& thus, we arrive at Madame Fontaine’s highly heralded second LP as the unofficial leading artist from 69, a collaboration with a juvenile Art Ensemble Of Chicago (& Leo Smith) – Comme Á La Radio. This LP generally seems to be perceived as a de-facto Brigitte Fontaine album, where the Art Ensemble Of Chicago who at that time were based in France & were kicking up quite a shit-storm were hired to perform on about half the tracks on this LP. The liner notes on the LP (going by my trashed n’ tatty original) & it’s title are pleasantly confusing & ambiguous – the cover & spine suggest almost a concept album, simply iterating the album’s title & no particular artist. The back of the LP lists Brigitte Fontaine, Areski (who performs on many of the tracks) with Art Ensemble Of Chicago, which as stated, this time includes Leo Smith & was just prior to long-term drummer Don Moye joining the mob (no full drum-kit is used on this album).
ANYWAY! Assembly details aside, we have a great LP here & what seems to be generally thought of as Fontaine’s most popular/esteemed release. AEOC, for all their ferocious fire-&-brim-stone caterwaul are more subdued on this recording, keeping with the albums prevailing slow-simmering & some-what sombre atmospherics. Fontaine & the album generally wields a deeply atmospheric, moody sullen delicate beautiful mien & aura …slow & composed, accessible but distinctly Avant-Garde & tallowed with mystery & sensory intrigue. The LP has a very stripped back, acoustic & agrestic-like quality, with some tracks actually being nothing more than Brigitte reciting sparse spoken-word over Field Recordings/live ambience of perhaps crickets in the night or Areksi’s rudimentary percussion or mopey up-right bass licks. The vastly varying degrees of detail/commotion create a real schism of contrasts, like totally separate seasons or characters, or perhaps better – “scenes”. In it’s entirety this album has quite an effect, which I presume is part of it’s success with such a large audience. It’s very evocative & ambiently/emotionally descriptive, exciting the imagination & prompting a richness of phantasms & vivid sensuality. Compared with Fontaine’s two other early titles as a leader, “Est” – which is, although weird & constantly carousing with anomaly, much more straight & musically-sound or opting for a traditional musical/instrumental approach, or her far weirder & estranged self-titled 1970’s LP (definitely my favourite). Jacques Higelin, an artist Brigitte worked with extensively also makes a solitary appearance here on the B sides opening track “L’été L’été”. My personal favourite moment on this album is the last track on the A-side, J’ai 26 Ans – an extremely tenebrous & sultry nocturnal dirge, with just Malachi Favors playing sporadic double-bass in tandem with Brigitte’s enchanting slow vocals (& some yearning Cello later in the song). Gorgeous stuff in dead of night solitude.
Another essential Fontaine joint then? – but of course! All Brigitte’s early work is in print & easily acquired.