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«Velvet Serenade»

Catalan music journalist Ignacio Julià celebrated the world premiere of his latest book Linger On: The Velvet Underground (published by Eva and Thurston Moore’s Ecstatic Peace Library, 2022, featuring interviews with all The Velvet Underground’s members, conducted from 1978 to 2022,) at Banyoles’ Auditori del Ateneu in Catalonia in April 2022. Julià wanted to relive the New York legendary band’s original dynamics, that creative friction between the noisy guitar and poetics of American Lou Reed and the radical, lyrical playing of Welsh pianist-songwriter, John Cale.

Julià invited Sonic Youth’s guitarist-vocalist Lee Ranaldo and French maverick keyboards player Pascal Comelade (known for his work with Robert Wyatt, Faust and  PJ Harvey), plus Catalan drummer Ramon Prats (known for his ongoing work with Catalan master pianist Agustí Fernández), for a non-nostalgic reinvention of a musical legacy that takes an influential past into the future. Comelade and Ranaldo met for the first time the same day this album was created from scratch,  and after a few tryouts, magic happened. Comelade, Ranaldo and Prats are by no means a tribute band but they keep the minimalist and economic, raw spirit of the original songs as well as the wide palette of emotions these classic songs carry. Velvet Serenade captures this performance and its release coincides with the 25th anniversary of the Staubgold label.

Velvet Serenade, with a cover artwork that references the seminal work of Andy Warhol (but not the iconic one of The Velvet Underground & Nico), is a 35-minute suite that updates the vibrant energy and experimental ethos of The Velvet Underground. Comelade, Ranaldo and Prats improvise on the themes of such iconic songs like «All Tomorrow’s Parties», «I’m Waiting for the Man», «Ocean» and «Femme Fatale», coloring these themes with their own personal palette of sounds and transforming them into a spontaneous serenade, true to The Velvet Underground’s spirit. Renaldo plays acoustic and electric guitars, often with many, noisy distortion effects or using them as cellos. Prats intensifies the powerful, propulsive rhythmic power with his clever drumming and percussive touches.

Julià sees his book as well as this beautiful and emotional performance as a way of giving back to The Velvet Underground who has given him «not just great art in the form of rock’n’roll at its most deep and challenging, but an outlook on life and everything else, an invitation to seek the beauty in truth and try to understand human behavior». He dedicates Velvet Serenade to the late producer Hal Wilner and late Catalan author and singer-songwriter Pau Riba.

Eyal Hareuveni

Lee Renaldo (guitar, vocals), Pascal Comelade (keyboards), Ramon Prats (drums)

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