The Inside Track with Chef Menteur Part 1: East Of The Sun & West Of The Moon

To cut a long story short, Chef Menteur are a band that denies genre boundaries. Their latest release, an epic 3 disc set comprises new album East Of The Sun & West Of The Moon along with its ‘brother’ North Of Tomorrow & South Of Yesterday and the remastered Force Majeure. Such a dense, sprawling journey through music (from ambient to funk to post rock)  would benefit from a map to aid the plucky traveller. So, track by track, Chef Menteur will take us by the hand and provide us with an exclusive guided tour…

East Of The Sun & West Of The Moon 

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These tracks were generally recorded in our studio with everyone switching instruments a lot, but more often than not Brian [Abbott] is on bass and Dan [Haugh] is on drums, and Alec [Vance] is on keyboards or guitar. Some songs are jams, but most were recorded one track at a time. Lots of overdubs and other instruments played, and sometimes it’s hard to remember exactly who played what or why.

1. Narconaut: The working title of this was “Interstellar Sandwich Artist”, and it has some backwards guitars and backwards haikus about pulp space heroes. This was also one of our best live tracks and we almost always played it first in the live set because the thunderous opening got everyone’s attention. The riff was something Alec got from a guy named Steve who was a roadie in Camper Van Beethoven. Our friend potpie played the second best sine wave solo in Rock History on this song.

Click to listen to ‘Narconaut’

2. Venus [Il obstrue ma vue de Venus] : Brian played the dirtiest part on this song on a cheap 335 copy that has since been disassembled for parts. This was probably the song we worked on the most because it had so many parts. The middle bridge, which sounds like a gypsy-folk string interlude, has our friend Court on mandolin but originally featured Brian doing a Van Halen type guitar solo. The ending part was difficult to nail because it has 2 alternating time signatures. 4/3/4 then 4/4/3 over the drums doing straight 4/4 doing triplets. Brian plays guitar and Alec plays bass on this song. Working title was “Crapamunga.”

3. Terpsichore: A shorter version of what’s on North of Tomorrow & South of Yesterday (see part 2), to fit on the LP.

4. Lozenge Club: this is a loop from a jam we did in practice, and the longer, actual jam (“Lozenge Jazz Club”) is on North of Tomorrow & South of Yesterday. Trying to sequence a double LP, this was the last track of side A — we used bits of longer recordings as interludes.

5. The Forest: This is essentially an electronic improv track: Dan looped the Moog Voyager through multiple looping pedals, and Alec made an 808 style drum kit in Reason and improvised along. We later added some overdubs including a guest bass from our friend Aubrey (who is now playing in Chef Menteur), and Brian added some free jazz horns. The sample is from a Smoky the Bear ad, that we stretched out slightly more each repetition. Check out the video Dan made of this song, he did it with old school home made liquids and trays like they did at psych shows in the 1960s and 70s instead of using digital effects. Working title was “Beards of Canada.”

Click to listen to ‘The Forest’

6. Oxen of the Sun: Dan had played this riff, solo, at a local thing called Noizefest on an electric banjo, for about 30 minutes, and his knuckles bled for the last half of it because that’s the kind of hardcore banjo player he is. The rest of the band called it “Danjo Bloody Danjo” after that. He refused to clean the blood off his banjo head. It later became a CM song, with the addition of other instruments and a vacuum cleaner intro. And of course it was the perfect song to inject a 2-minute Farfisa solo that starts out super-quiet and builds, then goes into noise-guitar over baroque bass, then resolves into a post-rock ballad. The main riff and the feedback throughout is the electric banjo going stereo through 2 amps but most people assume it’s a guitar.

7. Ganymede: Every CM album before this one had a ultra-long space opera drone on it named after a moon of Jupiter and this continues the tradition. It takes a specific and patient mindset to make this kind of music. It’s great stuff to zone out, go to sleep, meditate, write or read to…. because you can disregard it as background music if you need to, as Brian Eno said about ambient music, or you can pay attention to it and hear subtle, interesting things unfold.

8. Long Stand (Part II): shortened to fit on the LP, the whole track is on North of Tomorrow & South of Yesterday (part 2).

9. O.T.O. [Ordo Templi Orientis] : intro is Dan playing banjo through a wacky EH pedal and Alec playing lap steel. When the main song starts you hear a homemade tamboura that Dan made. Dan wrote the main riff on bass, and Brian added a guitar part, and Alec did a sitar solo before the song builds into a whirlwind of the song. The working title was “Crain” because Dan liked the bass tone’s similarity to John Cook’s from the band of that name.

Click to listen to ‘Ordo Templi Orientis’

10….Plateau: Based on a fingerpicking rhythm on guitar Alec came up with, the name comes from the translated name of a Mongolian folk song, that just seemed to fit, although the song builds and builds slowly. Brian plays lap steel, bass and other guitars, Dan plays banjo and drums, as usual. Other instruments include hammered dulcimer, mellotron, and more guitars… we always played this live in combination with the next track…

11. Lion: An open-tuned acoustic guitar loop Alec made and pitched down, that turned into a massive space rock jam, with Dan’s one-key Moog solo, then a pretty cool dirty solo that Brian did on guitar, leading into a Jethro Tull code that leads into…

12. King Richard: a comically medieval but beautiful Richard Thompson style outro that Brian played on a very badly intoned kid’s toy guitar. The perfect way to end a double album.

In Part 2 Chef Menteur will take us through North Of Tomorrow & South Of Yesterday and Force Majeure too… click here 

III is available to buy here… http://sunriseoceanbender.bigcartel.com/product/chef-menteur-iii

Or visit Chef Menteur’s Bandcamp page

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