Thursday, January 2, 2014

Louise Brooks-inspired album, Lulu In Suspension

Back in 2008, the French artist Olivia Louvel released Lulu In Suspension, an album inspired by Louise Brooks and her book Lulu in Hollywood. Louvel's album was released as a digipak CD on Optical Sound Records and Fine Arts, run by the French artist Pierre Belouin.

Louvel's music is something unusual. Louvel is a producer and performer, crafting electronic songs for laptop and voice. Initially trained in classical singing, she began to work as a singer for the renowned flying trapeze circus "Les Arts Sauts," performing in the air the Meredith Monk composition, "Madwoman’s vision." She toured with the circus for 3 years. From 1996 to 1999, she attended the National Superior Conservatory of Dramatic Arts of Paris, and graduated in 1999. She released her debut album, Luna Parc Hotel, in 2006.

Just recently, I became aware of Lulu In Suspension (more info here) and reached out to Louvel and Belouin, asking each about their interst in Louise Brooks. Here is what they wrote.


Many years ago I came across Louise Brooks' autobiographical book Lulu in Hollywood, a collection
of her essays which I thoroughly enjoyed.

I composed some tracks, taking an inspiration from the imaginary landscape it created in my mind,
and also more directly from the Georg Wilhelm Pabst film Pandora's Box. At times I tried to embody Louise herself, at other times, perhaps, a modern Lulu from Berlin ("Club Tanzerin") wandering  through to Chicago ("Let's go to Chicago") via Hollywood;  the first cinematic orchestral track ("Lulu a Hollywood") works as an overture to the album and becomes a kind of transposition from the  cabaret to the digital era.

I was an actress for a while. As a student at the national conservatory of Dramatic Arts in Paris, I was also familiar with Louise and her non-dramatic, non-theatrical approach, how she would do very little in front of the camera in contrast to her fellow actors who were seemingly emphasizing their traits and possibly over-acting. Even though quite a few people during this era were critical of her dramatic style, she had the intuition that in front of the camera less was more.

She was ahead of her time, anticipating how acting would evolve as a much more psychological art.
Louise had this kind of effortless attitude, careless, and she was stunning!

Why I am drawn to Louise?

Because of her multiple layers. Her wildness, her impertinence, her sensuality, her effortless beauty, effortless being but also her chaos. She is an icon of femininity.

In Lulu In Suspension,  I am at times, Louise, Lulu or simply me.

Olivia Louvel


15 years ago I saw my first Louise Brooks movie, Loulou (Pandora Box) by Georg Wilhelm Pabst, it
was broadcast on French TV at Christmas. I was completely amazed by the modernity and graphic
style of her face and expressions in this 1929 silent movie, so intense that she literally illuminated the screen! I have seen several films with Louise Brooks but this one was a kind of revelation.

At the same time, I was also really interested in another beauty called Betty Page. Later I learnt that Louise Brooks was an icon for the feminists and lesbians as she is referenced in Maria Beatty
experimental films.

As I was running my label Optical Sound, the French/ UK artist, Olivia Louvel, contacted me and submitted an album project called Lulu In Suspension. For me it was the perfect link between the
roaring twenties and the beginning of this century. Also the title contains the word "suspension"  which reminds me of bondage practice. All the tracks Olivia produced are deeply melancholic and strong with an electronic cabaret feel, delivering a real and intense homage to Louise Brooks'
career and spirit.

Pierre Belouin

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