KRAAK FEST 2024 HIGHLIGHTS: Elastic Systems

Hopping over from the ridges of Nantes, Arnaud Aubry and Thomas Durand began their adventure as Elastic Systems in 2022, diving deep into human/machine synergy by means of wiggly electronic playtime. These improvisations can just as soon melt into free-floating waveforms that push listeners - and their dance moves - to engage in a perpetually shifting sonic worldbuilding, bringing it all together in a choose-your-own-adventure cascade of relentless euphoria.

Hi Thomas and Arnaud! Both of you have been making music separately and together for some time now. Can you tell us a bit about your respective backgrounds and how Elastic Systems came to be?

Arnaud: We started to play together a few years ago already, even before Elastic Systems. We first had a punk kraut band called Virage and then I began interpreting Thomas' pop songs in The Shy Accident. But before that, we shared together a taste for music since we are 17! Before that, I have been practicing drums in several formations, very often improvised, but I never came to use any electronic instrument. So Elastic Systems is my very first approach to electronic music, after listening a lot for many years.

Thomas: Yes, we started our relationship by enjoying hybrid, weird music with punk energy.
For me it all started with some urge to make music, which I thought was a good way to feel and express things. I was offered a soundcard and started home recording with a Groovebox MC-307 and Acid Pro 7. As a solo musician I play as Tutoriel; it is also a playful electronic music, axed toward improvising melodies with magic soft tones and impressionist samples.

A: Elastic Systems came with the idea to use an electronic drum set combined with a bank of samples. We wanted to explore something new and we were very inspired by “zolo” music, that is, more of a mood than an actual musical genre. During summer 2022, a friend of ours programmed us in a festival and we only had a few weeks to prepare and nothing else to do. We spent a few weeks working on new ideas and jokes that became very serious at the end ! When we played it in this festival, we were surprised that people were really excited about our music!

©Sarah Lapin

Your rig/set up is quite fascinating, at least to us plebes. How does it work?

T: We use a high-tech MIDI setup which consists of a computer controlled by an electronic drum set, a keyboard and a controller. While creating the music, there are a lot of “what ifs?” and whether the software agrees or to do it or not. I do a lot of clicking the mouse and Arnaud generates the stupidest ideas.

Listening to your live sets and EPs, the music feels very precise and there are many changes happening constantly, but there’s also a very organic and almost improvised vibe to it, like it has a mind of its own. How do you guys determine the trajectory a set will take? Is it meticulously calculated or is there space for improvisation?
A: Me and Thomas have probably a slightly different approach to music. I am more of an improviser with a taste for structure, and Thomas is maybe more of a song writer with a taste for sudden changes! Some of the songs we make are very different in their construction, but all come from long sessions of improvisation. Some of them are now written and very precise, but started by chaos, and some of them are deliberately still partially improvised. It is also a process of playing together, as Thomas is often mixing and adding effects to my sound on the drumset, so it leaves a space for happy accidents and surprises!

A lot seems to be happening in Nantes in terms of experimental music, lots of artists and dedicated venues, even though the city itself can seem quite stale to an unassuming visitor. How do you see the scene there and how has it shaped your artistic trajectory?

A: We’ve been children of the experimental music scene of Nantes since our teenagehood, and for me it shaped a lot of my taste for music as it made me listen to very eclectic stuff.. At some point, we took part of it also as event organizers at Blockhaus DY10 and Jardin C, giving back to the community what we absorbed in our young years, but also making us learn to do things our own way. Most of the places are very connected and help each other, and a lot of people are involved in several associations dedicated to independent or underground music. I realize today how precious this scene is, as I see through the years how fragile it can be in some other cities. I also like how the experimental music scene became progressively more open-minded, and could qualify many different moods and genres and not only obscure noisy music.

T: Yes, I remember Nantes as a vivid city when we were teenagers. I recall seeing a lot of weird concerts and avant-garde stuff. There was Cable festival, Set’30 and Radio Mulot. I had a strong relationship with the latter, which was a pirate radio station in Nantes for many years and still is online. I had intense impressions meeting these people because they have a powerful relationship to music and art which was out of this world at the time for me. I think it shaped a lot of my sensibilities to music. It is also nice to feel the distance today and start to make stuff my way:)

What’s next for Elastic Systems? And for Thomas and Arnaud? :)

We are working on our first release, an EP called DORÉMI KICK SNARE inspired by MIDI sounds, contemporary music and hyperpop which tells a story about the process of learning music. We are also launching a music label called Bidule, where we want to develop this idea of regressive pop weird experimental music with one of our friends Hugo Saulnier!

©Sarah Lapin

Find Elastic Systems on Bandcamp, Soundcloud and Instagram, and hop on their non-stop train on unbridled fun this KRAAK Festival 2024, March 2 at Het Bos in Antwerp. Tickets going fast, get them here!