Pierre Bensusan

Press Release

By Alexander Varty

Bensusan Brings Aural Treats
"It’s no wonder I think about food whenever I hear Pierre Bensusan’s new CD, Altiplanos: the Algerian-born guitarist and singer is an accomplished chef, to the point of including his own recipes for pumpkin soup and herbed shad in his brilliant instruction manual, The Guitar Book. Then again, I think about a lot of things when I listen to Bensusan. Obviously, I think about his remarkable technique, and the way in which he can approach any given note a hundred different ways; I think about how beautiful his guitar sounds, and how effortlessly he navigates even the most technically demanding passages. But I also think of the way sunlight shines through a glass of Pinot Gris; of the brilliant blue and yellow fields of flax and mustard that line a certain dirt road outside of Drumheller, Alberta; and of lying in the tall grass of a Gulf Islands Park, watching shooting stars flare overhead on a warm August night. Bensusan’s music is infinitely evocative; he has the rare gift of being able to convey his own thoughts and memories in sound, while awakening the listener’s own. And, most of all, he has the ability to give those who hear him a great deal of pleasure.

Pleasure is underrated in contemporary music, written off as the terrain of radio pop or the kind of easy-listening pap marketed to people who really don’t care what they hear so long as it’s sweet. But music is capable of conveying much deeper joys: the joy of touch, of spiritual intoxication, and, yes, of fine cooking, which is also the joy of being sustained by the land and the sea. Bensusan, more than most musicians, is acutely conscious of those options—and, of course, of all the other pleasures life has to offer."

 "Some wines have a very short history; some don’t have a history at all,” he says by way of explanation, calling from a New York City tour stop. “You drink and that’s it; there’s nothing more than the immediate taste that you had in your mouth. Some others will require time or specific treatment in order to appreciate them, but they will have an after-story, which is going to be all the tremendous pleasures that we have when we drink wine.
"I think the same would apply for music. Some music has an immediate effect. It leaves nothing in you, but other music makes you think, makes you vibrate, makes you enter into resonance not only with what you hear, but also with your inner, with your deeper feelings. I don’t know what the music I play evokes in people, but what I can tell you is that when I play I feel that the audience is extremely receptive and attentive. Attentive at least, and sometimes completely captivated by the stories that I am evoking with the music."

Bensusan’s comments might seem pretentious if they weren’t delivered with such warmth and grace—and if they weren’t true. He is a hypnotic performer, as you can find out for yourself at the Capilano College Performing Arts Theatre on Friday (September 30). And perhaps the key to his art is that it starts with his own desire to please himself. He loves beauty, but he also loves a challenge, and the combination of those two desires has made for consistently interesting music."I think the music has to speak directly,” he says. “It has to be very, very straightforward. But at the same time it has to have layers of information that, if you want, you can go to and enjoy. At the same time, within a concert or within a record, I believe in contrast and balance, so that tunes do not conflict with each other. So that there should be relief, moments of vulnerability, moments where you are completely possessed by what you hear, and moments where you can let it go for a while and rest before coming back into those moments of intensity.”

Perhaps that’s why Altiplanos, which includes all those qualities, is such a satisfactory record.

“When I listen to it myself, I really try to remember my first perception of the music,” Bensusan says. “And I understand why I was doing it: it was for the pleasure of listening. I like to play, and I like to become a better musician and a better guitar player, but at the end of the day it’s just about feeling yourself listening to music—and that is bringing us back to your first statement, about pleasure. I think the pleasure has to be something that we—the player and the listener—both have to feel in common."

"Guitarist Pierre Bensusan creates a gentle mood on this, his tenth solo album. Applying fingerstyle technique to soft ballads and lyrical ramblings, he sets his original compositions on the table for casual contemplation. Each piece flows smoothly with emotion, as a treasured folk song would carry out its purpose on its listening audience.

Singing in French, he tosses off a timeless message that carries its meaning to all corners of the world. All nations have this one experience in common: singing about life in general and our cares in particular. Bensusan reminds us that life has promise. Singing about it puts our minds at ease.
Bensusan's guitar can persuade. His gospel interpretation of If Only You Knew carries deep feeling. Hymn 11 offers a gentle meditative remedy, while Sylva ("forest" in Latin) provides vivid impressions of a jungle, complete with electronic tampering and wordless vocals. With his brief jungle escapade, Bensusan immerses himself in a colorful scene that's painted with a variety of musical textures.
His heartfelt French vocals on La Nuit des Meteores and Demain des L'Aube carry a torch for sensual expression. Bensusan's smooth voice complements his delicate fingerstyle guitar presentation.
His scat singing and exotic guitar melodies take Falafel à Montsegur to Algeria, Bensusan's birthplace. Slapping the body of his hollow guitar for effect, he derives a wide range of expressive characteristics. It's the album's high point. Chant de Nuit returns to the session's formula of folk songs done up in a smooth jazz format. The artist leaves a lasting impression that runs smooth and gentle, while reminding us that this universal language reaches far and wide all over the world."

The Georgia Straight (Canada)

← Go back to previous page