Original Issue: 1977 Ballon Noir (BAL 13001)
Reissue: 2006 Lion Productions (LION 611M) Buy it here!!!
Margot-meter: 5 moons / 5
Simply GORGEOUS! ...and "Topaze" is decades ahead of its time...
1 Ce Matin à Frémontel (2:45)
2 Plume Blanche, Plume Noire (3:01)
3 Leiturgie (3:12)
4 Thibault et l'Arbre d'Or (4:01)
5 Ritournelle (2:29)
6 L'Echarpe de Soie (1:56)
7 Topaze (6:40)
8 Belle Virginie (1:35)
9 Ballade Avec Neptune (3:02)
10 Maison Rose (2:34)
11 Après l'Ondée (3:03)
12 Voyage Migrateur (2:22)
13 Le Rêve (1:44)
from Aquarius Records:
Haunting and lovely avant-folk recording from French multi-instrumentalist Emmanuelle Parrenin. Recorded in 1977, Parrenin's fascination and adeptness with ancient traditional stringed instruments such as the harp, hurdy-gurdy, spinet, and dulcimer, gives a unique spin on her more forward thinking compositions.
Often compared to Vashti Bunyan and Linda Perhacs due to her sweet multi-tracked vocals which accompany about half of the songs, we think the later recording date puts her more in line with Kay Hoffman's Floret Silva (another progressive folk masterpiece recorded the same year) or the kosmiche pastoral vibe of Popol Vuh due to the layered Celtic-inflected droning harmonies she evokes from her instruments.
Beautiful and so recommended!
from Lion Productions:
We begin by saying that this is an album unlike any other. A bold statement, perhaps.
Yet look in the Scented Gardens of the Mind book and you will see this description: 'A revelation of a folk album, with songs of incredible beauty and innovative arrangements. It features traditional instruments you've hardly ever heard before and touches of the avant-garde. Play this album directly after that of another randomly chosen female folk album, and you will notice the difference! This is one of the best!'
Parrenin had been part of a traditional 'antique folk' movement in France in the late 1960s (she was in many ways a French equivalent to Sandy Denny or Mandy Morton); indeed, she had recorded eight albums with musicians from this scene before Maison Rose -- her best, and last album, recorded in 1976 and released the following year. The record seems to alternate between a cosmic take on an ancient Breton sound, and delicate, multi-tracked ballads -- ranging from sounds that would not be out of place on an Ash Ra Tempel album to elements of traditional French folk music (including home-made instruments) that are just as exotic.
Certainly, the avant-garde edge lurking beneath the simple folkiness of Maison Rose puts in mind the explorations of Brigitte Fontaine with her sometime musical voyager Areski; there are also suggestions of the pastoral caranavserai aesthetic of Vashti Bunyan, as well as the multi-track sensuality of Linda Perhacs (to name two much-touted singers who seem to have a similar ability to enchant). But Parrenin has her own style, her music has its own deeply ethereal quality, and the album itself has its own magic spell to cast that renders comparison with other albums unimportant in the end.
Magnificent, we say.
from Psychedelicfolk Homestead:
This "Maison Rose" album recording had created a spirit of communal, structural development. The guest participants were also not just any musicians. Their backgrounds reveal the interest to create something special beyond the obvious approach. Percussionist and effect-manager Bruno Menny, was asked after this album, in 1978, to appear on Malicorne's highlighting folkrock album, and on the rather unique symphonic folkrock only album by Ripaille on the same label. He was asked more often to be the sound engineer. I believe he also did some cosmos-related electro-acoustic work in the '80's and '90s (see next page). Flutist Didier Malherbe is most known for his work with psychedelic group Gong but he also did interesting solo work in ethno-fusion and jazzfusion styles later on. Mostly jazz-guitarist and vocalist Yan Vagh will appear later on one of Malherbe's solo albums but had worked before with some variety of artists which included Brigitte Fontaine, Johnny Hallyday, Pierre Bensusan,.. Nowadays he is associated with his 10 string fretless acoustic guitar. Guitarist Denis Gasser has some kind of French-Canadian connection. Pierre Bensusan is an original folk and stylistic guitar related musician, who worked here and there closely with vocalist Doatea Bensusan, who participates on this album. Also new for the occasion was some self built instruments, like the tulcivinâ, an instrument based upon the spinet but with the sound of a sitar (she says "based upon the sound of McLauglin’s guitar", used for playing sitar-tunes during Shakti, -a guitar which by the way meant the launching of a whole new generation of sitar-related guitars and instruments-), and a hurdy-gurdy with wah-wah pedal. Also used was the epinette, a French regional instrument from the zither family.
The album has various short instrumentals that are built mostly on combining, harmonically improvisations with the different string instruments, like acoustic guitar, the spinette and a bit of dulcimer, and with hurdy-gurdy. This idea surely is based upon earlier experiences in playing folk and medieval music, but with the feeling to work more freely with them is there, with the same kind of enjoyment and mostly not too far away from casual folk improvisation ideas, with its own delicacy, often structurally simple but sweet and original in building up the album. The instrumentals are alternated with some songs or “chansoniettes” of which the first song, “Plume Blanche, plume Noire” is closest to folk chanson. Just now and then vaguely Brigitte Fontaine comes in mind. Brigitte Fontaine started from chanson on her first album, but while working with people like Areski, she tried also different sounds in her arrangements. Emmanuelle Parrenin isn’t as avant-garde and as tracks has much shorter ideas, she is working in the same nest of finding a new area that is lying already outside folk. On the 6th track, “Topaze”, together with Yan Vagh she really goes into the experiment itself. This slightly longer track is based upon electro-acoustic string sounds, experimental sounds on hurdy-gurdy, recorded in two layers, with some harder percussion giving rhythmic pulses, creating a real abstract landscape. This is followed by another more medieval flavoured track with hurdy-gurdy. The title track, with multiple vocal arrangements, has almost a spiritual (music) flavour mixed with a folk inherited style. In some way I’m reminded here of some tracks with Malicorne, like “Marie De Rose”. “Apres L’Ondée” is also completely semi-acoustic and experimental. This track is done by Bruno Mendy, who, I think, based himself on some of the acoustic complex harmonies that were found during the improvisations. He deformed them into a short but very interesting, experimental cosmic soundtrack, which sounds incredibly nice between the other tracks. Very nice to see also, is how the well fitting bonus track is added, which was recorded at the occasion of a show soundtrack, reminding me this time even more of Brigitte Fontaine. It is a rondo-kind of song with several flute layers of an arrangement, making me wish for more music.
It is a unique album that shows how a series of experiences and backgrounds can lead musically, to inspiration and stimulation (just what the house came to signify for Emmanuelle Parrenin, personally).
PS. The original small 'Ballon Noir' label (distributed by CBS), released a few other gems, like the solo album of Laurent Thibault (fusion progressive styled, from the earliest bassplayer from Magma, who recorded this album with Magma members) and the aforementioned Ripaille.
After this recording Emmanuelle also appeared on the rather interesting progressive folk album ‘La Confrérie des Fous’ (1979), before focusing again on dance and choreographical music.