Sages comme des sauvages is a French duet that implies much more than one country and two people: their debut album Largue la peau, is furrowed by journeys and returns, musing and borrowings. Their name is a pun, a word play. In French, the expression sages comme des images means to be seen and not heard, litteraly “tamed/wise as a picture”. By replacing the word images with savages, the duet implies that the wise ones might not be as tamed as they seem and certainly no silent postcards. Like any good pun, their name is hard to translate, but not more than Einstürzende Neubauten.
Before becoming a duet, Ava Carrère and Ismaël Colombani had followed diverse and dense sidestreets. French-American raised in Greece, Ava Carrère’s family history explains her speaking five languages and her porosity towards any kind of culture. She came to music after studying visual arts, during an art residency in Berlin. Autodidact and unable to write music, she doodled songs on Garage Band and turned them into performances, pretending to play cardboard bass, doublebass and guitar while singing her whacky chansons, inspired by her life in Berlin. But as she returned to France, where music scenes are more partitioned, her set appeared problematic: too unclassifiable, too many entangled languages… Stubborn, mundane and lucky, she managed to insert herself in the alternative chanson scene. She’s about to meet Ismaël.
A classically trained violonist, he has already been studying music for fifteen years, after dropping out of highschool to experiment many different types of music. He got to be trained in India by the great Subramaniam. He toured squats, composed music for dance pieces (Peeping Tom), collaborated in more or less unclassifiable bands… When he met Ava he was presenting a voice-violin solo.
Good idea: two solos are easy to tour together without much logistics. But, naturally, the solos became a duet. Songs from one or the other were thrown in the common pot, inspired by their whereabouts. Thus, when Ismaël went to work in Réunion Island with his dance collective Lookatmekid, Ava tagged along and discovered the creole masters Alain Péters and Danyèl Waro. The duet were so enthralled by the late Alain Péters’ music (who died in 1995) that they decided to cover all his songs. During their trips to the Reunion Island they have happily mingled with local musicians such as Danyel Waro. Their instrumentarium is linked to their lives. Ismaël brought back a bouzouki from Greece (where Ava grew up), and a cavaquinho from Brazil (where his mother lived for a while). Ava plays a rare Greek tambourine called defi, that she sets on her lap, inserting her knees inside de drum and hitting the metal jingles it with a Chinese chopstick. They each write their own songs, composing together, each following their natural slope, Ismaël favoring sophistication, Ava more inclined towards the unvarnished. They do rally around common political concerns, lending an attentive ear to the rebellion happening in the countries they grew up in (France, Greece).
Used to precarious and fluctuant work conditions, with this band they discovered that gigs could line up without any gaps. The French singer Batlik spotted them and offered to produce their album.
They gathered great musicians from surprisingly different backgrounds (Émilie Alenda, the bassoon player, works for the French Air Force Orchestra, Scott Taylor is a reference in Europe for contemporary accordion and composition, Christophe Hauser, the sound engineer who recorded the album, is a long time collaborator of Luc Ferrari’s (but also Michel Portal and French singer-songwriters Camille, Nosfell, Titi Robin…). The album was released in France in September 2015 and was very well received by the national radios. Since then the duet has been touring intensively across France, Switzerland, Belgium, spreading their unique songs, subtly cobbled together, intuitive and knowledgeable at the same time, woven in colorful moving figures, unexpected rythms and harmonies.