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The New Mexican's Weekly Magazine of Arts, Entertainment & Culture Tuesday, July 22, 2014

BRIGITTE FONTAINE "Comme à la Radio" (Superior Viaduct)

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Posted: Friday, March 28, 2014 5:00 am

This notable reissue by a San Francisco label boasts an exotic teaming-up from 1971: the French avant-garde vocalist Brigitte Fontaine and the Art Ensemble of Chicago. On the title track, Fontaine sings in unison, or trades lines, with the raw-toned horns of Lester Bowie, Roscoe Mitchell, Leo Smith, and Joseph Jarman, while Malachi Favors maintains a lively mood with pulsing bass and Fontaine’s collaborator, Areski Belkacem, drives along with pat-a-patpat drums. On “Tanka,” she sings sweetly, poetically, against echo-y hand drums; then “Le Brouillard” finds her supported by a popping foundation of bongos, and a sopranino sax whines in the background. For the short “Encore,” Fontaine speaks tentatively, accompanied by constant, insect-like sisslings. This is followed by “Leo,” a freeform assemblage of trumpet and unusual instrumental noises, kept in a groove boundary by the unremitting but extra-ordinary drumming. The very short “Les Petits Chevaux” is an a cappella piece with “verses” mostly consisting of the word “la” repeated melodically. Then suddenly, on part two of “Tanka,” the vibe shifts eastward, courtesy of beautiful lute and zither played alongside Fontaine’s gorgeous vocals. It all feels like a fascinating travelogue from tune to tune. We’re experiencing a laboratory setting during which densely creative moments were recorded — and it feels like many more albums could have come from this cauldron. (No more did.) Don’t miss it. There are songs about fog and tar!

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