Csaba Palotaï, Simon Drappier, Steve Argüelles Sunako

BMCCD316 2023

Palotaï 's new band debuts with a funk-trance-influenced album that seems to transpose the world of Khruangbin into the language of jazz, while at the same time sums up the jazz guitarist’s musical path so far.
This is the seventh episode of Csaba Palotaï's musical adventures released on BMC Records, and the third album that attests to the intense collaboration between Palotaï and Steve Argüelles. The Parisian-Hungarian guitarist's first group, Grupa Palotaï, founded more than 20 years ago, was a true jazz band, which also featured Thomas de Pourquery at an early point of his career (now the leader of Supersonic and Drôles de Dames). Palotaï then worked for a long time with the quintet, before immersing himself in other musical worlds, which also determined his return to jazz. He picked up the thread in the most puritanical and unusual way with a gem of BMC’s catalogue, the solo album Deserter (2016), followed by Antiquity (2019), featuring the most often played track in the label's history, the Bartók-influenced folk and chamber music detour Cabane Perchée (2021), and now Sunako (“The Child of Sand”), combining the colours of desert blues, funk-rock, dance-like passages and shimmering virtuosity.
Sunako’s evocation of desert blues and danceable songs is also characteristic of Khruangbin, but Palotaï’s band shares other similarities with the Texas-based psychedelic funk-rock trio: the line-up consists of two guitars and drums, with guitar solos playing a prominent role. On this album, the raw lyricism of Palotai's ever-renewing playing is matched by Steve Argüelles' almost minimalist tribal drumming and 180-degree vision. Argüelles further enriches the band's sound with a prepared omnichord synthesizer, a vocoder and his own lyrics.
Joining the experienced duo as a new member is Simon Drappier, who plays arpeggione and double bass in parallel universes, and can switch between these musical worlds with incredible ease.


Csaba Palotaï – guitar, sampler
Simon Drappier – baritone guitar
Steve Argüelles – drums, omnichord, voice

About the album

Compositions: Csaba Palotaï (1, 2, 5, 9); Simon Drappier (4, 6); Steve Argüelles (3); Csaba Palotaï & Steve
Argüelles (10); Csaba Palotaï, Simon Drappier & Steve Argüelles (7); Guillaume de Machaut, Csaba Palotaï,
Simon Drappier & Steve Argüelles (8)
Lyrics: Steve Argüelles (7, 10)

Recorded by Viktor Szabó at BMC Studio, Budapest on 29-31 May, 2022
Mixed and mastered by Steve Argüelles at Plushspace, Paris

Artwork: Anna Natter / Cinniature

Produced by László Gőz
Label manager: Tamás Bognár


Nicolas Dourlhès - CitizenJazz (fr)

Pierre Dulieu - JazzMania (be)

Patrick Španko - skJazz (sk)

Wolfgang Giese - Musik an Sich (de)

Olasz Sándor - Rockinform (hu)

Salvai Ádám - JazzMa (hu)

Végső Zoltán - Élet és Irodalom (hu)

3500 HUF 11 EUR

Csaba Palotaï, Simon Drappier, Steve Argüelles: Sunako

01 Ave de Clichy 4:17
02 Aïr 5:27
03 Buckboard 5:22
04 Arsenal 3:34
05 Phosphore II 3:25
06 Henriette 3:55
07 Dalva 3:56
08 Messe de Nostre Dame 7:09
09 The Trail 6:41
10 Ricerca 5:14
Total time 49:03

The album is available in digital form at our retail partners

Child of the Sands

Sunako is the heroine of the film 港の日本娘 (Japanese Girls at the Harbor) directed by 清水 宏 (Hiroshi Shimizu) released in 1933. This trio was originally conceived as a cinema concert to accompany the film. But Simon Drappier, Steve Argüelles, and Csaba Palotaï decided not to leave it at that, and they chose this name, Sunako, which means “child of the sands”. This is a way of noting, perhaps, that this first album does not just come from nowhere.
It is criss-crossed by its share of phantoms, landscapes, invitations to the dance, and electric fog – sometimes as incisive as a knife. And among all the folklores invited as friends, here we will particularly hear echoes of desert blues, in the sound of the g roup or in the greeting from a cousin of the Carpathians to musicians from Niger (Aïr).
To make it, they use two guitars, one a baritone, which blend together so well that it seems a vast guitar-harp sweeping across the octaves. The drum kit catalyzes the fusion, and everything is cooked over a wood fire. We could say, if we like, that Sunako is a group of guitar music (and which of us would cast the first stone?) but it is also, quite definitely, a dancing beast with three heads. And this is the beast whose metamorphoses we are going to follow.
This is the seventh opus by Csaba Palotaï released by BMC, and the third that tells of his companionship with Steve Argüelles, after Antiquity in 2019 and Cabane Perchée in 2021. Since his venture as a soloist (The Deserter, 2016), the Hungarian guitarist has never ceased to  reinvent himself, while still retaining his Transylvanian touch and his stony lyricism. Steve Argüelles packs a punch, tribal and minimalist like a theatre of finger puppets and his 180° vision. His self-indulgence too: a doit-yourself omnichord, a vocoder, a few poems. And a new arrival on this label: Simon Drappier, who in parallel universes plays the arpeggione and the double bass, and who flits from one universe to another with the ease of Steve McQueen jumping onto a horse in mid-gall op, tossing into the pot a fistful of Ars Nova (Messe de Nostre Dame), a fistful of Californian surfing (Arsenal), and a fistful of Laura Palmer’s hair (Henriette).
This album was recorded live in Budapest, without headphones, without a mixing console, giving plenty of space for improvisation. The lion’s share of space. With a drastic choice at the cut: only keep the suspended moments, the ones where things are in the process of appearing (as Steve Argüelles names them out loud in Dalva, to marvel at it calmly) – or let’s say, to avoid misunderstandings, the moments where music is already corporeal, even though our worthy musicians, hard at work as they are, might not have realized it yet. Because this is about abandon. Vigilance too, but a good dose of abandon.
And exchange: to start from a riff or an idea, a sensation, or a new rule of the game put forward by one or the other, or the other; the musicians plunge into trance (because often, the first pretext is dance) and allow themselves to be guided by the collective impulse. No solo, no ego trip, no shows of strength. A no-power trio. Together, they discover the landscapes, they roam through them, are surprised by them, allowing motifs to be superimposed and jostle together, and to construct other landscapes… which they welcome again without preconceptions. The music follows its own path, with detours, changes, secret passages, and unexpected vistas. Anything that arises out of this is wel come: a Gothic cathedral, a river, a hare, a beguine.
This development by the superimposing of motifs or layers, borrowed from repetitive music and electro, is noticeable in The Trail, which follows the evolution by mitosis of a simple leitmotiv, or in Buckboard, where the score is like a huge basket of Lego bricks, where everyone draws loops, or cells, as they wish, according to the lie of the hand, and “Anything goes if it dances”.
But in its acoustic research, Sunako borrows as must from electro as from traditional music, from rock, or jazz, of course… and if you open the drawers, you’ll find even more echoes. Other phantoms, and other islands. From a beaming morning like a market day (Ave de Clichy, from the name of a working class quarter in Paris) opens the CD, until the unsettled ostinato (Ricera, a reference to the seventh movement of György Ligeti’s Musica Ricercata) that closes it. For these seasoned, unkempt musicians (they made a special effort for the photo), so joyously (priestlily?) eclectic, have returned from their journeys, beards full of butterflies1.

Wladimir Anselme
Translated by Richard Robinson

1 Image borrowed from Federico Garcia Lorca, in Ode à Walt Whitman

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