Obsession Céline Rudolph & Lionel Loueke

Céline Rudolph & Lionel Loueke

A singer playing the guitar. A guitarist who sings. An album on which these two exceptional characters show that in music, too, the whole can be bigger than the sum of its parts. Their common “obsession” opens up musical horizons, sounds like jazz and singer-songwriter-elegance, a trip from Cotonou via Rio to Memphis and Berlin. It is music that speaks of the passion that loves, after deep moments, for life, blues and pleasure. This duo, which at least sounds like a band, sometimes even as an orchestra, sings ten delightfully spontaneous favorite songs, sometimes English, sometimes French, sometimes the Fantastic Célinish or Lionelish. It is believed that the pieces have always been known after the first hearing, but only one interpretation (Caetano Veloso’s “O Leãozinho”), the rest comes from the feathers of the two possessed. A complex, diverse album, which at the same time is so homogeneous and subtle; “Obsession” takes the listener into possession.

“The duo cast is the biggest challenge,” says Céline Rudolph. “There are just as many risks and freedoms, which is exactly what I like about it.” Lionel Loueke nods and adds, “Céline is not only a great musician, she is a great person and that makes her music even stronger , This is a very unique project because there were no limits. The music we play is not easy. It is also a challenge to make tracks in odd meters easy, bring them into the flow.”

This album is the culmination of a musical liaison that began as spontaneously as it still seems. Five years ago, the two musicians met for the first time in Berlin – an echo jazz-winning singer who had successfully translated the chansons of Henri Salvador, the body and stomach guitarist of Herbie Hancock, with her own four albums at Blue Grade. “On the evening in Berlin, we talked not only about music, about food and life, but also CDs,” remembers Céline Rudolph. “A little later Lionel wrote me how enthusiastic about my music was. I spontaneously invited him to my studio session with drummer Jamire Williams in New York. There, in the Brooklyn Recording Studio, the duo-version of “Le Vent du Nord”, which can be heard on the album, was created. We were both so excited that we decided to record a whole album just for two. In 2015 we met at the A-Trane Studio in Berlin … “

She had written a few pieces, he added the hopeful story of the “widow of Mali”, together they developed the title. “At the very first meeting, I felt that we had traced very similar tracks despite different paths. Lionel from the French-speaking Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Paris, Jazz studies in Boston, California to New York. I from Berlin, German-French grew up with chanson, jazz, African and Brazilian music, jazz studies in Berlin, percussion in West Africa, band in Brazil. I listen to these tracks in our music: the gentle sound of our voices, the percussion in the voice, the fun of the rhythm, the playing and the discovery. We both love the acoustic guitar. When we play live, we share my classic guitar, which I received at 13 from my mother. “

“Obsession” is my madness and unreasonable love, which I feel for music, life and certain people”, says Lionel Loueke. The album is the starting shot for further “Obsessions” on the same label, founded by Céline Rudolph. “For me, “obsession” means unconditional being-connected with music, in love, in devotion,” she says. “The immersion and surrender, with all risk, in music as in life. The spite, the hope. In “Obsession” is also the word “session”, in which the improvised character sounds. The here and now, the whole. The wild moment, the adrenaline. “Therefore, there could be no better initial spark for Céline Rudolph’s own new record company from Berlin, as this album, in which all the qualities just mentioned can be found.

Track by Track

In „C’est un Love Song“ SHE is sitting full of longing in a bar. Yearningly, she hears the sound of a guitar, music which isn’t played in the bar. It’s her inner ear worm. Her longing sounds obsessive, it’s „un feeling accro, accro, accro“ – three times addicted, passionate. At the same time this triple call sounds like the street in Ghana when the trotro taxi shouts out loud the destination to the capital: „Accra, Accra, Accra“. She would travel to Dakar or to Zimbabwe, to see HIM, again.

„New Day“, with its many entangled lines which are entwined like a melodic jungle shaping harmonic movement, came to me, as so often, one morning in bed. The same with „Morning Blues“. In the morning music comes to me very naturally, I am in a flow. It starts with a small inspiration, with the beginning of an idea, later I develop the songs on the piano or on the guitar.

With Lionel’s „Veuve Malienne“, there is a completely new universe coming up. I feel the vastness, the calls in the desert. Lionel explains: „A Malian widow lost her husband in the war but still has hope for a better world where we can all live in peace.“

Shortly before the recording I wrote two pieces, the instrumental „Archaïc“, in which I experiment with different sound effects, and „Here Comes the Rain“. Sometimes it is easier to live the tides of life in music. With the rain the waters rise, I am losing ground until I let go, carried by the flow to finally become as wide as the open sea.

We included Caetano Veloso’s „O Leãozinho“ (Little Lion) which I arranged in a new way. In this song I accompany Lionel’s electric guitar solo on my acoustic guitar, another colour of our duo. Furthermore we share the faible for brazilian music.

„Fábula“ is tonally inspired by Dave Holland’s bass lines and rhythmically refined. After five bars of 4/4 and three eighth notes the bass line repeats and the beat turns upside down while the melody spins fabulous tales in an easy going way. Quite complex in the inner structure, but nevertheless light and easy as a childrens song from the outer perspective. Likewise in French chanson it starts in minor and ends in major.

That’s just as how I see „Le Vent du Nord“. Complex rhythmical structures, which are liased with the ease and lightheartedness of a child’s song. Lionel got fascinated by this 15/8 groove from the start. The „Northwind“ that usually passes North Africa, lets us take off to an inspiring flight with all swirls. We started without any arrangement and drifted together. Lionel improvises big parts of the harmonies. I wrote this composition many years ago and I think it sounds mature now and perfect in our duo combination.

Lionel sent an instrumental piece to me that he had recently recorded with his trio under the title „Forgiveness“. I liked it immediately and when I started singing it at home, I felt that it needed lyrics in french – which is the language that connects Lionel and me. So, I wrote the lyrics and Lionel was thrilled. The song leaves it open whom the obsessive dream is dedicated to. „Rêve Obsession“ circles around the question „whether you love me and, most of all: when?“ – „si tu m’aimes et surtout: quand?“

C’est un Love Song Céline Rudolph 4:32
New Day Céline Rudolph 5:30
Veuve Malienne Lionel Loueke 6:56
Archaïc Céline Rudolph 5:02
Here Come the Rain Céline Rudolph 5:33
O Leãozinho Caetano Veloso 3:55
Morning Blues Céline Rudolph 5:23
Le Vent du Nord Céline Rudolph 3:51
Fábula Céline Rudolph 3:32
Rêve Obsession Lionel Loueke / Céline Rudolph 3:44

Céline Rudolph・voice, acoustic guitar, glockenspiel, kalimba
Lionel Loueke・acoustic & electric quitar, voice

Produced by Céline Rudolph & Lionel Loueke
Recorded, mixed and mastered at A-Trane Studio Berlin 2015 by Jörg Surrey
« Le Vent Du Nord » recorded at Brooklyn Recordings New York 2013 by Andy Taub
Additional edits by Céline & Caruso
Photos by Joachim Gern, including the cover, at Hotel Savoy Berlin 2016
Photos at A-Trane Studio Berlin 2015 by Ulla C. Binder.
Graphic design by 100pfund (Jörg Hundertpfund)
Released 2017 by obsessions