Rone Talks Musical Archaeology And Gives Us A Full Listen Of His New Album Tohu Bohu [Exclusive Album Stream]
Above: Rone’s video for “Parade”
Rare is the occasion when a musician veers into the realm of philosophy. In that somewhat dangerous territory, one risks noxious pretension, even if it’s only perceived. Clear away any prejudice, though, and a window into a musician’s mind takes shape—a lens through which to view the construction of an art form. In these moments the best thing to do is simply listen.
Rone has the boundless energy of an artist perpetually open to information and stimuli. A full range of experience seems vital to his art. He’s as comfortable talking philosophy as he is musical influences. In this way, he appropriates the approach of one of his major influences, Gilles Deleuze, who—along with Felix Guatarri in the book A Thousand Plateaus—attempted to represent human thought rhizomatically. That is, through non-linear nodes or various plateaus. Deleuze was into the idea that thought and understanding should not be limited but free-form and exuberantly cross-disciplinary.
“The main concept that seduced me with Deleuze is that the act of creation is vital,” says Rone. “The amusing thing is that I discovered Deleuze during my very theoretical cinema studies. We talked about cinema, but at the end of the day we absolutely didn’t do any. We didn’t create. All we did was think about it. We reacted to the films we were shown but didn’t film any. And all Deleuze’s concepts around creation gave me self-confidence and encouraged me to act.”
Initially Rone thought the inspiration to act, to create, would play out in the world of cinema with his own films. Music was to be the eventual outlet, but cinema’s residue is found throughout Rone’s second album Tohu Bohu. The songs, all instrumental, have a very natural cinematic narrative framework. The listener is supplied with musical atmosphere, from which the imagination can compose its very own films.
Stream Rone’s new album Tohu Bohu in full below.
“The important thing for me was to continue to create,” says Rone. “Some books are like answers to questions one asks oneself, and Deleuze came at the right moment of my life. I don’t know much about philosophy, but I am always extracting concrete elements for my practice.”
But it’s not as if Rone waxes philosophically when he writes and records.
“I don’t think of anything when I make music,” Rone notes. “When I make music, I sometimes feel like I’m some sort of archaeologist… I dig, I search, and sometimes I stumble across something interesting. It can take a long time before it happens, but when I grasp something, there’s this indescribable excitement that grows in me.”
Damasio’s work has had a very particular impact on Rone. “I met Alain in two phases,” says Rone when trying to describe the influence. “First via his books and then I was lucky enough to work with him on a film project. He became a friend. His book Zone du Dehors really smacked me in the face. I thought of it often while producing the album. I love anticipative science fiction that shines a light on all the small quirks of contemporary society, that enlarges them so that they become obvious and frightening.
“This literary genre can awaken consciousness, but the problem is that often it’s very dark, very pessimistic, and at the end of the day a bit discouraging. The strength of Damasio’s books is that, on the contrary, they make you want to stand up and fight and live. Likewise, I wanted the album to be neither completely dark (“everything’s lost”) nor too light (“everything’s fine”). I think that the truth lies between the two,” explains Rone.
“One day I reclaimed small audio tapes on which he would record himself, a sort of journal he kept while writing his second novel La Horde du Contrevent, cut off from society, isolated so as to be fully immersed in his writing,” says Rone. “It’s a fascinating document with moments of doubt, disappointment, tiredness but also of joy, like in the excerpt I chose to put down in ‘Bora,’ where he suddenly realizes what he is accomplishing, creating. He is then filled with an enormous power. Of course I am touched by this—it’s all the strength there is in the act of creating. I feel it sometimes too when I make music.”
Unofficial video for “Bora”
Like Alain, Rone values isolation during the act of creation. Cleansed from the mind’s palette are musical influences and audience expectation.
“When I am in studio, I try not to think about the others and what I am expected to do,” says Rone. “If I start making music while asking myself what people might think of it, it doesn’t work—a guaranteed deadlock. The paradox is that of course I make music in the hope of being loved, or at least to express something. But the more we hug ourselves tight, the more we risk meeting brotherly souls.”
And so Rone isolates himself, drives everybody away when in the recording process. On stage, it’s a completely different story. “The people are there with me and I have no intention to snub them,” says Rone. “All of a sudden it’s all about sharing something: the music, the energy, smiles, sweat even. The passage from the solitude in studio to the euphoria of a concert venue is an intense contrast but is also part of my equilibrium.”
Perhaps it’s presumptuous to invoke Werner Herzog’s concept of the “ecstatic truth” here when talking of Rone’s musical approach. With ecstatic truth, the German iconoclast—in his inimitable way—rebrands the ancient aesthetics concept of the sublime. Rone doesn’t cite Herzog but there is a clear, continuous line of thought between the two as to the ultimate point of a given artistic creation.
“I think that music gives us the opportunity to precisely express the inexpressible,” says Rone. Which is perhaps why a lot of lyrical music fails. A melody or arrangement may be ecstatic, but weak lyrical poetry or sub-par vocal melodies can erase the effort. Instrumental musicians like Rone live or die on their ability to conjure the ecstatic truth, the sublime.
Teaser video for Tohu Bohu
Rone had one such moment recently at a concert at Le Bain alongside Sufjan Stevens.
“Meeting [Sufjan] was completely surreal,” recalls Rone. “His music is sublime and he is a rather fascinating character. He has a certain bewitching magnetism. One feels that he is creatively limitless, very open and curious. That night he was concentrated on a small electronic machine, I cannot recall which one. And with it he was making the most sublime sounds! At the end of the gig, I found myself playing alone on stage. The venue had emptied out. But all of a sudden I heard his incredibly soft voice say over my shoulder, ‘It’s very beautiful, people are stupid for leaving!’ I was in heaven!”
As hinted at above, light and darkness are prime thematic concerns for Rone, but they’re also exterior conditions during recording. Earth’s atmosphere and its daily cycles of daylight and darkness work their natural wonders on Rone’s imagination and process.
“The energy is not the same at night as in the morning,” says Rone. “I made my first records during the night. And for a long time I felt I couldn’t compose at another time of the day. I lived like a vampire, I would get up at dusk and collapse at dawn. It’s a very distinctive energy, that of nighttime, darkness and silence. One thinks that the world is asleep and one is alone faced with oneself. I found that there were ideal conditions to create something. Then I later discovered I liked to work very early in the morning. I needed that discipline at the time, to get up at 7 AM to go to the studio. The advantage was that I would sit in front of my machines still half asleep and very interesting things would happen.”
And happen they did on Rone’s Toho Bohu, which is a beautiful musical artifact from an increasingly powerful musical archaeologist.