Combining classical and contemporary with Anomalie
Effortlessly weaving chord progressions with masterful music production, Nicolas Dupuis, widely known under his moniker Anomalie, is a pianist, producer and songwriter whose music is a fusion of electronic music, hip-hop beats and jazz. Hailing from Montreal, Anomalie’s melodies are equally vibrant as they are mellow and emotive, enticing you to dive further into their sonic worlds and uncover different qualities with each listen.
Since his earliest collection of songs on ‘Métropole’ in 2017, Dupuis has honed his craft in layering piano melodies with alluring beats in his projects. After his last collaborative work with Chromeo on ‘Bend the Rules’ in 2021, Anomalie’s debut album, ‘Galerie’ goes collaborates further with the likes of Mateus Asato, Bad Snacks, Masego and more bringing in guitar lines, searing strings and vocal lines, each an impeccable brush stroke in the world that ‘Galerie’ paints.
His sound has grown effortlessly, crediting this to a change in his creative space. “The main difference was the environment the projects were made in,” he elaborates, discussing the differences between ‘Metropole’ and ‘Galerie’. “Having access to a space where I could make as much as noise as I wanted, a drum kit, several synths and an upright for ‘Galerie’ was a gamechanger. It was liberating!”
“No matter what tools I use to make music I always like to try to view the arrangement as the main thing to prioritize.”
His knack for electronic music and beat making also brings liberation to his roots in classical piano, starting from his days producing music in high school. As his musicality developed, he never sacrificed song structure. “I’d say I was introduced to way more sonic possibilities than if I had stayed on the acoustic side,” he explains, “but no matter what tools I use to make music I always like to try to view the arrangement as the main thing to prioritize. Layers, textures, combination of timbres– those are elements that I partly developed through electronic music but that I’ll still apply to everything else.”
As far as influences go, Anomalie has cited a range of artists as being important in his approach to music making, from Herbie Hancock, Quincy Jones and J Dilla to Stravinsky, Brahms and Gershwin. “It depends on the song but generally speaking I’d say Quincy Jones for arranging and structuring, a mix of Herbie and the 20th century composers for harmony, orchestration and layering, and J Dilla for drums and sampling.”
With these artists as precursors, it’s clear to see how they are all interwoven into Anomalie’s sound– a collaboration of classical and contemporary. Seemingly disparate influences come together naturally thanks to the keen ear that catches the moments of synergy between the two.
Moving to the upright piano for ‘Galerie’ was a new avenue of creativity for Dupuis and enriched his songwriting process. A change in instrument or spontaneity through improvisation sparked a myriad of creative ideas to jump off from. “Much of the album writing process happened on the upright, and that was extremely refreshing to me,” he says. “It got me really excited to write again and the instrument responded slightly differently every time which was really cool.”
“It got me really excited to write again and the instrument responded slightly differently every time which was really cool.”
“As for the collaborations it was truly amazing to witness,” he continues. “It was mostly done at a distance, but they all brought a piece of their creative universe to their respective tracks.” Being able to shake off routine and invite new creative viewpoints through collaboration and alternate methods of songwriting into his process, ‘Galerie’ unfolds in new way, sonically.
“The initial idea usually happens rather quickly through improvisation in the first hour or so, but a major part of the work happens after in the arrangement phase,” he explains. “I’ll do several takes then keep the best bits, punch in alternatives that feel more appropriate or tasty, and then work from there for more layers. That’s always been my favourite part of the process.”
He speaks a little more on the equipment he gravitates towards when he’s in the studio. “I’m mostly in the box for processing and effects. I still use a lot of VST synths, keys and drums, but the record has a huge focus on the upright, a Pearl River piano, drum kit and Juno 106.”
Anomalie is now taking ‘Galerie’ and his eclectic discography on tour across the US and touching down in Europe. With new songs and a slightly new approach, he aims to bring the same magic on record to the stage. “In terms of structure, it’s usually pretty faithful to the originals with a few exceptions,” he explains. “The presence of the live band on its own adds a significant twist to it! There are a few moments in the show that are also 100% specific to that context.”
“I think that working with restrictions is a great way to stimulate your creativity and not lose track of where you’re headed.”
Despite his inherent ability to take you on a journey, Anomalie’s music never loses focus, and he gives some key advice on how to maintain that clarity of direction when songwriting. “I think that working with restrictions is a great way to stimulate your creativity and not lose track of where you’re headed, especially if you’re trying to integrate more complex harmony concepts or sound design,” he says. “It could be something like limiting the amount of sounds or tracks that you’re using, forcing yourself to integrate a certain type of chord or effect. I find that you’ll often surprise yourself with what you come up with.”
As ‘Galerie’ will tell you, sonic surprises are some of the greatest joys to be found both when listening to and making music. Anomalie’s music is a diverse musical landscape that translates organic instrumentation through an electronic lens. Rich with influence but still holding true to its own intentions, Anomalie’s music stands powerfully on its own.
Words: Zainab Hassan