Like A Metaphor of Yourself

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A trip into the bright mind of Thomas Roussell and his last two albums...


This is how my interview with the musician and composer Thomas Roussell kicks off: We have to meet at the virtual table of Skype stretched between two cities— London for me, and Thomas’s studio in Paris, the starting point of all his works. Around 3 p.m. I message, then he messages; we both get very confused. The matter of confusion being, of course, time.

"So, it’s in how long? In one hour or one hour ago?" As we're both present, we decide we should do it and forget about any previous arrangement. "Very “prequel” this time thing," he says. "Yeah," I answer, "It’s true. Like a metaphor of yourself."

Thomas Roussell has been an active musician since the early 90’s. As no more than a teenager studying at The Conservatory, Thomas started sampling and distributing techno music demos, which is how he came to the life-changing meeting with Jeff Mills. The pair co-composed ‘Blue Potential’ and other tracks, and consequently kick-started Thomas’s brilliant career. He collaborated with other hotshot artists such as Loris Gréaud; created soundtracks for the big screen, fashion ads and fashion shows (Chanel in the Grand Palais in Paris in 2011; Dior in Guangzhou in China for Fall/Winter 2016/7, just to name two).

Merging the figure of the orchestra director and the electronic music artist, Thomas has been experimenting with the forms of tradition – quite literally. I had never seen an orchestra placed in a circle or in a long straight line, and it was awfully exciting. The companionship with other artists, fundamental for Thomas’s artistic development, was temporarily set aside but did not cease, when two years ago he composed the concept Prequell, primarily a solo music experience, a work that he felt much more personal.

"It was the time to understand who I was, musically speaking, to explore what I felt," he explains. This exploration seemed to have happened through an exactness of sounds. Indeed, Prequell and his recently launched album, The Future Comes Before, have a refreshing scientific quality to them— a shared ground where electronic music; the power of the orchestra and the flow of classical music; sounds taken from nature, from materials such as wood and metal, can work together through a hypnotic odyssey through time. When I ask Thomas why he feels the urge to combine electronic music with classical music he said, "because it is natural."


Both Prequell's first EP and the last album, The Future Comes Before, are divided in parts— the latter into fifteen parts and the first into five, like the fingers of the hand drawn by the illustration and design studio Violaine et Jeremy for the EP cover. When looking at the index of tracks, it is hard not to notice that track one is peering at us from the very bottom of the list – why number your tracks from the first one to the last one if the first one is, after all, the farthest in time? To complicate things even further, Thomas composed them following the backward order, so the last track is the first track that is the last track, and so forth to the point that we get lost. As if the aim of the research was to find the origin, not to move towards the future (and in some way, if you track the origin, a slice of the future is disclosed to you? seems so).


Clearly, Thomas Russell has a fascination for quant physics – he explains to me how particles move to different points in space at the same time and how this is how he sees events on the time string. The Future Comes Before is an exciting sequel, making it all the more jammed up by the title itself, which suggests that, truly, we do not understand a damn thing about time. Have a listen to track XV, featuring Rae Morris (available on Youtube), and check out the whole album on Spotify (https://open.spotify.com/album/4mOPduOxFdCL1W6HX03b6A). While we speak, there are just two days left before the launch of The Future Comes Before (13th October) and Thomas’ friends are flying into Paris for his live show at Quotidien, a popular French TV Show. Thomas sitting in his studio; myself, in a London café – it feels like a meeting before the launch of a space shuttle, the energy tangible even through the blurry images of our Skype call.


Written by Marina Dora Martino.

23/10/17

Image Credit: Thomas Russells' new album The Future Comes Before, created by photographers' Barrere and Simon.

james may