Benoît Delbecq


SGL SA1543-2

“…a fascinating reflection of the art of a musician who is particularly exacting and creative…Precision of touch, concision of phrases that often develop within the framework of repeating rhythmic cells which they open to new worlds…there’s a whole universe of sound that Delbecq deploys in the course of these nine pieces. They paint the portrait of an artist who is essentially preoccupied with form and sound, but whose investigations have nothing dry or formalist about them. On the contrary, they gently provoke the listener to be as rigorous as the pianist, and it’s within the context of that demand that a lasting pleasure emerges, one which repeated hearings only intensify.”

—Thierry Quenum, Piano Magazine (France)


Benoît Delbecq is a uniquely gifted French pianist and keyboardist who has created his own music using ideas and techniques from contemporary classical (Cage, Ligeti, Nancarrow), jazz, Pygmy polyphony, European improv and other sources. He prepares the piano with various materials such as eraser bits and carved wooden twigs, and improvises on short, overlapping vamps and patterns; the result is a complex, spacious sound that hardly seems to be emanating from a single instrument. On Nu-turn Delbecq stretches out solo on a Steinway D in 8 astonishing structured improvisations; the final, 12-minute composition is a computer-created ambient “remix” that completely transforms the solo material. Recorded in a small concert hall directly to 6 channel DSD (the sixth channel is an optional height channel), the piano sound is remarkably realistic, and the music beguiling in its rhythmic-melodic-timbral meldings. Dexterous, brainy, evanescent and strangely moving, Nu-turn will intrigue audiophiles ready for new experiences and appeal to fans of new music beyond category.

Highly acclaimed in Europe, Benoit Delbecq leads or co-leads a number of bands (The Recyclers, Karket, Ambitronix, PianoBook) and has releases on Naive, Plush, Deux Z and other labels. He has three previous releases on Songlines: two duos with Vancouver clarinetist François Houle and one leading the Delbecq 5.


“Nu-Turn is the kind of disc you’ll play over and over again; if, that is, you have an ear for sonic adventure and unfettered imagination. It’s hard to develop a singular voice on the piano…But Delbecq’s conception is instantly recognizable for the way he blends Asian sonorities (most derived from Indonesian gamelan music) and rock-based rhythms with a melodic sense that draws equally from the jazz and classical avant-gardes. Often he’ll ‘prepare’ the piano to access an array of percussive timbres ranging from bell-like to clangorously metallic; he’ll then play a repeated left-hand pattern on those altered notes, all the while building elaborate sonic structures on the unmodified keys with his right. The ostinato lines give his music an intense, obsessive air, which is undermined by his melodic freedom; the effect is dreamlike and charged, qualities amplified to the extreme on Nu-Turn’s final track, ‘Into White’.” — Alexander Varty, The Georgia Straight

“…there’s something oddly vibrant about Benoît Delbecq’s solo piano performances, an interwoven tapestry of focused improvisation, African rhythms, trance music, impressionism, and modern classical music of the most abstract sort…All the elements that make up this interwoven whole come together in the eleven-minute closer, ‘Into White’…It has moments of pointed polyrhythmic pointillism, outright dark brooding, and finally a gradual evolution toward peaceful (yet still somewhat edgy) resolution…quite a trip.” — Nils Jacobson,

Choc! (*****) “…great poetry, abstract and lunar. In the manner of a mathematical and mineral reverie, Nu-turn achieves something vital. As seldom happens, a purely contemplative abstraction is joined with a lyricism all the more touching for not giving off all of its savor immediately, but secretly calling us to itself…The abstract is made palpable…Above all there’s a nocturnal choreography beautiful as an enigma…A disc that escapes gravity.” — Alex Dutilh, Jazzman (France)

“On Laterite” [has] an invertible counterpoint making it sound as if two pianos are playing at once — one wound-up like an ancient player piano and the other a conventional model producing classical cadenzas. Then there’s ‘On ne dit pas regarder la lune, on dit ‘luner’…Here his plucked tones sound midway between dampened action and the wooden flippers of an old tabletop hockey game. As that beat snakes its way through the piece, tinkling, right-handed notes arise, creating a strange primitivism, almost as if you’ve stumbled on a Yoruba ceremony being performed by a bunch of toy instruments. In contrast the atmospheric title track features passing tones and the overall impression of a blizzard of notes falling like so many snowflakes, producing tones that are always legato and low frequency, never sharp and staccato.” — Ken Waxman,

“Though he has been one of the avatars of prepared piano for over a decade, Benoît Delbecq has only now released a solo album. Nu-turn is well worth the long wait, a strikingly well-defined recording featuring an immaculate Steinway D piano. Throughout the album, Delbecq’s affinity for African and Asian folk music (which is most vividly evident in his driftwood preparations, which suggest indigenous percussion and string instruments) and his Paul Bley-derived lyricism and floating pulse constantly dovetail about one another. This accentuates the exotic, mysterious qualities of Delbecq’s music that, in the past, have been tempered in other settings. Propelled by a cool attack, the music lingers in the air like incense, pungent but not overwhelming. Nu-turn is an excellent way to become familiar with one of the most distinctive pianists on the international scene.” — Bill Shoemaker, Jazz Times

“The piano is played both in its natural state and ‘prepared’ by placing carved twigs of different wood species and other materials under the strings…The range of sounds Delbecq produces within a composition suggest more than one instrument at work…Switching back and forth at unexpected times among these sonorities fuels improvisations and creates surprise moods that induce dream-states. Delbecq’s use of time, rhythm, space, and percussion are exact but unpredictable and enhance the emotional warmth of the music. Commentators have cited Delbecq’s immediate musical influences among the founders of contemporary-classical music such as Ligeti. True enough, but contemporary classical has its own antecedents. There exist reference CDs of touch-sensitive piano-rolls…by concert pianists such as Saint-Saens, Scriabin, and even Debussy, musicians from an era when classicists were expected to improvise within compositions…Delbecq’s unique contemporary pianism lies in a direct lineage from those past masters and furthermore matches their originality, emotionalism, and improvisational integrity, albeit with a different and starkly futuristic sound.” — Laurence Svirchev, Coda

“[His playing is] characterized by his selective piano preparation, a certain chasteness, freedom from narrow generic and idiomatic constraints, unhurried development and transitions consistent with an audible if sometimes oblique inner logic. But it’s odd twists and routes preserve a sense of exploration and discovery.” — Julian Cowley, The Wire

avant jazz/experimental/ambient
  1. In Rainbows
  2. In Lilac
  3. On ne dit pas regarder la lune, on dit "luner"
  4. On Laterite
  5. Into Neon
  6. On Embers
  7. Nu-Turn (Etude de nu)
  8. In Funfairs
  9. Into White

Benoît Delbecq, piano, prepared piano, compositions

Hybrid SACD (stereo/6.0), DSD recording, except track 9 is a 24 bit/44.1K remix.

  • Release Date
    June 03, 2003