Atlantic Waves 18may10: Pascal Comelade

Each new album by Pascal Comelade is in itself a bit of an event. The man makes himself rare in France and is much more prolific in Catalonia, where he is considered to be an “essential” musician. In France, he is seldom mentioned in the media, and, in record shops, his music is often to be found in the “film score” section, with “experimental music” or even with “world music”. The last time he really got the attention of the critics was for his musical show “Psicotic Music-Hall” in 2002, a tribute to La Bodega Bohemia, a historical cabaret in Barcelona. Fortunately, “Monofonicorama 2005-1992”, his recent Best-Of album, put into perspective the importance of his works and demonstrated his many-sided musical vision, his multi-layered pocket symphonies, his bazaar of toy instruments and his playful ramblings, sometimes shared with big names in the world of the bizarre: P.J. Harvey (Love Too Soon) and Robert Wyatt (September Song) among others. A great way to brush-up on your Comelade culture and to prepare your ears for what is coming next is the Métode de Rocanrol, the new musical piece by the genius of the Pyrenees.

This new record, portraying a naked lady hiding behind a Minnie Mouse mask on its cover (photo by Les Krims), is a collection of images of great instrumental verve with no lyrics. An enchanted musical box. A fantastic voyage to the sources of primitive music that contains all that has nourished rock’n’roll. A record with many different sides – you will find traces of genres, either as direct references or as elaborately composed images, or simply have to treat it as a musical Tower of Babel.

Mètode de Rocanrol evokes the rebel streak of the bolero-torero served in a Catalan cobla (“The Hallucinogenic Espontex Sinfonia”), the mischief of the loud-talking Jamaïcan riddims (“Il Luna Park Galactico”, “Le Barman de Satan”), Kurt Weill’s carousels, majestic rumbas (“Jopo de Pojo Not Dead”), feverish New Orleans brass bands (“L’U”), the ghost of François de Roubaix, Eric Satie’s great open spaces (“Com un Rossinyol Amb Mal de Queixal”), the rhythmic soul of tango (“Smog on the Vermut”), the best of the 70’s Catalan rock of Pau Riba (“Noia de Porcellena”), the original sorrow of blues (“Stranger in Paradigm”), and a direct reference to 60’s rock (the messy riff of “You Really Got Me” by the Kinks on “Elvis Loved Dogs”, a musical interpretation of Kata Billups’ paintings).

Everything here has been reshaped, decoded, transformed, investigated to its very core and brought to a new light with psychotropic instrumentation: distorted or bottlenecked guitars, and even plastic ones, unruly banjos, clarinets, xylophones, accordions, saxophones, musical saws, muted and un-muted trumpets, toy pianos and real ones, mini-organs, almost drums, trombone, tubas and strings.

Comelade arranged this organized chaos into an eclectic work in the winter temperatures of 2006/2007. On his own, most of the time. He only opened his door to three companions in this spiritual escape: Didier Banon (drummer for the punk band OTH) on drums and percussion, the trombone player Enzo Tozoni, and his old partner Pep Pascual, master of the brass and wind section of Comelade’s work since the beginning.

Comelade is a great guy. His feet deeply anchored in the red earth of his birthplace, his antennae turned towards the invisible and the universal. He is a tightrope-walker, dancing on the spiritual lines among the folk music of the world, and rekindles their ancestral modernity. He penetrates the genres to tickle their spines, telescopes them into sober and figurative repetitive structures. Mètode de Rocanrol is on the same level as his greatest albums, his records with Dadaist names such as: “La Dialectique Peut-Elle Casser des Briques?”, “Petit Précis de Décomposition Bruitiste”, “L’Argot du Bruit”, “Filosophia des Plat Combinat”, “Patafisiskal Polska”, “Logicofobisme des Piano en Minuscul”… This man has reintroduced the idea of circus into serious music and the idea of seriousness into light music. Comelade forever.


Atlantic Waves 23sep08: Pascal Comelade