immersive context, for the spectator and the audience to be surrounded by sound to have the same perception as we have as musicians in real time. In “Raver Stay With Me”, there’s no concept of a stage. We are really in the middle of a church, sharing the same perception as the audience. And this is a very important point for us.

Cindy, how was it for you to interpret rave music in this different context, because you as an organist come from a completely different background.

Cindy Castillo: The first step was when they called me to help them during recording their album. I just had to use my knowledge about the sound of the organ and provide my fingers and feet to play their score. Then we really started to play together. My music is more Johann Sebastian Bach, techno and rave are very new for me. But it’s interesting because in the organ world we deal with similar questions and we feel that the organ sound is really close to electronic music. We are missing the audience at organ concerts. There are not so many people coming to churches these days. We have to go out of the church to find new audiences, and with Plapla Pinky, it’s completely the opposite. They are going into the church and taking the audience with them. Organists sometimes work on really difficult pieces, in terms of technicality, and maybe they forget that simple things are really beautiful.

Do you also find parallels between your respective sounds: organ music and rave? In both, there’s this element of ecstasis, a very elated experience of sound.

PP (R): Of course, but not necessarily in the way that has been already super exploited – DJ as a priest. It’s more about the fact that you can have the feeling of being surrounded by sound, and the sound is bigger than you. What is interesting in both situations is the fact that you can have an abstraction of the source. When you are at a techno party and it’s good, at some point you forget about the source, the DJ is not the point. With an organ, it’s the same because most of the time, you don’t even see the organ during a mass. Acousmatics means hearing the music without seeing the source. The other point that interests us is of course to make emotional music for people and be conscious of that.

PP (M): For this project, in the beginning we were fascinated by the parallel between the morning party and the Sunday mass.  Our dream would be to play on Sunday morning at 10 or 11am, like a raver who wants to finish his or hers night in an emotional way and be lost in a deep harmonic experience. Maybe the people of Sunday morning masses can share the same situation. In any case, we see this piece as a morning piece.

Previously, you also recontextualised Baroque music.  Why do you search for out of (electronic music) context experiences like church or Baroque music?

PP (M): In Baroque, we find some common aspects with primitive techno. You have an idea and try to develop it until the end. In some works of Bach, there’s an infinite loop, a little motif that you develop over a full piece. In Romantic and classical music, you are in opposition with two ideas in a piece constantly battling each other.

Is it difficult to be “primitive” these days because there are so many options and possibilities?

PP (M): Yes. On this latest record, when we were recording in the studio, I remember a track, Camelove. It took us three weeks to add things on and off, and on the last day, we muted everything and only kept the organ and the kick.

PP (R): It’s really hard in electronic music not to link its aesthetic to a clear historical context. We would love to use electronic sounds in a super simple, pure and universal way that is not marked by the stamp of our time.

Why is this simplicity important to you? Is it because of the listener, or you want to be more direct?

PP (R): We love to be direct without distraction. I spent the last year just going out and dancing, almost not producing music. Through this simple way, I discovered a lot of things and situations that I can now use for my own composer work.

C: We play three pieces and for me as a classical musician it is interesting to see that an evening concert is possible with three motifs only. The perception about time is different. We are thinking about people being surrounded by sound and emotion.

Can you talk about Choral Records, your label?

PP (R): We’ve never had a serious label proposition except for the first record. Our music is not the most seductive if you listen to it too quickly. Choral Records was a way to put this out in good quality and for free. The release temporality can follow your desire temporality without delay. The next release is set for the end of September. It’s an emotional noise project called NL.

The emotional side is important for you.

PP (R):  Yes, and we can be touched, but not with everything: Bach, Beyonce, or Michel Berger. There is no irony in that, no hierarchy. Actually the limitations of people’s taste is generally what I find the most touching, there is a kind of fragility in it.

How did you get into electronic music?

PP (R): It was in the late nineties, we were in high school and started to make electronic music with an old computer and an MPC. That was the period of electronica, abstract hip hop and a lot of drum’n’bass. We discovered techno quite late and it changed our approach of musical temporality.

Has your approach changed over time?

PP (R): I admire those guys who stay in the same space for ten years, and it’s really clear what they are doing, but we are not like that.

What do you think your next stage will be?

PP (M): The next record will be the translation of “Raver Stay With Me”.  We also want to work on the concept of a mass as a DJ set. Why couldn’t we make a dance party without a kick with just with classical pieces? We have to find promoters who trust us. You can take more risks on the techno scene right now.

Do you like Olivier Messiaen, the French composer and professor of harmony, who was renowned for his church-related music work?

PP (R): We love Olivier Messiaen. Especially Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant Jésus & Quatuor pour la fin du temps.

C: This composer is famous for compositions that take time to explore the sound, and I think that’s one of the reasons why Maxime likes him. Messiaen was an organist at the Église de la Sainte-Trinité church in Paris, and he really tried to find the perfect sound with the organ. For instance, when you take an organ score by Johann Sebastian Bach, you have no indication about the pauses, the sound, or what he wanted from the organ. The composition is really linked with the sound like in electronic music.

Is it also influential for your music?

PP (M): I tried to use Messiaen’s scales to make music. The problem is, when you use it, it’s the sound of Messiaen.

C: Maybe how I would connect him to Plapla Pinky – and I don’t know if they are aware of that – is that at the end of his life Messiaen tried to find a language through musical writing to communicate with people and maybe that’s something similar to Plapla Pinky.

Plapla Pinky are playing at Toulouse Les Orgues, hosted by Les Siestes Électroniques on 10/10/2015 and at schiev festival in Brussels on 7/11/2015.