We experiment and improvise when we listen; improvise and experiment with our thoughts and what could be called a life: when we walk or take a walk, when we cook, in conversation with our friends, how we listen to others, how we react (or resist), how we love, what we drink and when we drink it, we play with language and repetition, how we move or don’t move and how we dance or swing to music. They do not come from nowhere; they improvise, recycle, experiment and modulate, coming into contact, even if briefly, with other experiments and improvisations. We could call it playfulness and we may find pleasure in doing so. We experiment with space and time and the ensembles of in-betweenesses. They are moving, even if slowly. The time of performance, of music and listening, has many times within, around and beside it. All of the thoughts and ideas and sensations we play with assemble what matters to us. This time comes into play at the time of performance, so when we talk about improvising and performance and the performance of listening we are talking about a strange smear of time and space that then fold back into themselves and continue to experiment and improvise along side us. Song is one place of many to do this. The details of our lives are often produced with chance, affection, improvisation and experimentation, and with my music, they are ways to hear details I would not likely be able to hear otherwise.
– Written to Daniel Spicer for The Wire (November 2017)
Eric Chenaux is a Canadian guitarist, songwriter, singer and sound sculptor. He has released seven solo albums of experimental song on the Montréal-based imprint Constellation, charting an adventurous and uncompromising path through avant-folk, out-jazz and pop composition, increasingly rooted in a unique and elemental juxtaposition of fried, frazzled, semi-improvised guitar and smooth, clear tenor balladry. He has been called “a musician like no other” by Tiny Mix Tapes; his solo albums praised by The Quietus as “stunningly beautiful, genuinely inimitable, whose reputation will only grow with time.” Gracing the cover of The Wire magazine in 2017, the feature article declared: “Chenaux succeeds in generating an astonishing array of timbres. A singer and songwriter possessed of angelic sweetness and clarity accompanying himself with largely improvised, visceral guitar textures that seem intent on undermining and obscuring his own songs. It’s the need to communicate tussling with the urge to obfuscate; lucidity versus opacity; form against chaos.”
Though based in France for the past decade, Chenaux was a key figure in Toronto’s fertile indie and avant/improv music scenes throughout the 1990s and 2000s, releasing a first solo album of instrumental improv guitar in 1999 and co-founding the experimental music label Rat-drifting in 2001, which documents a dynamic cross-section of iconoclastic Toronto experimental music projects, including several ensembles in which Chenaux also figured as a member: The Draperies, The Reveries, The Guayaveras, The Marmots, Allison Cameron Band, Drumheller and Nightjars. Previously he was a core member of the cult Toronto postpunk/ math-rock group Phleg Camp and the related duo Lifelikeweeds.
Chenaux’s first album as a singer-songwriter was Dull Lights, released on Constellation in 2006, and an acclaimed, highly original solo discography has unfolded since then: Sloppy Ground (2008); Warm Weather With Ryan Driver (2010); Guitar & Voice (2012); Skullsplitter (2015); Slowly Paradise (2018) and Say Laura (2022). He has featured on a range of collaborative records issued by other labels through this same span, including Okraïna, Avatar, Grapefruit and Three:four. He has performed and recorded with countless artists, including Ryan Driver, Sandro Perri, Eloïse Decazes, Michelle McAdorey, Nick Fraser, Martin Arnold, Radwan Ghazi Moumneh, Pauline Oliveros, John Oswald, Michael Snow, Brodie West, Han Bennink, Christine Abdelnour, Michael Moore, Josephine Foster, Martin Tetrault, Wilbert De Joode, Gareth Davis, Jacob Wren, Norberto Lobo, Nathaniel Mann and many more. Chenaux also composes for film and contemporary dance, including a long-standing association with conceptual filmmaker Eric Cazdyn for his solo music, and in recurring collaboration with multi-media and sound installation artist Marla Hlady.
Eric Chenaux lives at Le Pouget in the commune of Condat-sur-Ganaveix in central France.