interview. Edouard Lebrun’s Odyssée: exploring the inner world through the lens of the outer world

"The shift from Paris to the mountains altered my perspective on time and priorities"
28 November 2023

In the heart of the Alps, where the mountains whisper their tales, Edouard Lebrun, the whiz behind the moniker Odyssée, has been crafting sonic odysseys like no other. His unique musical pilgrimage takes place not within the confines of a traditional studio, but in the vast, untamed landscapes that nature provides. Odyssée’s chosen instrument is a modular synthesizer, a tool he fearlessly wields in the wildest and most hostile corners of our planet.

After spending considerable time honing his craft amidst the mountainous landscapes, Odyssée sought new inspirations in the desolate deserts of the southwestern United States—places like Joshua Tree, Mojave, and Nevada. Alone in these barren expanses, he composed and recorded music outdoors, facing the elements and weaving emotions into each note.

The result of this daring experiment is Arid Fields, a sonic journey through ethereal landscapes that exudes a deliberate sense of solitude. Synthesizers permeate the record, melding post-trance and ambient elements to create a cosmic bath of sound. Arid Fields invites listeners to wander through the dusty rocks of their minds, exploring the inner world through the lens of the outer world.

Before embarking on his solo journey, Lebrun made waves in the French electronic rock scene as the drummer for the acclaimed band Jean Jean. Renowned for their synth-wave and math-rock fusion, Jean Jean paved the way for Lebrun’s solo exploration into the realms of electronic soundscapes. It was a gradual evolution, a transition from the rhythmic beats of drums to the intricate art of turning knobs and manipulating electronic tones.

In 2020, Lebrun made a pivotal decision to leave the bustling streets of Paris for a secluded cabin nestled high in the Alps. Here, surrounded by the raw beauty of nature, he felt compelled to immerse himself in a very personal odyssey—an artistic refuge dedicated to both nature and contemplation. It was in this serene retreat that Odyssée’s self-powered modular system was born, a creation capable of producing music anywhere, no matter how remote.

The intersection of technology and nature became the focal point of Lebrun’s creative vision. Each piece of music he crafts is a unique moment, a sonic exploration of the wilderness that confronts the raw reality of nature with the paradoxical embrace of modern tools. To complement his auditory creations, Odyssée extends his artistry into the visual realm, producing videos of his setups in each diverse landscape he encounters.

Making music, to me, means embarking on internal or external journeys, and Odyssée perfectly illustrates this. 

Your musical journey commenced as a drummer in the French electronic rock  band Jean Jean, renowned in the synth-wave/math-rock scene. How did your  tenure with the band shape your musical sensibilities, leading you to delve into  modular synthesizers and craft unique sonic landscapes with Odyssée? 

My foray into music began with Jean Jean, where I delved into music production and instruments. Despite being a drummer, I developed a keen sensitivity to sound textures and design, prompting me to explore synthesizers and recording techniques for application within the band. The discovery of modular synths opened a world of “research” for me.  Crafting sounds with these tools involves considering the sound path,  often leading to hours of immersive jamming and a meditative state. Drawing from diverse musical experiences, I amalgamated these skills into a more personal project, Odyssée, seeking a flexible avenue to blend  music and exploration. 

What’s the significance behind the name “Odyssée”? 

An Odyssey, laden with adventure and lessons, encapsulates my musical  journey. From touring with my band across the USA, Japan, and Europe,  facing DIY conditions, to the more personal and introspective journey with Odyssée, the connection between music and travel remains. Making music, to me, means embarking on internal or external journeys, and Odyssée perfectly illustrates this. 

Your move from Paris to a secluded mountain cabin in 2020 marked a  significant shift, transforming your creative approach into a personal odyssey  and an ode to nature. Could you elaborate on how this change influenced your  music and the development of your self-powered modular system for creating  music in diverse, wild landscapes? 

The shift from Paris to the mountains altered my perspective on time and  priorities. Seclusion allowed experimentation, finding my creative path, and gaining the confidence to pursue my own vision. Nature played a crucial role, becoming my main stage. Confronting the elements brought humility and detachment towards myself as an artist. Technical challenges  and unpredictable weather conditions sometimes disrupted sessions, yet  it reinforced the authentic connection to the environment. 

Your music is not merely an auditory experience but a visual one, with videos  showcasing your setup in various landscapes. How do you perceive the  relationship between the visual and auditory aspects of your art, and how does  the environment shape both elements?

In our visual-centric world, combining audio and visual enhances the  overall experience. My portable setup, constrained only by battery life and weather conditions, allows a few hours in favorable weather. This limitation is ample for short videos, though composing entire tracks  outdoors proves more challenging. 

I believe this album would have been so different if I had composed and recorded it in the comfort of a studio—neither better nor worse, just  different. And the fact that natural elements, such as ancient granite rocks  or wind-swept arid plains, have, in a certain way, influenced my music makes me truly very happy. 

Derived from your time in the deserts of the southwestern United States, Arid  Fields resulted from weeks spent composing and recording amidst these  barren landscapes. Can you delve into the emotions and experiences you aimed  to capture during this creative process? 

Arid Fields was transformative, a much-needed journey at that point in my life. Seeking inspiration in new places and breathing new air, I bought a flight ticket with no concrete plans. This adventure was guided solely by feelings, each new location marking a fresh start. The solitary trip alternated between adventurous and introspective moments, capturing  the essence of the surroundings and my emotional state in each track. It hasn’t always been a straightforward journey; at times, I grappled with questions like “Why are you pursuing this?” or “What’s the purpose  behind it?” The clarity I sought only emerged later, after the completion  and release of the album. A significant realization was that there isn’t a  concrete reason; I simply had to follow this path because that’s how it was meant to unfold. It might sound simple, but that’s the essence of my experience. 

The concept of bringing technology into nature to explore the interaction  between environment and creativity is fascinating. How do you navigate the  paradox of using modern tools in the raw reality of the wilderness, and how  does this primal return to nature through synthesizers influence the thematic  and sonic elements in your music, particularly in Arid Fields

I find beauty in the contrast of futuristic gear amidst natural scenery, symbolizing a connection between nature’s creations and the synth  modules. Both are intricate ecosystems—beeping, flashing, and interacting. The minimalism of essentials, whether in the desert with a  tent or with a modular synth in hand, fosters focus on what truly matters  and a deeper connection with emotions. 

What is your favorite sound in the world? 

The sound of ice cracking, reminiscent of movies where heroes traverse frozen lakes, and deep cracks resonate from the depths. I hope to capture that sound one day. 

How would you describe your perfect day? 

No rain is paramount! Followed by some exercise to clear the mind, good  food to nourish the body, and engaging in music or art during those perfect moments of inspiration. A nature walk with a loved one, be it a  partner or a delightful dog, ideally both. 

If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be? 

As a musician, the challenge lies in being heard. With music production tools becoming more accessible, a multitude of artists emerges (which is a  good thing). The real challenge is connecting with the audience. While I may not have a specific technical change in mind, I believe in promoting emerging artists and providing opportunities for them to share their  unique voices. 

What’s next for you? 

The next steps involve live shows, ideally in special places. I’m currently refining my live setup to interpret tracks from the album and potentially create new ones. I’m also considering new media, such as live sessions on Twitch, to combine music creation with interactive communication in  unconventional settings.