While there have been forms of electronic instruments and a wish to explore the world of electronic music in the French composer Dominique Charpentier’s past works, there has never been a full commitment from the artist to composing electronic music. This has now been amended, with Tipi, Charpentier’s latest self-release. While one could expect a shy venture into unknown territories from a musician that has traditionally followed successful formats with piano solo, the album proves quite the opposite and is very much a total immersion — through no less than ten pieces — into the electronic world, and very little of the common musical traits of the composer remains; enough for the listener to recognise Charpentier’s personality, but quite a surprise. Adding to this element, the surreal artwork — almost Hypgnosis-like — from Laurent Pistiaux and OSSOBÜKO; indeed while Tipi is coherent with most of the composer’s past releases, it features a disturbing element which reflects the musical intentions of Charpentier for this project.
Tipi starts with “Alpha” — and from this introduction one immediate conclusion can be reached; it is different. It is electronic, paced, rhythmical — and makes use of the drum machine —, almost aggressive. Alpha, the first letter of the Greek alphabet, announces the beginning of something new. Charpentier is always very keen on placing melodic content at the forefront, and with the following piece, “Momentum”, the electronic quality is a lot more discreet; it accompanies the acoustic piano more than anything else. “Music for Babies” surprises once more and brings us back to the 1980s New Wave; progressively the structures of the pieces start to lose their definition too. “Autism Rework” features Jan-Dirk Platek and dives further more into electronic explorations; it is now the influence of Krautrock which stands out the most, and while this album is not the comfort zone of Charpentier, it starts to slowly precise its intentions and successes; opening new doors for the artist through the exploration of synth-based music. Following, “Interlude pour Prophet 6 et Kit 808” keeps the chronology of electronic music, and it is now the French 1980-90s electronic wave which starts to show its influence through “La Déroute”. Featuring Karl Thesing, it is a work that is a lot more modern in its production; a mix between retro-synth and contemporary electronic/classical music. In my opinion, one of the best crafted pieces of Tipi. “Poussin Bleu” pushes Charpentier’s explorations to the most: it is a lot more deconstructed, experimental, and perhaps less straight-forward when it comes to its musicality, but is contrasted by “Lagune” which is a lot more mellow; an attempt to soften the composer’s intentions. Concluding the album, “Trébuchet” and “Ardent” are an opportunity for Charpentier to confirm his change, to confirm his wish for exploration, but to remind his listener of who he is.
Over the last couple of years, Dominique Charpentier has established a solid reputation for himself in the contemporary classical world; his musical signature is expression, melody and simplicity – through his many releases, he has created an elegant blend of emotion and lightness, and has succeeded in reaching to his listeners’ soul and attention. But Charpentier is not a composer that satisfies himself with any sort of commercial success, and every once in a while he decides to jump out of his comfort zone and attempt novelty. Tipi is the result of his curiosity for the world of electronic instruments. While there are inevitable traits of the composer’s musical personality, this latest project surprises by its abstraction and lack of familiar formulas — there are very few moments when one recognises Charpentier. But it is because of this audacity, that Tipi is a successful new release for the French composer.