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“Taking Tourmalet Mountain” is part concept, part journey and part homage, but most of all it’s a love story.
That’s according to Brian Hinault, in reality Brighton based music producer Sam White, a man who while not sat behind a mixing desk is sat on a bicycle saddle. The idea for “Taking Tourmalet Mountain (By Strategy)” came to him whilst toiling up the iconic Pyrenean cycling climb for a couple of hours.
The theme of the record is informed by the deep rhythmic breathing of a rider climbing a hill, a spoke in the wind, the metallic metronome of gears, the breeze messing the trees, the heat of a Summer bouncing off the road and the sudden silence that comes from finally stopping. Halfway up that hill Hinault/White realized there was a direct relationship and synergy with all of these noises and the associated feelings that you get from cycling to the rhythms and moods in ambient and electronica music.
Samples of the noises emanating from a human as they ride a bike, the clicks and tings from and off a bicycles components and recordings from the tops of various hills and mountain passes are all sprinkled liberally to help form the acoustic landscape of “Taking Tourmalet Mountain”. Some are used as the introductions to tracks; birdsong and wind noise, others are used as the cadence to drive a composition along and some stretched, squashed and pinched to form the sonic baseline or percussion that help to ensure a cohesive narrative runs throughout the record.
Some tracks like “An Ascent (Ending)” start off sparse, almost invisible, and softly build via a rising pulse to a rousing crescendo, much akin to the building elation, almost to the point of grandeur, of summiting a major climb. Others maintain a monotonous mantra forming sub-heartbeat with plangent swoops that Hinault, or White, says are akin to pedaling over rolling terrain, music for rouleurs in cycling parlance, as can be seen in “Here Come The Warm Casquettes”. And there are compositions that reflect the swooping visceral joy of a long sinewy descent such as “Landscape With Haze”, a track that takes its time to wrap and swirl around you and finishes with a reprise that’s reminiscent of sitting in a village café in that post-ride afterglow. The handful of noisier tracks on the album (“The True Wheel”, “Another Green Jersey”, “Deep Section Day”) swerve away from the overall ambient mood and delve into the crunchier corners of electronica to reflect the frantic excitement of the sprint, the rumble of tarmac, almost breathless in their construction they are also jaggedly lurchingly brief in relation to the rest of the album.
White says that his Hinault oeuvre isn’t necessarily just for cyclists but they should connect instantly with the record, and it’s not just for listening to relaxing in the front room either, it works just as well as a training soundtrack, the album sequenced to reflect the ebb and flow, both physical and emotional, of a normal bike ride.
Brian Hinault – “Taking Tourmalet Mountain (By Strategy)” drops the first Friday in April on AudioHub records. Available on vinyl, cassette, limited edition MiniDisc and iTunes.
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Jo Burt has spent the majority of his life riding bikes, drawing bikes and writing about bikes. When he's not scribbling pictures for the whole gamut of cycling media he writes words about them for road.cc and when he's not doing either of those he's pedaling. Then in whatever spare minutes there are in between he's agonizing over getting his socks, cycling cap and bar-tape to coordinate just so. And is quietly disappointed that yours don't He rides and races road bikes a bit, cyclo-cross bikes a lot and mountainbikes a fair bit too. Would rather be up a mountain.