Writing about music is like dancing about architecture

Monday, 21 February 2011


What is the sound of library music? Indeed can you even say that there is a 'library sound' given that library music covers just about every conceivable style of music?
Nevertheless there is something, some indefinable element that sets it apart from commercially available recordings.
Bernard Lubat's work can be found largely on French library recordings and is inventive and interesting.
How he came to make a record for the hip boutique record label Les Disques Pierre Cardin I am not sure. No doubt couturier Cardin thought it would be a shrewd move to branch out into music and he must have had some adventurous A&R men as, in his label's short life, it released some marvelous, albeit not terribly commercial stuff. As you would imagine each release was thoughtfully packaged and this is no different.
Enlarge the image and have a long look at it. Designed by Emmanuel 'Pinpin' Sciot, I think its a rather beautiful collage that hints at all manner of pop cultural and avant garde interests. And is the face at the centre of the eye happy or shocked, is she laughing at us, or with us, or is she amazed to be seeing us at all?
You probably can't see but the corners of the sleeve have been 'curved' which is a lovely touch for a record cover.
Altogether a very thoughtful piece of design.
The record kicks of with some quacking a la Donald Duck, presumably from some of Lubat's Mad Ducks. However, if I am honest, the quacking doesn't remind me so much of Donald Duck but of the protagonist in The New York Ripper. Another movie/library connection although the film came out in 1982 and the record came out in 1974. Lubat did compose for film and TV as well as for library records, but not I am afraid to say for Fulci's misogynistic effort.
The first track however, is pure gold. Pappy Thomas, largely led by Claude Engel's fuzzy guitar but ably supported by Eddy Louiss on the organ, is a funky slow burning groover that just doesn't seem to stop. If it were in a movie it would be played during the scene where the male lead sees the female lead for the first time dancing in a mod-ish basement nightclub with 'psychedelic' lights playing across her beautiful form. Engel's guitar gets so heated that at one point I wonder if he's actually still playing the same song and hasn't wondered off onto some kind of Hendrix exploitation record. Wigged out man!
After the funky nightclub scene our two heroes have met. To the strains of the next song, To Yashima they drift around swinging London, looking into each other's eyes and making sweet love. The music is light and airy, the wordless vocals drift smoothly moving ever upwards. Eddy Louiss takes his organ work into the swirling, twisting song and also moves ever upwards. Amidst all of this calmness check out the drums - played by Monsieur Lubat the drums are skittish and driving, perhaps pulling away for the wonderful vocal harmonies but nevertheless underpinning the whole. Music for love's young dream.
After the dreamy interlude our boy and girl get back to the important business of solving the crime (whatever it might be) but now they are being chased. Vendredi Chez Astrid Trassoundaine (Friday at Astrid Troussoundaine's) sounds from the title as though it should be another dreamy track. Instead we get funky drumming and more fuzzy guitar attack. Whatever is happening at Astrid's its active stuff. This time Francois Gimenez does the guitar honours and he delivers the goods - as long as what you want are distorted guitar solos. The whole track collapses under the weight of its own freaky fuzzness before, just about, finding its feet with a lovely vibes solo as it fades away into the night.
Side two starts with some more off-putting duck impersonations before heading off into the beautiful Shouara. If our boy and girl want something to listen to while they are having meaningful sex this is the one for them. Again it feature the wordless singing of Annie Vassiliu, Daniele Bartoletti, Christian Padovan, Henry Tallourd and Michel Pellay. Soft guitar and piano accompany our young lovers as they gently celebrate their youth and beauty until some busy drums bring them to a climax.
Just as well they've finished because Au Bon Livre (Ode to Malcom Lowry) is very busy stuff. Malcolm Lowry wrote, amongst other things, Under the Volcano which is without doubt one of the most gut-wrenching depictions of a man's life destroyed by drink. He was also a favourite author of the OuLiPo group of writers and I wonder if that was an influence on Lubat? Au Bon Livre has some fantastic percussion, again courtesy of Lubat which may be an attempt to recreate the Latin-American setting of Lowry's book. There are moments during the song where I think that its one of those 'freak-out' tracks that you usually get on biker soundtracks. But then the inventive percussion comes through, as does the vibes and piano and you realise what an inventive piece of music it is. The piano refrain gets into my brain and is very hard to shift.
Finally, after their drink/drug freak-out our heroes get to the end of the movie. With another shot of mad duck noise Mickey Schroeder's Dreams contains only some clear, aching piano played by Lubat. Whatever Mickey is dreaming about it is a happy dream.
But perhaps not, as the very last sound on the record is a door being slammed. The end.


  1. Interesting as always. Have to say Lowry's Under the Volcano is one of my favourite books, I will have to keep an eye out for this record.

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