The State of Sound


Reveling in Paul Auster’s Darkness


“Coincidences” is a singular album with unique qualities that you will love at first sound. It will take you on an auditory adventure that is out of the ordinary. Pianist Stéphan Oliva has produced a work that is far more than a simple compilation of songs; instead, his music draws listeners into a melancholy and shadowy landscape.

The voyage through this landscape is well worth taking because, along the way, the music shares its most intimate secrets with you. This album is best experienced in private – seek seclusion, taking advantage of a set of good quality headphones if necessary. You are now ready to plunge into the disquieting sensory universe that this album creates.

You will very quickly forget the musical style (jazz and improvised music). Instead, you will be carried away by the rather addictive ambiance it creates. I also greatly appreciated the album’s techniques and aesthetics; in particular, great respect is shown for the piano’s natural sound.


You will navigate through some sumptuous melancholic melodies. If you listen for it, you may rapidly recognize the music’s slightly familiar air. I found that it brought back scenes from certain films. In the booklet that comes with the album, Stéphan Oliva says that he was strongly influenced by the works of Paul Auster and that many of the scenes in the author’s books inspired him.

It all starts with the sound of a typewriter, which presumably belongs to a writer. In the distance, there is the sound of a cello: page one, the story is therefore just beginning. You then traverse the first “Traversée.” The musical notes are bewitching, disturbing – you can imagine a disappearance, then worry and fright.


This is the shadowy world of Stéphan Oliva. For me, it rather rapidly brought to mind French crime fiction and cinema. In my living room, I saw a reserved Jean-Pierre Melville* sharing a drink with Claude Chabrol*, who was still wearing his overcoat and standing in the shadow of the door. It was also easy to imagine Hitchcock, standing up straight, impassive.

The album engenders a gentle, restless nostalgia. Its uniqueness stems from the darkness of the sensitive subjects upon which it touches as well as from its shadowy musical meanderings that both stir and disturb us because they force us to confront our own intimate fears.

With this album, Stéphan Oliva has invented a new genre: musique noire, the musical equivalent of a crime fiction novel. His pieces evoke tortured souls, crime scenes, and the existential angst that is part and parcel of being human; using this universal language, Oliva’s album speaks to us all. I found that his music also frequently brought to mind the scenes depicted in Edward Hopper’s paintings; Hopper knew how to beautifully render moments of human solitude.

This album offers us the chance to immerse ourselves completely in a strange universe, which is both dark and very inspiring. Towards the end, you may even feel a bit addicted, as if to a drug. Certainly, you will not come away from the listening experience completely unscathed.

 * Jean-Pierre Melville and Claude Chabrol were both French filmmakers known for their dark, dramatic thrillers.

RJA397004 – La Buissonne

Recorded on April 4 and 5 and mixed on June 16, 2005 by Gérard Haro at the La Buissonne Studios (Pernes les Fontaines, France).

  • Stéphan Oliva, piano, Fender Rhodes
  • Bruno Chevillon, double bass, Olympia typewriter

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This entry was posted on 13/09/2013 by in Accessories, Coup de coeur, Loudspeakers and tagged , , , , .
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