They have the sweetness of a kindergarten, of a Watteau sky, of a carnival candy … and of love, as Gaspard Sommer would say. Pastel colors are her palette. The backdrop for his new album that bears their name. Quilted shades, where a floating and sentimental pop is going to curl up, sung in French for the first time – as in video club, a single where technological nostalgia meets existential doubt. Grab his mother tongue: a way to confirm his voice for Gaspard Sommer, the one who has often carried others.
For if an eternally dark cap completes his urban thirty-something look, he has worn more than one in his (already long) career. Pianist, singer, songwriter, producer, Gaspard Sommer has collaborated with well-known names in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, where he has been ubiquitous for ten years: Danitsa, Mélissa Bon, Flèche Love or Label Colors Records, accompanied by a, produces it ‘ other’. Facilitator, he could have been discreet. This was without counting the Swiss Talent Spotlight competition at the Montreux Jazz or Label Suisse festival, which caught sight of this jack-of-all-trade and his subdued touch – as the interested person sums up, concentrated, in front of a cup of coffee: electronics and acoustics, powerful but tender.
Instinctively, we think when Gaspard Sommer tells of his beginnings … of the drums, the one hanging out in the basement of the family house where his jazzman’s father practices. That’s the revelation: Gaspard is 2 years old and the compulsive rhythm, hits “on tables and car seats”, as his grandmother likes to say. Percussion in the field of vision until the voice becomes involved, in adolescence. It’s time for Outkast, by silver microphone of IAM, then the drummer, who gets intimidated by singing, chooses rap. Pussing with his sounds with a keyboard, a microphone and a computer.
This is the beginning of a close career that connects styles and schools: jazz, inspired by the paternal discography, studied at the Conservatoire populaire and then at AMR, funk and soul, Haute Ecole de Musique de Lausanne before a master’s degree in production and composition in Basel , where Genevan dissects chords, harmony, blending. “A kind of cooking class for music!”
Hers, kitchen, is a watercolor that mixes intimate pop and sensual groove, vintage synths and futuristic patina. A polished universe that he has built since 2019 and the release of his first album, Ask questions – a nod to his mania, since childhood, with constantly questioning his world. An almost obsessed curiosity, which he brings to the studio, where he tirelessly colors his beats, handles autotune as an instrument. “For me, production is part of composition: how to make such an instrument sound, what effect or ‘reverb’ to use: I can spend hours fine-tuning everything.”
A loner of the perfectionist type – if he trades in English, he realizes he will never have a James Blake accent, “unless he lives ten years in California …”. But French imposes a difficult exposure. The first composed piece, a love song, seems to him “too kitsch”. This frightening prose, because frontal (“I had the impression that one could see deep inside me”), Gaspard Sommer ends up taming it, celebrating a masculine emotivity that the world all too often wants to displace.
Inspired by Francis Cabrel (the rhymes from video club follow them off Little Marie) or Henri Salvador, this ultramodern troubadour rejects the impulses of the heart, its melancholy, its fragility too. “Some time ago, I read a newspaper headline announcing the closure of the last video club in Geneva. It brought back a lot of memories when we went to rent a cassette with my mother and my brother, the “missions” side, candy … “The death of the film rental companies suddenly echoes the fear of obsolescence specific to the artist – from this parallel will be born his most addictive title (“I feel too far and so high too high / But when the pressure rises / I’m so low / Like a video club”).
Simple images that touch, or rather graze, the 15 pieces of the floating album “like little poems, parts of me form a whole”. Introspective to the point that the record should have been named DNA. Until the title is born pastel colors, a synthetic dream that reveals a chromatic harmony. For Gaspard Sommer is a bit of a sight to behold: Instead of the days of the week, it is the music he visualizes in technicolor mode. “As I worked on my pieces, I realized I saw almost all of them in soft shades.” pastel colors is light blue, Eternity yellow, video club purple, Crocodile light green. An emotional rainbow, which he will broadcast, accompanied by three musicians, on stage for the Festival Voix de fête on Friday. And why not beyond. “What drives me is to share my music and freeze it in time, like a work of art. Type to leave a trace. “Suspended between light and clouds.
Also read: In Geneva, Voix de fête turns on the sound again
Concert in Geneva, at Chat noir, Friday 18 March at 21.00. As part of Festival Voix de fête.
The “Pastel Colors” (Irascible)