Producer Remy LBO digs deep and pulls 10 gems
Exceptionalism, the fourth full release from composer and producer Remy LBO, marks both a summation and transition of artistic objectives. It’s a glassy, funky work of permuting textures, one through which the delicacy of craftsmanship is realized.
by Elizabeth Bryant
Exceptionalism, the fourth full release from composer and producer Remy LBO, marks both a summation and transition of artistic objectives. It’s a glassy, funky work of permuting textures, one through which the delicacy of craftsmanship is realized. “It’s way too easy to be musically aggressive and rely on tons of distortions and reverb and compression,” says LBO of the project. “It’s also too easy to be ‘experimental’ or abstract. I specifically wanted something that was quiet, funky, ever-evolving, but also clear with my intentions.”
Though LBO began the album with the ambition of relying on “live” instruments as his dominant tools, the process compelled him to reevaluate. “The more you spend time with a song,” says LBO, “the more the imperfections start to stick out. For instance, I play a fretless bass, so every moment where I played a little sharp or flat would begin to stick out like a sore thumb.” As a result, LBO found his strategy evolved to favor immaculateness, an ideality suggested by the album’s title. “By the end, I had replaced most of the drums, rewritten large sections of songs, and began to use a large amount of synthesizers, just because my technical limitations in playing instruments, as well as recording, were getting in the way.”
An incipient interest in orchestration and film scoring brought the virtues of continuity and accountability to the fore. “The most important thing of orchestration that I brought into this project is the concept of supporting your ideas.” On Exceptionalism, LBO demonstrates a sense of responsibility toward that which he creates. Over the course of the album, motifs are conceived and nurtured into maturity, with a constant eye to their purpose and fit. “With Exceptionalism,” says LBO, “in the back of my head, I was always thinking, ‘What’s the most important part of the song at this point? And how do I bring it out and make that part clearer.’”
LBO’s regard for theme is decisively cinematic, and it is this very consciousness that shepherds the listener on through to the conclusion of Exceptionalism. “I think motifs are the thread for a listener,” says LBO. “Anyone can create little melodies and make a song putting them one after another, after another. But if you keep doing that, I think you lose the listener quickly. It all becomes a blur. If you make a small motif and then develop it, it becomes the character that the ear follows through the song.”
Weather Report Sweetnighter (Columbia) 1973
To me, this is the quintessential fusion album. It hits the perfect sweet spot right in between the free jazz and pop-jazz that bookended Weather Report’s career. A lot of people were trying to combine jazz and funk music in this period, and in my opinion, none of them hit the mark as perfectly as this one.
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