How can a few paragraphs properly do justice to the meticulous work of Nicolas Laureau, a man who has spent three and a half years writing, recording and remodelling the nine original songs (plus a bonus cover version of Robert Johnson’s Me and the Devil) that make up The Keyboard Songs? It’s as if the character he has created – the childlike and yet mature Don Niño, now releasing only his fifth album in fifteen years – demands that each opus explore an important story. Much like the tattoos mentioned in the song My Invisible Tattoos and adored by Meret Oppeheim, it seems the wild and childish, invisible and tangible, hot and cold are all still part of Don Niño’s personality.
Keeping in mind the idea of perpetual transformation, the singer-songwriter took the necessary time to form and breathe life into the ten titles, restricting himself to composing on piano and using mainly keyboards for the final versions. The Pleyel piano is often foremost, but supported by a vintage analogue synth like the Logan String or a Korg preset that oscillate slowly like snakes. After the disappointment of a cancelled 2012 autumn tour, Don Niño wrote these tracks in just eight days and recorded rough versions soon afterwards. It was mixing and finding the right sounds that took the most time. Since recording the demos for Keyboard Songs, the dazzling album Pink Renaissance by NLF3 was released, and Nicolas took time out for this group venture, as well as celebrations for the 20 years of his label, Prohibited Records. Out went the guitars and in came the inimitable touch of American drummer Shane Aspegren (Ohia, The Berg Sans Nipple, Bright Eyes…), giving the original beat tracks the groove and elasticity they needed.
Aided along the final stretch by Raphaël Seguin and the friendly ears of his older brother Fabrice Laureau, Don Niño finished off crafting the new album in black and white, with initial listeners considering it his best work. So far.
As well as working with his unbridled band NLF3, Don Niño released two introspective indie folk albums – Real Seasons Make Reasons in 2001 and On The Bright Scale in 2004 – followed in 2007 by a startling stylistic composition, Mentors Menteurs, on which he took on his great sources of inspiration via a series of off-kilter covers. He turned Prince’s “Kiss” into a folk elegy and made “Porque Te Vas” sound like an experimental and indolent Mater Dolorosa. His epic rendering of “A Day In The Life” features on a Beatles-cover compilation released by EMI, alongside other covers by David Bowie and the Beach Boys. A real honour. Then on 2012, fragments of guitar patterns, keyboard lines and looping mantras have been merging together within the wilderness of his mind, reminiscent of the calm turmoil dreams are made of. In The Backyard Of Your Mind is a radiant, restless record. Today Don Niño is back with a full lenght concieved with keyboards, piano, and strange textures, aerial and intimate.