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25 June 2009

Areski & Brigitte Fontaine - 'L'Incendie' (Get Back)

Areski and Brigitte Fontaine make such a cute couple; he's the bearded musical voyager and she's the arty answer to ye-ye pop. Together they were the Gallic version Richard & Mimi Fariña, or maybe Mickey and Mallory. Now, my French is barely beyond high school level so I don't know what the hell they're singing about and I'm afraid to stop and figure it out, but there's a pleasure to be found in ignorance. Side A has Areski's darkly shadowed face on the label. The nursery rhyme glow is there on some songs ('Le 6 Septembre'), sung like a round or other sort of children's workshop. We also get whacked out porn guitar behind Brigitte's fantastic voice ('L'Engourdie') and then dark medieval churchy dirges like 'Nous Avons Tant Parlé'. It's a grab bag of sounds from the 60's/early 70's, with the Eastern vibe laid on thick. When you flip to side B (so you can look at Brigitte's face spinning), you get Areski's solo vocals over bongos and snakecharmer flutes. It's one of only 2 songs over 3 minutes, yet it feels particularly long because it's Brigitte who I came to party with and I can't hear her. But the other "long" track is the whispered 'Après la guerre'. Intimate and kinda sexy, with the odd plink and pluck in the background, it's like that scene in the Blair Witch Project where the one girl just puts the camera on her face in the dark and cries about how scared she is. I thought L'Incendie was their first album but it's hard to tell since when Get Back reissued it, they didn't bother to include any additional contextual notes, such as a date. Some Google 'research' places it at '74, and therefore after Comme la Radio, but I always thought it was '71 and had filed it before. So now when writing this, I have to save this draft til I've reviewed Comme la Radio which means I'm listening to them out of order, an error I will correct when I refile (so Encourager Templates take 2, coming in April 2012, doesn't make the same mistake). Which means this bit I wrote below is now totally wrong and irrelevant, but instead of recycling it for a future qualifying post I'll just dump it here:
I'm always really interested in the records made just before the unfuckwithable ones. I'm drawn to records like The Colour of Spring, Vampire on Titus, The Dreaming - slightly flawed, perhaps, but made during a creative stride with the masterpiece just visible in the distance. Sometimes I like these predecessors even more than the "big" albums, plus sometimes you've listened to the more acclaimed album too much. I recognize Comme la Radio as the masterpiece but have more often pulled out L'Incendie because of this factor. I've always imagine Fontaine as the one calling the shots (despite Areski's top billing - I mean, that's just alphabetical, right?) and feeling frustrated at all of the fruity arrangements - that despite this record's eclecticism, it still just wasn't quite right, ie: she's almost there, but not yet. And only when paired with the Art Ensemble of Chicago do her songs really explode into something magical, but she had to wait til the next album for that. So knowing this, it's improved L'Incendie a bit in my eyes -- you can hear the hesitation, the uncertainty, the hope. And ending with 'Le Chant des Chants', so strident yet abrupt, waiting for a coda that is yet to come.
Yeah, well, screwed that up for sure....

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