Louis Michot's L.E.S. Douze Release the Eclectic 'Le String Noise 2' (album stream + interview)

Photo: Kirkland Middleton / Courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media

The always inventive Cajun musician, Louis Michot, recalls a recent New York City residency with his latest recording, Le String Noise 2, a trip where the Big Apple and the Bayou meet.

Le String Noise 2 features 12 recordings from Louis Michot's residence at The Stone in New York City in 2016. Over a series of nights, at the invitation of John Zorn, Michot unveiled a broad range of musics that interest him, ranging from the traditional to the avant-garde. L.E.S. Douze finds Michot joined by violinists Paulin Kim and Conrad Harris of String Noise as well as cellist/vocalist Leyla McCalla. (Michot brings fiddle and vocals.)

Melding the cutting edge with traditional melodies of Louisiana and Haiti, L.E.S. Douze work their way through a set that's always intriguing and effortlessly eclectic. The second release in the L.E.S. Douze series arrives on 17 April via Nouveau Electric on CD and digital platforms.

More than an archival release, this gives listeners a chance to hear four topnotch musicians practicing their art with zeal and passion. Michot recently spoke with PopMatters about the project's origins.

How did this residence in New York City come about?

I was hanging out with Gordon Gano in New York. He played fiddle with the Lost Bayou Ramblers a lot between 2008 and 2015. This must have been about 2012. We were having a coffee, catching up, and he said, "Why don't you come meet these friends of mine? They're great violin players." It was Pauline and Conrad of String Noise. I don't even know if they had started String Noise yet. They said they had a John Zorn concert the next night, I believe.

Gordon and I both went, and they asked if we wanted to do some Violent Femmes covers with four violins. It sounded like fun. We did a whole set like that. It was really fun. That was right after Pauline finished a full set of John Zorn music. It was incredible. Apparently, John was there at the time, but I didn't realize that until later. That's probably where it all connected.


He recommended my band to play at the wedding of a famous tattoo artist and an actress. The guy got in touch with me, and I asked him how he got my number. He said John had given it to him. "John Zorn gave you my number?" I hadn't yet put it together with that night at Rockwood Music Hall. I said, "If John Zorn gave you my number, do you think you could give me his email so that I could thank him?"

I wrote to him and thanked him, and he said that the next time I was in New York, I should look him up, and we'd have lunch. I did that a year or two later, and he offered me the opportunity to do the residency at The Stone. It was an offer I couldn't pass up. But it was also one that required a huge amount of planning and foresight and fundraising. I brought about 13 musicians with me from Louisiana and had about another 15 in New York.

I wanted to re-create the night we did at the Rockwood with the four violins doing Violent Femmes tunes, but Gordon had already started playing with the band again and couldn't make it. We got Layla to come in on cello instead, and that became Le String Noise.

And for people who don't know: Gordon's a pretty good fiddle player.

He's awesome. He's such a great, humble, open-earned musician. He has a cool fiddle style too. It works well with Cajun music because it's very rhythmic. He plays fiddle ad singles on the Lost Bayou Ramblers tune "Bastille".

You work in this world where there's an appreciation for tradition but a desire to move the music forward.

I'm lucky to have been raised around this music. I also believe that traditional music, especially Cajun and Creole music, has these beautiful melodies that are perfect on their own. I don't think we can improve upon the older, traditional songs. I think they were perfect as they are. Each player that has made these amazing things have inspired others to copy them. But you can never copy a perfect example of traditional music, so you have to make your own.

I've been doing this long enough that I feel comfortable in the tradition, and I can add my spin without diluting it or getting away from the culture. With The Stone residency, I wanted to do as much experimenting as possible but still doing what I do best.

Do people respond differently to this music in New York City than, say, when you play Texas or Oklahoma?

New York has always been one of my favorite places to play. When you go to Texas and Oklahoma or even California, people have an appreciation for Cajun music, but it's so different from mainstream American music. In New York, people are used to diversity; they're used to hearing different languages and different music all the time, so they have an easier time accepting it for what it is rather than the difference of it shocking them. I think that's why New York has been my biggest market besides Louisiana.

What strikes me about Cajun music is that there's exuberance and zest for life that walks hand-in-hand with this incredible melancholy.

You hit the nail on the head there. The lyrics are so pitiful. There's all this self-pity, but the melodies can be super happy. Or vice-versa. There's definitely a lot of emotion in there.






Zadie Smith's 'Intimations' Essays Pandemic With Erudite Wit and Compassion

Zadie Smith's Intimations is an essay collection of gleaming, wry, and crisp prose that wears its erudition lightly but takes flight on both everyday and lofty matters.


Phil Elverum Sings His Memoir on 'Microphones in 2020'

On his first studio album under the Microphones moniker since 2003, Phil Elverum shows he has been recording the same song since he was a teenager in the mid-1990s. Microphones in 2020 might be his apex as a songwriter.


Washed Out's 'Purple Noon' Supplies Reassurance and Comfort

Washed Out's Purple Noon makes an argument against cynicism simply by existing and sounding as good as it does.


'Eight Gates' Is Jason Molina's Stark, Haunting, Posthumous Artistic Statement

The ten songs on Eight Gates from the late Jason Molina are fascinating, despite – or perhaps because of – their raw, unfinished feel.


Apocalypse '45 Uses Gloriously Restored Footage to Reveal the Ugliest Side of Our Nature

Erik Nelson's gorgeously restored Pacific War color footage in Apocalypse '45 makes a dramatic backdrop for his revealing interviews with veterans who survived the brutality of "a war without mercy".


12 Brilliant Recent Jazz Albums That Shouldn't Be Missed

There is so much wonderful creative music these days that even an apartment-bound critic misses too much of it. Here is jazz from the last 18 months that shouldn't be missed.


Blues Legend Bobby Rush Reinvigorates the Classic "Dust My Broom" (premiere)

Still going strong at 86, blues legend Bobby Rush presents "Dust My Broom" from an upcoming salute to Mississippi blues history, Rawer Than Raw, rendered in his inimitable style.


Folk Rock's the Brevet Give a Glimmer of Hope With "Blue Coast" (premiere)

Dreamy bits of sunshine find their way through the clouds of dreams dashed and lives on the brink of despair on "Blue Coast" from soulful rockers the Brevet.


Michael McArthur's "How to Fall in Love" Isn't a Roadmap (premiere)

In tune with classic 1970s folk, Michael McArthur weaves a spellbinding tale of personal growth and hope for the future with "How to Fall in Love".


Greta Gerwig's Adaptation of Loneliness in Louisa May Alcott's 'Little Women'

Greta Gerwig's film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's classic novel Little Women strays from the dominating theme of existential loneliness.


The Band's Discontented Third LP, 1970's 'Stage Fright', Represented a World Braving Calamity

Released 50 years ago this month, the Band's Stage Fright remains a marker of cultural unrest not yet remedied.


Natalie Schlabs Starts Living the Lifetime Dream With "That Early Love" (premiere + interview)

Unleashing the power of love with a new single and music video premiere, Natalie Schlabs is hoping to spread the word while letting her striking voice be heard ahead of Don't Look Too Close, the full-length album she will release in October.


Rufus Wainwright Makes a Welcome Return to Pop with 'Unfollow the Rules'

Rufus Wainwright has done Judy Garland, Shakespeare, and opera, so now it's time for Rufus to rediscover Rufus on Unfollow the Rules.


Jazz's Denny Zeitlin and Trio Get Adventurous on 'Live at Mezzrow'

West Coast pianist Denny Zeitlin creates a classic and adventurous live set with his long-standing trio featuring Buster Williams and Matt Wilson on Live at Mezzrow.


The Inescapable Violence in Netflix's I'm No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui)

Fernando Frías de la Parra's I'm No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui) is part of a growing body of Latin American social realist films that show how creativity can serve a means of survival in tough circumstances.


Arlo McKinley's Confessional Country/Folk Is Superb on 'Die Midwestern'

Country/folk singer-songwriter Arlo McKinley's debut Die Midwestern marries painful honesty with solid melodies and strong arrangements.


Viserra Combine Guitar Heroics and Female Vocals on 'Siren Star'

If you ever thought 2000s hard rock needed more guitar leads and solos, Viserra have you covered with Siren Star.


Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts Honor Their Favorite Songs With "Oh No" (premiere)

Ryan Hamilton's "Oh No" features guest vocals from Kay Hanley of Letters to Cleo, and appears on Nowhere to Go But Everywhere out 18 September.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.