Underground Sounds: Guilhem Desq – Visions

Label: Self Released
Artist: Guilhem Desq
Origin: France

The Hendrix of Hurdy-Gurdy

I never thought I’d read the phrase ‘The Hendrix of the hurdy-gurdy’ anywhere, but there it is. It applies to none other than Guilhem Desq. Breathing life into an instrument that makes people tilt their head in appreciation for its rustic image is no small feat, but the Frenchman has succeeded in it.

He completes that with the fantastic album ‘Visions’, where you truly enjoy this instrument in a profoundly new and imaginative way yet always harking back to its roots. From traditional folk tunes to oriental swooping songs, the instrument evokes many vistas of a world we left behind. A set of visions of you like, of this majestic past, we’ve come to cherish so dearly in this time and age.

Opening tune ‘Le château magique’ is airy, almost a trip-hop-like with its’ pleasant beat and playful tunes, which just flutter about. Nothing feels forced about this song, except perhaps that gently prodding rhythm. It’s the title track that brings up the eastern promises instantly, with tense drumming and intensity in the push of the instrument, which whines and cries as it edges you on. Luckily it relents and ‘La libellule et le baobab’ offers an oasis of rest. It’s calm and mellow tones are here and there disrupted by the shrill sounds of the hurdy-gurdy. Mostly the two sounds of sound join together effortlessly to create harmonious, pleasant music. As if you’re sitting in the sun, eyes shut.

We travel the desert on ‘Sand Sailor’, with more ethnic elements and the clear rhythm of a camel ride. We go on journeys through lush green forests, with the organic sounds of the hurdy-gurdy. Sometimes joyfully singing, otherwise making frantic brief bursts of sound that shock you out of our routine. Guilhem Desq plays warm and full of light at times, like the pleasant memory evoking ‘Jusqu’en haut de la montagne’. Here you imagine a far view, that bird’s perspective moment with the soaring tones swelling and rising over a base of pulsating droning nature. We close the album with the melancholic, yet eclectic, ‘Le château abandonné’. A beautiful tone, that brings together the best of the record.

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