Ghédalia TAZARTES: “Hystérie Off Music” ******

Recorded 2007

 

Ghédalia Tazartes traces his roots to North African Sephardic tradition. His recordings exemplify the most prosperous marriage ever of ethnic vocalizing and imaginative electronic collage. Tazartes’ strength lies in his dynamic, rhythmic and harmonic restraint. The element of surprise, while ubiquitous, does not rely on the shock of opposites. Rather, his compositions flow naturally, always apportioning tasty ingredients, but in an organic, gradualist fashion.

 

His activity now spans three decades, yet his music is hors temps. Over the years, his bequest has graced many visual performances, but has stood on its own among the most accomplished French creations. From emotional psalms to shamanic hymns, Tazartes vocal eclecticism makes his art unclassifiable and distant from the electro-acoustic orthodoxy in his country.

 

His recording output dried out in the 1990s and many feared that the legend had been silenced forever. It is, therefore, with great expectations that fans of sonic asymmetry hail his return to a more prolific form.

 

Soul 1

The recording does not “open”, but breaks through the wall, imploding and rapidly mutating into old man’s lament. Increasingly discernible and sometimes nasal, the sorrowful voice will be accompanied by a piano abandoned on the desert hill.

 

Soul 2

Change of scenery. We are in a deep tropical valley as depicted earlier Jorge Reyes’s electronic landscapes. Tazartes’ art is less linear, though, with multiple harmonies emanating from a ringing synthesizer and interrupted by a crashing guitar feedback. The static spectacle is further enriched by hollow, impersonal voices flattened through the phone lines.

 

Soul 3

An apocalyptic moan, most probably in Hebrew, emerges from a cocoon of barely audible synthesized strings and subtle bass drone. We are close to post-“Imperium” era Current 93, but when Tazartes falls into the title Hysteria, the effect is less exaggerated than in David Tibet’s case.

 

Soul 4

A stylistic mystery tour, mountain calls from the Caucasus, stern Coptic choirs, plaintive Arabian voices – all masterfully cohesive in this short sample of Tazartes’ mixing genius.

 

Soul 5

Electronic whispers, slothful electric bass, sinusoidal harmonics and dovish sobbing all return in loops of various lengths. The nocturnal quality of this fragment relies on the changing piano-forte combination of these four elements.

 

Country 1

Scraps of acoustic guitar tuned similarly to Haino’s Black Blues give way to a love poem recited with a falsely foreign accent. The poet forsakenly expresses his love for a ‘little French girl’. When several violin notes intervene, the text begins to alternate credibly between English and French.

 

Country 2

A sharp electric guitar loop cuts through the previous track’s poem. Without the sudden ruptures, this would be a blues. But again, unruly children’s voices, weather events and lost chamber quartets distract the listener.

 

Country 3

“Yes – this is a Love Song”, an old man’s voice announces. Self-ironic and very carnal song, indeed, follows. There is a marked contrast between the accompaniment by a congenial bowed acoustic bass, and the singer’s drunken, limping snort.

 

Country 4

After these short vignettes, the longest track on the CD unfolds with cinematic strings, oppressive seagulls and majestic ship horns. By the time we visualize a Titanic or Lusitania tragedy, a parody of jazz scat explodes, as if filtered through a long tube. Sustained echoes from Deep Listening tradition, electronic clicks, and finally an uncertain melody all posture in front of the cinematic theme. Tazartes sounds here like an adult impersonating a naughty kid, but not without some humorous twists. The blues guitar loops back in, briefly echoing an earlier passage in a structural formation reminding of 1970s progressive suites. It then becomes the main focus; harder, and as decisive as Albert Collins’s. The last two minutes are sent to us from another world: a falsely demure Japanese girl (Yumi Nara), a choking wah-wah guitar, an opera mezzosoprano and crashing drums.

 

Country 5

To the accompaniment of two guitars – acoustic and wah-wah, Tazartes sings out his regret of not being a Spanish nobleman. His characteristic, weeping manner, never breaks into self-parody.

 

Jazz

The title is a misnomer for a heavy guitar cum strings fresco carried over by angelic voices. Tonality is shaky. Half-uttered morphemes and electronically edited percussion reinforce the increasingly staccato guitar and it’s a relief when the fuzz ebbs away. Still, the strings will not reign on their own. The guitar hits back and the string section becomes more articulate, pushing the track to another level of intensity. Ultimately, the kettle drum adopts a function of a belated referee.

 

Bonus

A frightening virago takes it out on her entourage just as a southern comfort guitar relaxes with calculated indifference. It is up to the listener to infer the meaning… Familiar howling will close this chapter.

 

***

 

Every Tazartes’ recording is highly recommended. Nevertheless, his music requires an open mind. Electro-acoustic hardliners will frown on his vocal verbosity and experimental rock fans may struggle with the more esoteric moments. He remains an island on his own.

 

Ghédalia TAZARTES: “Diasporas” (1980)

Ghédalia TAZARTES: “Transports” (1981)

Ghédalia TAZARTES: “Transports EP” (1981)

Ghédalia TAZARTES: “Une eclipse totale du soleil” (1983)

Ghédalia TAZARTES: “Tazartes” (1987)

Ghédalia TAZARTES: “Check Point Charlie” (1989)

Ghédalia TAZARTES: “Voyage à l’ombre” (1997)

Ghédalia TAZARTES: “Les danseurs de la pluie” (1977, 2005)

Ghédalia TAZARTES: “5 Rimbaud 1 Verlaine” (2006)

Ghédalia TAZARTES: “Jeanne” (2007)

Ghédalia TAZARTES: “Hystérie Off Music” (2007)

 

PALO ALTO: “Asphodèles de l’asphalte” ****

Recorded between 1989 and 1992

 

Palo Alto was a French quartet active in the 1990s. Denis Frajerman, Jacques Barbéri, Philippe Perreaudin and Philippe Masson successfully reconciled two distinct musical traditions – quintessentially Gallic miniatures and a very un-French approach to studio processing. The results were stupefying. The pictorial depth of their recordings could only be matched by Denis Frajerman’s solo adventures. Their rich, phantasmagorical paysages were populated by odd shapes and eerie shadows. This was rock electronics of volcanic creativity.

 

The band disappeared from sight around 2000. More recently, a number of archival recordings saw the light of the French day (with, regrettably, little light anywhere else). The collection presented here was among them.

 

After several cameo appearances on various tribute records (Ptose, Coil), the band resurfaced live and finally published a new CD in late 2007. They seem to be active again, publishing music, video and books.

 

Le chant posthume

Self-declared overdrive bass opens the record as if evoking the zeuhl heritage. Il n’en est rien. This piece and the entire record will be strongly rooted in the then inescapable tradition of post-new wave stylisms and Residents-like nightmares. Following a sequence of faux tubular bells, a quasi hysterical female vocalism sidetracks our attention. But instead, a slow progression on keyboards remains stuck in pentatonic scale. The “song” closes with unsettling ingressive vocal sounds.

 

Asphodèle de l’asphalte

Mechanical mambo jolts from the rhythm box, accompanied by a very juicy electric bass which will define the record’s title piece. This simple repetitive melody will see no development, despite, or may be because of a somewhat anemic Middle Eastern phrasing.

 

Madame la charcutière

This is little more than an epigrammatic piano vignette. Two female voices, courtesy Claire and Nathalie, turn the nascent melody into a non-sequitur.

 

Séquence 4

Manipulated, growling voices open this sequence. Deeper, subharmonic layers provide a canvas for sharp snippets of alto sax loops. Independently, percussive pattering envelopes a sketchy keyboard melody and grows in intensity, but will not obscure the melodic line.

 

Les flots sont moins bleus que les sables

After an all-too-short intro on maghrebian recorder, over-familiar electronic pulse zooms in. Luckily, hyperactive balalaika soon floods us with rapid figures, contending for space with vaguely Middle Eastern harmonics. It is then substituted by a pre-dawn clarinet. One searches for references to Joseph Racaille, but in vain.

 

Cosette

Formulaic tune played by Denis Frajerman on multi tracked keyboards in a shrugging Klimperei style.

 

Monsters are Bach

We revisit the Residents recipe – marching aliens, distorted voices at triple speed and mechanic reversals of muscular electro-feedback. Squeezed into this stomping, the keyboard theme is actually less straightforward than in the previous pieces.

 

Anomala

Innocuous rhythm box hails from deep in the 1980s – an unabashedly new wavy reminiscence. Were it not for the spastic balalaika in the background, the tune could almost be adorned with affected vocals à la the Cure.

 

Paysage: nul chant d’oiseau

Simplistic electronic meter chops about for another meal of pentatonic figures. But then we are reached by austere effects of untuned strings. The resonating twang evokes African kora, but we should not be misled, as the sound apparently emerges from a cheap keyboard that Philippe found at a flea market. The mixed-down balalaika returns, bridging those dull pizzicato explorations with the mutant rhythm.

 

Musique de l’enfer 1

The ghastliness of this miniature will barely attain the standard of the B-movie. The somewhat ramshackle beat will brake before we have even noticed.

 

Musique de l’enfer 2

This is a more exploratory dance macabre, adorned with echoing alto sax. The morbid, electronic pulse recalls, this time again, the Residents.

 

Avant la naissance

This number is based on a procedure well known since 1960s – a tape recording, here with a text in French, cut short and sent through a loop. After several seconds, the repetition graces us with an irregular rhythm until new loops of other conversations and radio announcements are overlaid on top. Fortunately, the collage never becomes too dense. After nearly 3 minutes this sonic sauce is supplemented by a heavily processed source of electronic origin, but it will not materially alter the original theme. Henceforth, the track develops along two surfaces. Jacques Barbéri’s strident alto saxophone cuts through this mass until the electro-throb returns and drowns out all the other contributions.

 

Friture

The next two compositions present Palo Alto as a quintet and are more consciously developed. Here melodramatic recitation by Marie-Laurence Amouroux extrudes phonemic values from the interplay of pre-programmed rhythm-box and a warm bass clarinet. The alto saxophone, as often on this collection, soars independently. Philippe Masson multiplies the grating mechanical beats.

 

Le pont

Another anti-chanson. This one approaches the style developed several years before by Alesia Cosmos. The stripped down female voice seems to be slowing down the hesitant theme. The reeds contribute sparsely to the overall cartoonish image.

 

La quatuor vocale

The last recording is something of a throwaway – an experiment of a multi-tracked vocal contributed by Philippe Perreaudin.

 

***

 

All those who wish to uncover Palo Alto’s other jewels, here are some recommendations:

 

PALO ALTO: Le close (1990)

PALO ALTO: Grand succédanés (1992)

PALO ALTO: Asphodèle de l’asphalte (1989-1992)

PALO ALTO: Excroissance (1993) MC

PALO ALTO: Trash et artères (1993-1994)

PALO ALTO: Le disque dur (1996)

PALO ALTO: Trans Plan (1998 )

PALO ALTO / KLIMPEREI: Mondocane (1995-2000)

PALO ALTO: Terminal sidéral (2005-2007)

VARIOUS ARTISTS: Pogs Box (2001), remixes

Denis FRAJERMAN: Mandibules (1990, 1994) MC

Denis FRAJERMAN – PALO ALTO Solo: Le souffle du vide (1992-1995)

Denis FRAJERMAN: Drosophiles (1995) MC

Denis FRAJERMAN – Jacques BARBERI – PALO ALTO: Le nom des arbres (1996)

Denis FRAJERMAN: Les suites Volodine (1997)

Denis FRAJERMAN: Fasmes vol.1 (1997)

Denis FRAJERMAN: Macau Peplum (1996-1999)