Monday, 2 November 2009

Creepy Crawlies (the return of the...)

At our monthly L'Amour Electronique soiree back in July someone came and asked me if I had any Jean-Claude Vannier. "I have Histoire de Melody Nelson", I replied. But he wanted Vannier solo. He said there was this Jean-Claude Vannier solo album that was recorded around the same time as Melody Nelson, and it was even more nuts.

I did my research a few days after and found L'Enfant Assassin Des Mouches, which was re-released by Finders Keepers Records in 2006. I made a mental note to get with the times and purchase a copy as soon as I had a bit of spare cash. In September I picked up it up on CD from Rough Trade, and it has made a gleeful romp of a soundtrack to my washing-up sessions ever since. At times I've been caught laughing out loud at the sheer ingenuity and craziness of it all. And I can't help recommending it to anyone and everyone who shows a passing interest in anything French or off-the-wall.

Released in 1972 under the guise of the fictional group Insolitudes, Vannier's composition and production technique throws everything AND the kitchen sink onto tape, then chops it up with razor-blades and re-arranges it: the taut Melody Nelson core-session players; Vannier himself on harpsichord, piano, flute, recorder, toy pianos, chimes and bells, klaxons, whistles and tape recorders; a powerful choir of eerie, valkyrie-like voices; and a simple string quartet, multi-tracked twohundredandfifty-fold to create his trademark lush, sweeping "1001-piece orchestra".

The story goes that Vannier dropped by chez-Serge with a test pressing of his new record, seeking the opinion of his friend and collaborator. Serge asked him to leave the copy with him for 24 hours, and put pen to paper. The result: a strange and macabre story to accompany the strange and unhinged music, L'Enfant Assassin Des Mouches or The Child Fly-Killer.

The re-release has an English interpretation of the typically Gainsbourg-ian tale in the sleevenotes (hmmm, methinks some of his twisted sense of humour may have been lost in translation):
[click the linked titles for mp3s]

1. L'Enfant la Mouche et les Allumettes
The Child the Fly and the Matches: A wounded fly is in a fluster. The child gets his matches ready. He chases the fly and tries to burn it.
2. L'Enfant au Royaume des Mouches
The Child in the Fly Kingdom: The wounded animal leads the child into an underground, humid and dark place: the fly kingdom. The child crosses the stream that runs along the entrance to the forbidden caves.
3. Danse des Mouches Noires Gardes du Roi
Dance of the Black Flies, The King's Guards: As the child approaches, the king's guards take up a warrior's stance, then move aside revealing the king of the flies playing billiards**
4. Danse de L'Enfant et du Roi des Mouches [Dance of the Child and the King of the Flies]
The king of the flies invites the child to dance with him. But during the dance, the child plans an act of treachery.
5. Le Roi des Mouches et la Confiture de Rouse
The King of The Flies and the Rose Jam: The child rips the cellophane off a pot of rose jam and pours it onto the floor. The huge lake of jam slowly covers the king. The king of the flies efforts to break free only get him stuck even more, watched helplessly by the guards who slowly draw away.
6. L'Enfant Assassin des Mouches
The child Fly-Killer: The king, hindered by the jam, drags himself to the human's beach. The child joins him there, jumping around and tormenting him with a rod.
7. Les Garde Volent au Secours du Roi
The Guards fly to the King's rescue: Several troops of black flies harass the child one after the other and try to save the king, but in vain.
8. Mort du Roi des Mouches
Death of the King of the Flies: The child murderer ruthlessly pursues the king of the flies lashing out at the tall grass with his stick. The king of the flies is beaten to death.
9. Pattes de Mouches
Spidery Scrawl / Fly Legs: The fly people take counsel together and prepare their revenge.
10. Le Papier tue Enfant
The Paper Child-Killer: The whirling flies meake the child's head spin. They try to stick him onto a paper child-killer. The child tries to escape the flies punishment twice, then gets stuck onto the paper child-killer***.
11. Petite Agonie de L'Enfant Assassin
The Death Throes of the Child Murderer: The child is covered in flies.

**Serge's cunning plot device to explicate a sound collage-d game of snooker.
***Giant, child-sized sheet of stinky, sticky fly-paper

[Buy Jean-Claude Vannier from Finders Keepers Records]


Will Kane said...

You will be entirely frustrated to learn that the entire LP plus Melody Nelson were performed live in London a few years back:

Will Kane said...
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Will Kane said...
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Will Kane said...

Dom said...

Thank you Will for making me sick as a parrot! God knows what I was doing when they announced that all that time ago...

Though I do remember that I was thinking of going to the Paris Melody Nelson concert, but was rather put off by the prospect of having to sit through Brian Molko whining his way through one of the songs. Oh well.

Thanks for the comment and links, and sorry it's taken so long to respond.