Belgium - Full Moon 147 - 09/15/08
Les Vleurs Du Bal
Jardin Au Fou
We gave underground hero for four decades, Alain Neffe, a broad presentation in our January menu this winter. Here he talked about his different projects, including the electro-pop-experimental duo BeNe GeSSeRiT that he started along with his wife-to-be Nadine Bal in the early 1980s. He announced the coming of their longest work in progress, an album with lyrics by Charles Baudelaire, hopefully to be released later in 2008. And here it is!
I'm not sure if I'm capable to review this album in a decent way. Baudelaire is of course a famous French poet of the romantic school from the 19th century. I can only stutter a couple of simple sentences in French if I'm forced to and are by no means competent to have any opinion of classic French poetry in its native language. I haven't even found out what Vleurs means. On the other hand it seems like a crazy idea for a band like BeNe GeSSeRiT to deal with a poet of that kind. Maybe the lyrics in themselves aren't that important when they are treated in the sometimes indecent BeNe GeSSeRiT way...?
The name Bene Gesserit is taken from the science fiction universe in the Dune novels by Frank Herbert (and also David Lynch's film of the same name). It's a female society whose members, along with other skills, were able to control other persons by use of their trained voices. Not quite like sirens whose voices could kill, but listening to the vocal output of Nadine Bal, aka Benedict G., one might occasionally wonder. It seems unthinkable that the duo might treat the poetry of Baudelaire in an altogether respectful way. And right: the info sheet gives us a clue: 'We met Charles in a bistro. He was totally smashed and rambling at the bar... After a few drinks, we hit it off and he told that he wrote some sort of verse poems. ...'
Here is a more direct explanation Alain sent me in an e-mail recently: 'Baudelaire is a real "classic", we wanted to add a little bit of derision to his glory... We absolutely respect the texts. Some are still very good, some are obsolete, some are ridiculous... A strange idea, I know, but we are a little bit strange...' Some of the lyrics are treated with respect, others ... less so or not at all! The musical variety of the album is enormous, from the calm and poetic, via jazzy table music (including cows lowing!), to the completely burlesque and avant-garde. The recording sites and points in time, use of instruments and use of Benedict G.'s voice show the same variety. The 20 tracks are recorded between 1988 and 2007, the majority in the early and mid 1990s, in Alain's home studios, living-rooms, bathroom, bedroom and on the beach. Instruments treated, ill-treated and manipulated include a Steinway grand piano and other assorted keyboards, electric guitar, tourist cora, flute, toys and a toilet... Whereas Benedict sings, talks, whispers, screams, hisses, recites in a theatrical voice, ...; sometimes B. Ghola (Alain Neffe), too.
Favourites? Difficult one. Here are (very) different expressions for different moods. The album starts surprisingly calm and ...comfortably. Though not quite conventional. One of those tracks is "La Béatrice" with pretty organ and somewhat restrained vocals with fascinating French rrr's that any Edith Piaf aspiring singer would kill for. "Une Charogne (Carcass)" on the other hand, is eerie stuff, created by a sole zither and voice. "La Chevelure (Hair)" has a hypnotic keyboard and guitar interplay theme, mystic voice, occasional percussive sounds; spinechilling, almost tribal... "Le Chat (The Cat)" presents a half-mad professor Ghola accompanying himself in a less than trained way on his piano one early morning. It all ends with the hilarious "La Mort De Léopold Ier (The Death Of Léopold Ist)" on the tune of Le Brabançonne, Belgium's national anthem. It might be seen as a statement at the moment of the state of the state of Belgium, so to speak.
Les Vleurs Du Bal is different from any other album around these days, even quite different from earlier BeNe GeSSeRiT recordings. It's a breath of fresh air...
More info and samples at the Jardin Au Fou home page
and the BeNe GeSSeRiT Myspace page.
Copyright © 2008 JP