Who hasn’t at some point or another, decided to “play tourist” for a day or a weekend, in the place they call home? It’s a familiar enough idea to not sound odd in mention but beyond talk, actually going through with doing so seems at least mildly mockable. Perhaps this reaction comes from the idea that we as people have “better” places to go and things to experience than what is sitting within a constant arm’s reach. The idea of embracing the familiar seems shortsighted and like a disservice to time one could spend in more novel and exciting ways. Nevertheless, regardless of what any naysayers might propose, it can be just as fulfilling and to let oneself enjoy something that doesn’t require facing inherent difficulty or complexity of access to experience it.
This is the best way to describe Le Louphoque, the new EP from bassist and songwriter Josselin Prud’hom.
A double bassist, composer, singer, and guitarist, Prud’hom and his new EP, Le Louphoque, present themselves together like one lovable cliché. Prud’hom worked hard for several months last year on a crowdfunding campaign to make his project possible and with its abundance of support Prud’hom has released the record digitally, along with one most unconventional form of merch/musical recording: a miniature winding music box. That alone goes to show that this project was made with thoughtful, nuanced passion far past the usual pressing of CDs or even vinyl. And while it can be said that the music of Le Louphoque offers an easygoing, delightfully elegant, experience, don’t mistake this assessment for a declaration of compositional complacency, much the same way a natural wonder is no less impressive to see, even if it’s located a 10 minute drive from one’s home.
A musician from Paris, France, Prud’hom’s musical creation couldn’t pair more perfectly with the kind of easily retrieved thoughts that come to mind when imagining the famous French metropolis – and no, that’s not solely because the songs are sung in French. Everything about Le Louphoque gives off a sense of lightness, friendliness, and a downright charming disposition. Conceptually, the record is named for an imaginary animal conceived by Prud’hom (pictured on the EP’s cover art), and the record is the first volume in what will be a series of releases based around imaginary creatures – hence the subtitle, bestiaire Vol. 1. Sonically, the melodies of the EP’s five tracks, each named for a different fanciful beast, are sunshine scripted in song form. From the opening bars of “Le Homard bleu” (The Blue lobster), Prud’hom treats listeners to a bright but relaxed motif played by horns and subtly supported by gentle rhythm-based strums of his acoustic classical guitar. The tempo moves at a modest jaunt, the perfect pace for an lively but comfortable stroll in the park or along a bustling boulevard – both places where the music of Le Louphoque seems destined to be heard.
Of course, that’s a pretty specific scenario to envision based purely off the record’s tempo or its tonality. But Prud’hom’s designated passion doesn’t end with imaginary ideas or a pleasant tempo marking. Revealing himself to be somewhat of an old-fashioned soul, Prud’hom has a penchant for composing in the style of midcentury jazz / swing and his choice of instrumentation and production style throughout Le Louphoque add yet another layer of warmth and nostalgia to the record. The horns that recur across the EP for example, deliver an assortment of tones – from narrow, piercing, and straight, to the harmonizing support of cup muted trumpet rounding and smoothing out the brass foundations.
This softened tonal profile then gets paired with Prud’hom’s guitar and bass parts over the EP, which both present with similarly rounded sound qualities. The bass-driven introduction of “Le Valche” gives a clear demonstration of the latter’s tonal contribution, in addition to the showcasing an accompanying string part that is bowed to attain a fluid and smooth sound – neither too much pressure for a harsh edge nor too softly to lose the bright clarity of the notes themselves. Collectively all of these qualities keep bringing up the idea of music that is focused and energized without forcing a complicated experience. Prud’hom’s vocals then top off that mentality, with his voice being left largely untouched by production – to the point of seeming almost detached from the rest of the arrangement and sounding quaintly plain in the best way possible. This again evokes the thought of something so natural but undeniably pleasant.
Picturing Prud’hom with his guitar on a street corner or, sitting on a bench by the River Seine is almost inevitable, as given the way his voice is presented on the record, he could very easily deliver a nearly identical performance live and his affectionate musicality would endure. Add to this list of qualities Prud’hom’s specific mannerism of singing and enunciating, and who wouldn’t find themselves imagining a sunny Saturday in Paris, perhaps (aptly) paying a visiting to the zoo? Even the slightly more melodically somber “Les Souris du métro,” (The mice of the metro), with its added bass clarinet and trudging brush strokes on the drums, exudes a sense of elegance. All of the notes, regardless of which instrumental part, seem to just glide from one to the next, never totally losing their connection, maintaining their sonic poise.
The flute-supported melody of closing song, “Les Oiseaux de supermarché” (Supermarket birds) does a nice round of aural personification, à la Saint-Saëns’ “Carnival of the Animals” and finishes the EP in the gentlest of fashions, not quite hitting the note needed for complete resolution. Instead, each ever-slowing pluck of the guitar and decreasing number of fluttered notes from the flutes, creates a sensation of tapering off – much the same way a wind-up music box will eventually run out of turns and the notes will come to an end, even if the melody itself hasn’t. The resulting finish gives a touch of incompleteness but like a music box, the ending doesn’t come harshly. And in light of Prud’hom’s intent to make more records for his bestiary, a small reminder that this isn’t the end feels just right for this record.
Le Loupehoque is the kind of record that doesn’t require heavy examination. There’s no denying the thought and effort that went into each of these pieces, as humble as they are but for the listener taking in the finished project, listening to Le Louphoque is much like trying to understand its own namesake: It’s not meant to be overthought. Simply take it in, be intrigued and delighted, and indulge the imagination and wherever it leads while you look and-or listen.
Le Louphoque is available now.
Get it from Bandcamp.