At the head of French orchestra Le Sacre du Tympan for twenty years, but seeing himself exclusively as a bassist, the gifted artist Fred Pallem talks humbly about this project as well as the mood of his latest album, L'Odyssée, released on October 5. He’s a complete artist, with an undeniable freshness and a contagious sense of humor.
From the orchestra’s jazz debut to the electronic passages of a tribute to the film music composer François de Roubaix, as well as covers of cartoon themes (Cartoons, 2017), funk music from the ’70s (Soul Cinéma!, 2017), and original compositions (L’Odyssée, 2018), his stylistic detours are continually broadening his audience, which itself tends to get younger.
With covers and compositions, the band Le Sacre du Tympan, like its “conductor”, is always hungry for more, creatively: “When you have a big orchestra like that, you have to bring it music all the time, you have to give it something to eat,” says Pallem.
Sounds of the Seventies
In his latest album of original compositions, L’Odyssée, released in the beginning of October, Pallem surprises us once again. Although he remains faithful to his love for descriptive film scores, this album, which sounds quite jazzy (“Astringent Mouse Trap”) and even Afrobeat-y (in the exotic track “Le Village du Sorcier”), is still a little darker than usual: “It’s not posturing; that’s the mood I was in.”
Three years in the making, this mature and thoughtful album was pieced together over time: “I let it rest, like you would let a cake rest.” This is reflected in ever more innovative, surprising, and sophisticated compositions: deep bass lines — deliberately omnipresent — seem to be in conflict with the high-pitched strings, pushing through the sharp synths and vibraphones. Our ears are constantly stimulated, never bored.
There’s Something About Cinema
One’s imagination is also stimulated by evocative compositions that always conjure up images — which is the point. Each track sets the scene for different stories whereby the listener alone is the scriptwriter: “I think it’s interesting to provide a starting line. Everyone can do what they want with it afterwards,” says Pallem. “For example, take ‘Echos’ by Pink Floyd: when I was a kid, I always imagined myself in deep water with a submarine, but for others it’s something else. I like the fact that everyone makes their own little movie. It’s good to have an experience listening to music that’s not just passive.”
Although there is a cinematic aspect to his work, his desire to compose “free of constraints” could make it harder for him to score film music, especially considering the stringent requirements imposed by cinema’s digital editing process. “I’m a composer who makes music that is meant to be heard,” he asserts. However, this does not prevent him from being open to meetings with directors or producers: “I’m an artist. I didn’t choose to be an artist; that’s the way I am. If you contact me, you have to give me a little bit of space. I like to attract the audience with interesting things, and then guide them to more difficult ones.” In the meantime, Fred Pallem is already following up L’Odyssée by working on another album of original music.
Fred Pallem is an old-fashioned musician, and he makes no secret of it. Yet the vinyl collector with a ’70s look is not opposed to recent music: “After L’Odyssée, there’s a remix album coming out, of all the songs from L’Odyssée, but with guys who make more electronic music. The album will be remixed by Yuksek or Forever Poppy — guys like that, who are used to sampling, which I’m not.”
Fred Pallem & le Sacre du Tympan, L’Odyssée (Le Train Fantôme)
11.09.18 – Les Gémeaux , Sceaux (92), France
11.25.18 – Jazz en Ouche (61), France
01.24.19 – La Gaîté Lyrique, Paris
04.30.19 – Théâtre de Bourg-en-Bresse (01), France