On ‘7 Tableaux Phoniques’, British improvisers usually associated with French label Nato offers a refreshing take on Erik Satie‘s music, free from the cliches usually associated with it. Their multi-faceted approach is indeed more exciting than truckloads of mellow piano music currently flooding the Satie market. The Tableaux Phoniques (Phonic Canvases) of the title allude to Satie’s 3rd Furniture Music composition, titled Phonic Tiles (Carrelage Phonique).
Alan Hacker contributes a succession of 3 tracks, each focusing on one aspect of Satie. The first is an Ancient Greek melody, famous for its inclusion on the influential 1978 ‘Musique de la Grèce Antique’ LP by Gregorio Paniagua’s Atrium Musicae de Madrid (see video below). It’s sublime melody is beautifully interpreted here by Hacker on solo flute. His second track is a joyous Cabaret number in homage to Satie’s tenure at Le Chat Noir and other Parisian cabarets. His third offering is a British gamelan orchestra, as Satie, like Debussy, was fascinated by the gamelan instruments and music exhibited at the 1889 Paris World Fair, the actual birth of Ambient Music, according to David Toop.
Steve Beresford‘s sparse piano improvisation is closer to Eno’s Discreet Music than Satie, but is a welcomed suggestion. Philip Wachsmann also contributes a solo track, on violin+electroacoustic tape. Other idiosyncratic tracks include Lol Coxhill jamming with a Japanese rock band and Dave Holland with a heart-breaking waltz. Generally speaking, in lieu of interpreting a famous Satie tune, participants to this compilation have chosen to revive the spirit of Satie: nobility, timelessness, playfulness, grace, musical joke, etc. Extraordinary disc, that reignited my interest for Satie.
7 Tableaux Phoniques:
01 Premier Hymne Delphique (2:36)
02 Music Hall (2:10)
03 Terra Violata Interlude (excerpt) (1:13)
04 Steve Beresford ‘Budapest Subway’ (6:57)
05 Robert Cornford ‘Welcome’ (4:45)
06 Moving Things From A To B (4:11)
07 Faltz Waltz (3:21)
08 Philip Wachsmann ‘For Mémoires Of An Amnesiac’ (5:30)
09 Tony Coe ‘Allair Mets’ (6:25)
10 Lol Coxhill ‘Faction De Satie’ (6:13)
Total time 43:15
LP released by Nato, France, 1993