Originally from Toulouse, France, Olivier Alary created Ensemble as his musical persona in 1998, as a platform to explore the meeting point between melodic noise and disjointed pop.
After dropping out from an architecture course at college, Olivier moved to London. Initially working under the name ‘Hearing Is Our Concern’, he was actually the first person the newly-founded FatCat label ever received a demo from. We talked with him for a while about putting a release out, but Olivier wanted to work further on his tracks and in the end nothing happened. The name was changed to Ensemble and a chance meeting with Rephlex Records in 2000 resulted in the release of his first album, ‘Sketch Proposals’.
While not widely released, ‘Sketch Proposals’ did gain a small, dedicated audience, not least of which included Bjork, who had the album on heavy rotation while working on her 2001 album ‘Vespertine’. We put Olivier in touch with her and in 2002, Ensemble’s remixes of Bjork’s ‘Sun In My Mouth’ and ‘Cocoon’ were released as b-sides. Their collaborative relationship eventually led to Olivier’s co-writing of the song ‘Desired Constellation’ on Bjork’s 2004 album ‘Medulla’, and still more remixes on the ‘Triumph of a Heart’ single.
Around this time, Olivier continued work on a follow-up to ‘Sketch Proposals’, aiming to collide symphonic walls-of-sound with intimate folk-pop vocal pieces. Recorded over a period of 3 years, and composed mainly in Montreal, where he now resides, Olivier traveled from Canada, to Atlanta, then to a countryside farm in French Dordogne, and finally to Berlin for his recordings, with each disparate environment absorbed into the moods of each track. Expanding on his collaborative spirit, 2006’s new album (‘Ensemble’) features beautiful vocal performances by Chan Marshall (Cat Power), Lou Barlow (Dinosaur Jr.) and UK-based Mileece, as well as drums by Adam Pierce from Mice Parade and orchestral arrangements by Johannes Malfatti, performed by the Babelsberg Film Orchestra in Germany.
Additionally, Olivier remixed the b-side track, ‘That Summer, At Home I Had Become The Invisible Boy’, on The Twilight Sad’s single ‘And She Would Darken The Memory’, released in July 2007.
Olivier has also composed music for several exhibitions at the V&A museum; contributed to an Audio-Video installation by Doug Aitken at the Centre Georges Pompidou; and received an honorary mention at the Ars Electronica Festival for his noise side project, Chlorgeschlecht. He has also provided the soundtrack for the 2008 film ‘Up The Yangtze’, directed by Yung Chang.
Ensemble’s new album - ‘Excerpts’ - was released in January 2011. A beautiful, sophisticated record of orchestrated pop songs on the theme of fictional and false memories, the album features collaborators Johannes Malfatti (himself an award-winning theatre / film composer) and vocalist Darcy Conroy.