Puce Moment – We let the sounds drive us

Puce Moment Anxious Magazine interview

Puce Moment, duo from Lille are Pénélope Michel and Nico Devos. They play since 2005 and have released several albums. This year, two albums were released, “Epic Ellipses” and “Ex Situ”. Puce Moment’s music is a combination of cold post-techno sounds, “urban”, dark dub, post-industrial music, nostalgic, ambient textures and vocals somewhere far away. However, the most characteristic thing in the work of the duo is trance. A trance that sometimes takes on an almost ecstatic dimension.

Michał Majcher

Michał Majcher: Tell us about the beginnings of Puce Moment?

Puce Momentt: We started to play together with Penelope in different bands before Puce Moment. Our first band in which we played together (with 2 other bandmates) was called Czapski, our live show used to be some kind of happening performance, each gig was different. We played with this band some kind of low-fi experimental. Then we played with other bandmates in a band called Lapin Lutherking, and it sounded more like some kind of pop math rock. We decided then to have our own band together and we called it Cercueil (coffin in French). This band was at the beginning a mix of electronic dark folk and ambient pop. The songs were in a way going very far away from one to an other, so we decided to split the band in two parts. One of them was still called Cercueil (electronic pop) and the other one was called Cercueil on the beach (more experimental). As it was confusing some people we decided to change the name to Puce Moment.

M.M.: Puce Moment is the title of a movie of Kenneth Anger. Did you take it from the one?

P.M.: Yes Puce Moment came from Kenneth Anger’s movie. We discovered all the fantastic experimental movies of Kenneth Anger, sometime in the beginning of the 2000’s. We liked the way it could song as a reference and also as it sounds in French. Puce in French is a little bug, so it can sounds like a little instant.

Puce Moment Anxious Magazine interview
fot.: Stephane Mafettes

M.M.: Nickolas, you have trained Le Fresnoy – Studio national des arts contemporains. Pénélope is a classically trained cellist, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist. How do you think is your education have an impact on what you are currently creating?

P.M.: Le Fresnoy offers a post-diplom, which comes at the end of a journey when the student’s artistic approach is already well developed. It is an international school that allows student artists to complete two projects over the course of two years, with technical support and production assistance. In our case, formal education can provide a framework, but it is our way of interacting with and breaking out of that framework that defines who we are through our choices. Our working process relies heavily on experimentation. With Puce Moment, we enjoy creating situations of encounters that serve as new experiences where we are led to re-appropriate or divert traditional instruments or genres (such as pipe organs, barrel organs, koto, gagaku, operatic singing…).

M.M.: When you started, did you already have a plan of what your music should sound like? Did it rather come naturally, perhaps by improvisation?

P.M.: We never think about what the music should sound like. We experiment on sounds and often it’s the original sounds that will lead the whole songs. Sometimes we make a groundwork before playing, like when we make the music for a piece of dance performance. We talk with the choreographer about the purpose of the performance and we build the music around the different concepts with our own interpretations.

M.M.: What inspired you then?

P.M.: Before to start Puce Moment, our early connexion with «experimental or contemporary music» were with bands like Sonic youth or Bastärd in France. We were also very big fan of Skin Graft Label, and used to love bands like Men’s recovery project, You Fantastic… We were also organizing gigs in our living room when we lived in Dunkirk and we had band like Arab on Radar, The Oxes, Guapo… Then we organized a festival called Mon Inouïe Symphonie for almost 10 years and had bands like Pan sonic, Animal Collective, Fred Frith, Lydia Lunch, The Ex… We also had the chance to play with Black Dice, Liars, the young gods, Yellow Swans… So thru the years, I would say all of these inspired us in a way or an other and in some way all of this is still present in what we do now.

M.M.: In May this year you released your, another album “Ex situ”. For me it is like a continuation of the previous one “Epic Ellipses”, except that we can listen even more decisive, almost ecstatic trance.

P.M.: “Epic ellipses” and “Ex situ”, are different in my opinion. I found Epic ellipses more aerial and mechanical, perhaps also climatic. Ex situ, is on the ground and more connected to the earth and some kind of esoterical nature. Also there is a long period of time between these two records. “Epic ellipses” was ready about two years ago, but it took a very long time as lots of stuff were already scheduled with Sub Rosa. We were working on different projects at the time we worked on both record, so it influences also the directions we choosed to follow.

M.M.: If we are talking about trance. Puce Moment definitely associate me with this. For me, it’s like something inscribed in your works. What means trance for you?

P.M.: Puce Moment’s upcoming projects, whether in recorded form or live performances (“Sans Soleil” and “O.R.G.II”), indeed share a common thread of having some level of connection to sacred music. Generally speaking, we are fascinated by the summoning power of music, be it through images, emotions, or different forms of energy. However, our approach is very pragmatic. Our writing process requires experiencing duration so that the alchemy of sounds can take effect. So in some way, it becomes Transe, even if it was not the purpose at the beginning.

M.M.: But let’s go back to “Ex situ”. Is there a concept or idea attached to this album? Here I mean the titles of songs, which are the names of specific cities or places.

P.M.: As I said, we were working on some projects at the time we wrote the songs. Two of the songs were originally made for a dance performance of the choreographer Vania Vaneau for her project Nebula. Nebula explores the relationship between human bodies and nature as a meeting of force fields in a post-apocalyptic context. It is a crossing into the unknown and a moment of eclipse that offers a glimpse at other possible worlds. Two other songs were created for an other dance performance called „En son lieu” created by the Choregrapher Christian Rizzo. „En son lieu” is about the question of location alone. It flows over the portion circumscribed in space to return to the properties of matter, sparks the quality of a gesture in immediate relation with the surrounding landscape. When we decided to rework the songs to make an album, we thought about giving them the name of ancient cities resonates with the original purpose they were made for. In a way these big cities only were here for a Puce Moment in the time of the earth.

Puce Moment Anxious Magazine interview
fot.: Alternative Teken

M.M.: In my opinion, the sound of Puce Moment is a combination of posttechno, kraut rock, postindustrial, electroacoustic music and “urban” dub. What inspires you now?

P.M.: Yes it could be all of these, and perhaps more. We let the sounds drive us but we often try to find or create new music. What is «new» is often a new combination of old stuff, mixed with a new approach of old gear or new gear used in an old way style. We have lots of things in our musical roots and they appears sometimes where we were not expecting them and try to take the lead on a song. I think we are more inspired by feelings and moods than by music when we start to make music. So it can be by what we are currently reading, a movie we just so or a conversation we just had. Then when this feelings is concretized with some sounds, then our musical background and future take the lead to create something.

M.M.: You have also composed many soundtracks for, among others, dance performances, fiction or documentary films.

P.M.: Yes, that’s a big part of our work and it takes a lot of our time. In a way, it’s really nice because each project make us try to do different things and also make us create music around a context and sometimes with new gear related to the project. For example, I borrowed a Hurdy Gurdy for a dance project with the choreographer Mylene Benoit. I liked it so much, my friends decided to offer me one for my 40th birthday, and you can hear it for example on the song „Antinoë” on „Ex situ”. We also create our own performance / dance / sound project sometimes with collaborators. For our project called Sans soleil (dance and music) we have been to Japan to record Gagaku’s (Japanese Imperial music) instruments to create the music with. For an other project, we created music to be played on a mechanical organ. It resulted on a performance with the mechanical organ and a record called O.R.G…. So yes we do music for dance performance, soundtrack etc… but it’s more a part of a whole in our lives.

Michał Majcher: You have also a other band, Cercueil. Can you tell us about the one ?

P.M.: Cercueil is our «pop» project, I our way of thinking about pop. The songs are shorter than in Puce Moment and there is more vocals also. We had 2 albums out in 2009 and 2011 and used to tour 10 years ago with that band. Unfortunately after that we were very busy with other projets so we only did an EP on 2013 and recently made a new one in November 2022 called Bad Posture. We are working on some new material and plan to tour again with Cercueil at the end of 2023.

Michał Majcher: What we can expect in a future from Puce Moment?

P.M.: We have a new record ready based on the music we created for our project Sans soleil I was talking about. So this record is composed of Electronic, vocals and Gagaku music. We hope someone will want to release this strange project sometimes this year or in 2024. We are currently working on an other new project following our project called O.R.G. because it’s also with organ. This time we work with church organ and modular synthesizer. We have an access to a big Organ in a church to practice and compose. This project will be ready for live show in spring 2024 and will also be recorded for a forthcoming record. We plan to play some Puce Moment live shows in autumn 2023, Live with dance on a new project of the Choreographer Christian Rizzo called „Je vais t’écrire” and Puce Moment only in early October (with the Young Gods in Lille on the 7th of October).

Review: Puce Moment – Epic Ellipses

Review: Puce Moment – Ex Situ