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Catherine Ribeiro  & Alpes - Paix CD (album) cover


Catherine Ribeiro & Alpes


Psychedelic/Space Rock

4.11 | 49 ratings

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4 stars I'm prolonging my stay in France for the next couple of reviews (and of course for the fragrant opium cheeses) this fabulously outrageous album called Paix came out in 1972, and believe you me when I say that it's formed in the hands of a group you've never heard the likes of in your life. With the progressive folk scene frolicking in all kinds of constellations - the vibe coming out of Germany felt particularly hippiyish - let's all get together and sit on the lawn, while a good deal of the music coming from the British isles suddenly had changed - fast becoming more introvert and "ugly" in its expression - epitomized by the likes of Comus, Jan Dukes de Grey and Tea & Symphony. Catherine Ribeirou belongs to these mad cats, and with her band Alpes - formerly known as 2+bis - the music coming out of your speakers when you hopefully decide to take the plunge - sounds like a haunted and slow motion catatonic version of Edith Piaf eroding through the music like pouring acid of sand.

The entire album revolves around simple, yet obnoxiously brilliant guitar patterns that chuff along like a decisively more edgy acoustic Keith Richards. Even the finger play is spot on! Hurling in a sea of mist - the psychedelic and often luminous fizzing organs snake effortlessly underneath, above and right in front of the guitar - creating an image of a wild frenzied kid haphazardly in circles with a guitar on his back - swooping about the stoic submersible rugs of furry glistening sound being hurled your way from those organs.

The focal point of everything here is the terrorising vocals of Ribeirou. Man, I'll tell you - sometimes she sounds like an androgynous Gestapo interrogator with big booming demonic obsessions darting out of her like fountains of beautiful darkness. These are the sort of vocals that echo Edith Piaf standing on top a skyscraper summoning a dangerous and desperately edgy vibe.

The first track Roc Alpin immediately gives you the impression that you're going to hear a folk rock album with somewhat strange fittings glued onto various other musical surfaces you didn't catch the first time around - but then again the first time you hear this record, it'll stop you dead in your tracks - just because the vocals appear in the room like small splintered knives.

This is however not how it all starts. Paix begins like a proper album and serves to you perhaps not the most accessible tune, but at least it sorta rocks. Feels something like a being led through a green faerie wonderland with a large and merry sailor's wife going LALAAAAAHHLAALAAHHH LALAAAAH!!! Then the organs turn up and the moods get twirling murky and soaring. Small guitar figurines leads it gently to the door as it doses off into silence.

Then an extremely French ballad comes in the form of laid back guitar strumming, and the most raging vibrato I've ever heard applied to a female rock performer. Short and very French piece - sending you along Parisienne Walkways straight onwards into the sadness of the gutter. Melancholic sweetness haunts this tune from start to finish.

At this point, you've pretty much accepted that you've acquired a progressive avantguarde cabaret album, but then something funny happens - the mood changes for the more airy and porous, and I could swear we were suddenly somewhere along the ridges of NEU! - and finally the pieces fall together, when the odd electronic string instrument called the percuphone emerges and starts emulating the well familiar two stroke rhythm of a sequencer. Additionally the music veers into dark hedges and demented yet most befitting organ runs mimic the sort of free association you'd hear from a guy like Ray Manzerak when he played live gigs with The Doors. Right there and then Ribeiro steps in and speaks out on behalf of the mad country and focuses the spotlight on all the fabulous midnight lurkers of everyday life - sporting distinct left field convictions. The track goes back and forth between these two outer extremes - feeding off the powerful back swing it gets from either side of the fence - and then slowly coming to a halt with the electronics fading smoothly out, and you get the sense that the upcoming storm is awaiting brewing round the bend. She then sings out in the most angelic voice, and the skies rip apart like new born butterflies. This is effectively only a percuphone, a light decor of atmospheric guitar riff raff, some keys and vocals, but with this title piece it feels as if the world is on the verge of becoming a speaker and everything around turns alive with sound. It's a real trip man! Ford I love this thing.

The final piece instigates with a Cluster like elegance - like a feather caught on the up-draft - refusing to land anywhere. It's as insubstantial as it is pretty - and moreover, the soothing lapping watery music from the previous track now comes to the fore and you effectively get lured out into the slippery end, where everything seems like it's melting. When Ribeiro returns to song, all of the locked away emotions seep right through under the crackling of her menacing soaring vocal lines. Oh yes, there's buckets of beauty in here as well. The final bewildering whisper/effervescent rodeo flute always sends me off chasing mice in my skull. This is like having an alluring and terrifying conversation with the incarnation of Medusa's ancient bloodline...

I've loved this thing the past 15 years, and it never ceases to amaze me just how wild and out there this album really is, and that's with the simplest of instrumentation conceivable. Sometimes less is more. So true. So very true 4.5 stars.

Guldbamsen | 4/5 |


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