Almost all the texts about St Germain that have been written over the last three years begin with this question: where was he during all this time? It’s a reasonable question that has been asked on special forums everywhere in the world. A person who released music for a whole decade and sold millions of copies and received platinum certifications can’t just disappear. Only if he was very confident and understood that it was impossible to get any higher. There were rumours that he had finally retired on a distant island where he could wind surf as much as he wanted.
In reality, the reason for that was a two-and-half-year tour to support the second album Tourist, which included 300 concerts. When it was over, Ludovic didn’t listen to any music and didn’t talk to almost anyone for about a year. He only supervised the recording of a solo album by Pascal Ocsé, his trumpeter with Guinean origins. The proud caption St Germain Presents gave a reason for easily excitable people to think that it was the third album of the famous French musician.
But he didn’t even think about starting working on it. The turning point was a concert in China when the invited drummer Tony Allen started playing Rose Rouge in his own manner. Navarre liked new texture and colours — the jazz thing had a clear North-African flavour. “Exactly what I need!” So, his direction was found, but how could he move towards it? Navarre didn’t know the answer. He decided to put aside the idea of southern influence and work on his usual mixture of jazz and electronics. So, for two years they worked with the same team, but it all seemed boring compared to the fading idea of afro-deep. It was the good old way — the second part of Tourist. Navarre threw away a dozen of finished tracks and started all over.
“I try to do justice to each musician,” he says. “I don’t just take a bit of this, a bit of that, and then throw something out there. No! I cut, I rearrange everything structurally, and then I wake up the next day and start all over again. I’m never satisfied. It’s a constant pressure.” Just tapping the sequencer isn’t enough.
Music is a set of principles, and only the author decides which principles. The conceiving and recording of eight songs took seven years: two years to find musicians and five to work on the tracks. St Germain decided to realise his dream in Nigeria, the music of which he knew well. It didn’t work out. He went to Ghana, where the culture was unfamiliar to him and was astonished by what he heard, but couldn’t find the musicians he needed. Then, Ludovic left for Mali where he heard Tuareg blues. There, the idea of the album came together: it would be a combination of African and American blues. Navarre liked both of them. It was also easier to work with Malians because France has a dense Malian community. Ludovic started auditions. Together with the musicians, he was looking for the key to the new album.
Interviewers note that Ludovic’s third album fits very well now. Eight tracks, filled with rather random sounds than patterns, bring the listeners back to the old concept of the human touch — music from people to people. St Germain’s third album consists of deeply human music: warm and well-elaborated from start to finish. St. Germain goes beyond the dancefloor: he sings about love, confidence, tolerance and respect. In 2014, the audience was excited by Gregory Porter’s remix of Musical Genocide — the master is alive! He became one when he was 31 and released Tourist with his main hits and now he came back at the request of his former label Blue Note. Nothing seemed to be a coincidence: ‘Musical Genocide’ with a very clear leitmotif shared by Porter and Navarre set the stage for the third studio record by St Germain in a mask.
The urban artist Grego lived in Navarre’s neighbourhood and in the middle of the 2000s he attached St Germain’s plaster mask to the front of his door. This is how they started working together and created a plaster cast on a white background for the Real Blues single. For the front cover of the album, they put Malian sands of time on Navarre’s face.
Journalists love talking about the year of glorious come-backs, discoveries, failures and the albums of the decade. But this text is about something else — Navarre’s third album politely says that every example of profitable EDM that you can find in abundance in charts and radio broadcasts is a worthless piece of shit.