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'Fragments' is a collection of Erik Satie's notoriously willful keyboard music re-envisioned by electronic artists / CD Hotlist

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Fragments project pays homage to Satie with collection of reworks by  some of today’s most original creative talents. The album begins by focusing on the music of eccentric French genius Erik Satie, forefather of modern minimalism and an enduring influence almost a century after his death. The Satie series kicks off in style with a rework by Berlin-based duo TWO LANES, known for music rich in both acoustic and electronic elements. Based on the same work from the composer’s Pièces froides (“Cold Pieces”), their “Danses de travers No. 2” launches the series on 27 August.

“When we set out to find artists to work on Satie’s music, the idea was met with unanimous enthusiasm,” says Marc Fritsch, Director Special Projects at Deutsche Grammophon. “This has led to an original and eclectic collection of remixes and reworks. Fragments moves between different creative worlds – classical and electronic, online and offline, old and new. It brings together different artforms and gives musicians the opportunity to engage with timeless traditions of making music in ways that are sure to be surprising, stimulating and satisfying, just as Satie’s compositions were when they were new.”

Fragments celebrates the innovation of the contemporary electronic music scene and the openness of its artists to create collaborations with other artforms. The first volume in the series, scheduled for release in May 2022, reflects the breadth of Satie’s avant-garde artistic universe, which spanned everything from regular work as a cabaret pianist and commissions as a popular songwriter to creating atmospheric miniatures such as the Pièces froides, collaborating with Picasso, Cocteau and Diaghilev on the ballet Parade and writing one of the earliest film scores, for René Clair’s surrealist Entr’acte.

The latest figure to be invited to add his voice to Fragments is German DJ, composer and conceptual artist Christian Löffler, known for combining techno, ambient and acoustic elements to create electronic music with a warm, nostalgic feel. Löffler has previously reworked music by Bach, Beethoven and others using material unearthed in DG’s shellac archives for his 2021 album Parallels, making him an obvious candidate for the label’s new series. He decided to reinterpret the gently flowing “Berceuse”, the second of the composer’s three Enfantillages pittoresques of 1913. 

“As an admirer of Satie’s music, it was a tremendous?honour?and joy to interpret a piece by him,” says Löffler, who goes on to explain the creative process involved. “The?‘Berceuse’?is?all the more?touching because of its simplicity, clarity and force. For my rework, I recorded myself playing the passages several times over on the piano. I then took the best passages from these various taped versions and layered them, processing them with a tape echo device and?a number of?different effects such as delay or reverb. In the second part, I also underlaid the original basic melody with an expanded harmony I’d discovered while improvising. I wanted to create a dramatic arc and a break from the first part of my rework.”

As with previous releases in the series, motion designer and illustrator Karim Dabbèche has created an astonishing animated music video to accompany Löffler’s track. His stylised figure of Satie bookends a monochrome film of endlessly shifting geometric shapes and images of a dark, starlit, infinite space, all moving to Löffler’s beat. 

Tracks by five more internationally renowned electronic artists will come out in the lead-up to the release of the full album. German producer-composers Henrik Schwarz, Dominik Eulberg and Pantha du Prince have all taken inspiration from the Gymnopédies. Schwarz’s gently syncopated, jazzy take on No. 3 (out 18 February) contrasts with the techno beat, bells and xylophone of Pantha du Prince’s rework of the same piece (out 1 April). Having picked No. 1 for reinterpretation (out 11 March), Eulberg has created an extended track of stunning variety around Satie’s simple melodic line. 

Moving from the Gymnopédies to the Gnossiennes – the series is completed by two very different takes on Gnossienne No. 1. The rework by Swiss-German duo Grandbrothers (out 22 April) is full of drama from the start, their distinctive piano sound interwoven with powerful effects, while French producer Kid Francescoli’s version (out on 13 May, alongside the album) builds from a swirling start to take on an anthemic feel.   

Fragments celebrates the innovation of today’s electronic music scene and the openness of its artists to create collaborations with other artforms. Fragments – Erik Satie reflects the breadth of the avant-garde French composer’s artistic universe, which spanned everything from regular work as a cabaret pianist and commissions as a popular songwriter to creating atmospheric miniatures such as the Pièces froides, collaborating with Picasso, Cocteau and Diaghilev on the ballet Parade and writing one of the earliest film scores, for René Clair’s surrealist Entr’acte.


CD Hotlist writes….Fragments is a collection of reinterpretations of Satie’s notoriously willful keyboard music as reenvisioned by electronic artists like Kid Francescoli, Christian Löffler, and Pantha du Prince. Unsurprisingly, these visions tend strongly towards either wispy ambience or house and techno; perhaps more surprisingly, they work quite well. There are no jacking beats here, but plenty of gentle four-on-the-floor thuds underlying tastefully dubby mixes of various extracts of the Gymnopédies, Gnossiennes, and other piano works. This collection is both an enjoyable listen and a salutary reminder of how odd and forward-thinking Satie’s music was for his time.