Piers Faccini describes his fifth solo album Between Dogs and Wolves—released in North American by Six Degrees Records in September and on his newly launched Beating Drum label in Europe—as a suite of songs on the theme of love and desire. “In France, where I live, there is an expression to describe twilight. It is called entre chien et loup, between dog and wolf. I wanted to use this metaphor to transcribe the moment between day and night to the personal landscape of relationships, and to the stories we live, falling in and out of love.” Between Dogs and Wolves depicts the unknowable and indefinable spaces between love and desire, spirit and animal, between the wild and the tamed. For Piers Faccini, it would seem, we are always, somehow, between dog and wolf.
With several albums already behind him—and as he began working on the songs that would become Between Dogs and Wolves—Faccini felt a strong calling to take his music to new places as yet unexplored. Faccini’s previous album, 2011’s My Wilderness—like the self-portrait that he made for the album of cut-up maps of the world—was, he says, about roaming in a kind of imaginary desert, a place where nothing is marked or signposted and where nothing is permanent. “The songs I’d write were a way of mapping the wilderness around me, of finding seeds that would slowly grow into a poem or a song,” he says.
This time around, for Between Dogs and Wolves, he chose to explore a different kind of geography, one that resides within each of us. “I tried to work with several different aspects of the immense subject of love,” Faccini explains. “Some songs deal with the search for love or the quest for unity that we play out seeking a lover, other songs concern nostalgia and memory in the context of desire. I wanted to create a large, existential tableau around the subject of love, relationships, sexuality and desire.
“This album” continues Faccini, “is an emancipation for me. The albums I love by my favorite artists are those that are profound and personal. You feel as if nothing has been kept back, as if someone were telling you a secret. That’s the kind of dialogue I wanted to propose to the listener; that’s the kind of journey that I wanted to take people on.”
The journey is a reflective one, a collection of intimate meditations. Faccini’s low-key vocal performances are front and center in the mix, accompanied variously by double bass, guitar, cello, harmonium, dulcimer, kora and echoes of analog electronica—all acoustic. “To maintain and reflect the kind of intensity in the lyrics, I stuck to a reduced and minimal palate of sounds throughout the album,” says Faccini. “I wanted there to be a bit of repetition in the instrumentation, not changing it too much with each track.” Faccini played and recorded all of the instruments himself, except the bass, which was played by longtime collaborator Jules Bikoko, and the cello, contributed by Dom la Nena (Faccini produced Dom la Nena's latest album Ela, now out on Six Degrees Records). Both musicians also supply harmony vocals.
Faccini seeks to communicate as directly as possible with his audience. That’s why, he explains, there are no drums or percussion on Between Dogs and Wolves. Faccini felt that the songs would be more powerful if he used other instruments as well as his voice to create the pulse of the music. “Everything I do is really rhythmic; I just didn’t want it to come from drums,” he says. “My studio is full of strange and wonderful instruments, and I use a lot of them on the album. I didn’t want it to be obvious what each instrument was. There’s a kora, dulcimer, tampura, xylophone, Chinese violin, a lot of rhythmic stuff just blending in. I play all of these instruments.”