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Labelle - 'Univers-lle' [CD]




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The sophomore album from Labelle, featuring a dreamy collection of new studio recordings that span electronica, new age zither jams and hypnotic off-kilter percussion with occasional ambient and dance influences.

Labelle hails from Saint-Denis de la Réunion, His home is at the top of an apartment block in the centre of the island's capital. It's a belvedere overlooking the rich and extravagant cultural crossroads of Saint-Denis de la Reunion, a laboratory of Creolism and musical blending, where he composes his music on hi-tech machines, sketching out celestial electronic symphonies whilst cultivating a deep connection with the soil.

It was six years ago that Labelle left mainland France to settle on the island where his father was born. His new album bears the marks of that new rootedness. The song 'Babette', for example, is about one of his ancestors – a slave taken from Mauritius in the 18th century – whose traces Labelle rediscovered when he was working on his family tree. "The deeper I dig into the detail of my culture and my Réunion history, the more it opens me up to the rest of the world," he explains. "By focussing on the local, you always end up with the global." Resembling his adopted city, his work is nourished by a unique blend of African (balafon, kora), Indian (bell, percussion) and western (slide-guitar, sampler) instruments.

'Soul Introspection' welcomes the famous Indian guitarist Prakash Sontakke, whose slide guitar, at times, seems to transform itself into a sitar. On 'Grand Maitre', he performs a meticulous dissection of the Malian kora of Ballaké Sissoko, decanting the instrument note by note into his keyboard so that he can accompany the virtuoso with his own digitalised kora in a vertiginous game of mirrors. If the roots of electro, like those of maloya, go back to slavery and drumming, the two genres also share other aspects: dance, trance, and the instinct t go beyond any standardised framework.

"The first inhabitants of Reunion Island invented this music using percussion that came easily to hand. I like to think that if they'd had drum machines, they would have used them too. Everything is up for reinvention...permanently. To limit oneself to a particular set of instruments in order to play maloya would be to deep freeze a musical style that yearns to be endlessly alive; it would be a shame."
Track Listing