Sébastien Devaud, aka Agoria, entered the world of electronic dance music at a peculiar moment in time. Unlike the first generation of techno producers, he’s too young to have been actively listening to early 80’s electronic pop by groups such as Depeche Mode or New Order. But unlike younger DJs and musicians, he’s been exposed to house and techno more or less since the start of these genres.
Living in rural France, Agoria first got hooked to electronic music through listening to Kevin Saunderson’s classic “Good Life” on the local radio as a twelve-year-old kid in 1988. He was so impressed by the Inner City hit that he spent the following afternoons washing his neighbours’ cars to earn enough money to buy his first 12 ́. His next revelation came a few years later when one of the first DJ sets he experienced happened to be from Jeff Mills in nearby Lyon. «It was the first time that I saw a DJ using three turntables and a drum machine. He really created something completely new rather that just playing records. And the way he moved, his precision and speed, impressed me.»
Agoria started out as a DJ himself, quickly followed by organizing his own parties together with a group of friends (who also gave Séb Devaud his artist moniker loosely named after Agora – the title of their party series, meaning “meeting place” in ancient Greek). He started producing and releasing his own tracks in 1999 and first gained international recognition with a series of 12 ́s on Pias Recordings in 2002, which were followed by the acclaimed album Blossom a year later. Since then, Agoria has released two more long-players The Green Armchair (2006) and soundtrack Go Fast (2008), all showcasing Agoria’s talent for creating deep, stripped-back, melodic, techno tracks.
In addition Agoria has compiled three mix-cds that present his unique ability in pairing tracks of very different origins and layering them in creative, sometimes even awe-inspiring ways. Deservedly so, Resident Advisor named his contribution to the At The Controls series from 2007 as one of the best mix-cds of the past decade.
Apart from his own work as a DJ and producer, Sébastien Devaud has also helped to establish Nuits Sonores, an ambitious electronic and indie event that takes place all over the city of Lyon every Spring and has, over the last ten years, become one of the best European festivals.
Another important contribution has been the start of InFiné in 2006, a label that Devaud founded together with his friends Alexandre Cazac and Yannick Matray. InFiné is a label that follows no rules, shies away from trends and features young, new talents, from various parts of the world. Its releases – from Francesco Tristano’s piano treatments to Danton Eeprom’s sensual productions or Bachar Mar-Khalifé’s dramatic arrangements – continue to surprise and have made InFiné a platform for new music that always challenges and excites it’s listeners.
Agoria’s own debut on the label only came in 2009 with his 12” “Magnolia / Libellules”. However, with his new third album Impermanence one can clearly hear that InFiné has also had an influence on Agoria’s own music. «For the first time, I have complete freedom in creating my music, » says Séb Devaud. «I don’t have the feeling any longer of having to work within certain boundaries and the result sounds more like me. »
Like most releases on InFiné, Impermanence is the product of extensive collaboration and doesn’t share the solipsistic tendencies of so many electronic musicians. As its title implies the music exists in a constant state of flux and flows easily from contemplative sound pieces to intimate acoustic songs and forward moving club tracks.
The album opens with the repetition of three notes played on a piano, with only the addition of violin, bell and the voice of the album’s biggest discovery, 20 year old female singer, Kid A, from Virginia, USA. The beatless “Kiss My Soul” establishes the intimate tone of the album, which continues with the dubby house of “Souless Dreamer”, on which Berlin based DJ, Seth Troxler, guests on the track with his trademark whisper, inviting the listener to « allow yourself to drift.»
Strings and piano resurface on a number of the album tracks, sometimes used in surprising guises, such as the Stradivarius that serves as a rave signal on the infectious “Panta Rei”. “Under The River”, on the other hand, is a lush ambient piece dominated by the late-night sounds of a horn. Carl Craig makes an appearance as a vocalist on the sleazy “Speechless”. « I asked for something romantic, something sounding like the spoken words of “Angel” », laughs Agoria about Craig’s aural sex fantasy. Another standout track on Impermanence is “Heart Beating”, again featuring Kid A’s strong and engaging voice. The song is Agoria’s most direct pop-piece yet and an unexpected proof of his strength as both a songwriter and arranger. Once again instrumentation is kept sparse with Kid A’s singing added to only by changing percussion and soaring strings. It’s a special piece of music that surely will get a life of its own.
Agoria has created an album that is at the same time constantly changing while also having a unique flow and mood of its own. « Before, my music often felt dark and maybe a bit forced. This time I just let things happen and everything just fell in its right place », he says. And despite using more guests and exploring more styles than on his previous recordings, Agoria has managed to create his most intimate and alluring music yet on Impermanence
– Heiko Hoffman