|Twenty years ago and more, Le Parc de la Villette were Paris’ main abattoirs,
and like many French things, it collapsed under the combined weight of incompetence
and corruption, real estate speculations and a dizzying waltz of graft and
So, what better place than this to stage an absurdist performance of Dadaist
In case you missed it, Dadaism was born in the dark days of World War I
as a movement of revolt by western intelligentsia against the horrors of
that war. Provocative truculence and derision was its modus operandi and
the names and places associated with it were the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich
with Tristan Tzara and Hugo Ball; New York with Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray
and Francis Picabia; and Paris where Tzara, Ray, Picabia and Andre Breton
saw to its demise with the victory of the Surrealist dissidence.
Today, the outlook is a little brighter than it was in the 1914-1920 period,
but the existential gloom pervading French society (what else is new?!)
is a fitting frame for a Dada resurgence.
So, here I was in the revamped Villette ( the abattoirs are long gone, replaced
by acres of museums, night clubs, concert halls and performance spaces),
sitting on a patch of manicured lawn beside a large silver geodesic dome
where outdoor statues and strolling crowds reflected helter skelter in its
multi-faceted silver panes.
Three guys in suit and ties, with hats and aprons that would have made
a Rotary/Syriac lodge brother drool with envy, stroll on the grass as
One rings a bell, the kind you ring to signal the maid to come in with
the champagne and canapes, except here it’s to call a further trio of
Dada lodgers coming from nowhere with soprano saxes and clarinets. All
six play Zappa/Varese sound blurbs, and sprechgesang in a nonsensical
kind of Serbo-Croatian Latin going UBU JUJU GLIPUS MOY MOY.
The one in the blue apron crows rooster style and his cohorts start picking
people out of the crowd, making them don similar vestments, obviously
needing acolytes to join in a chant of GOOBALEEN ESTITI JUBILEE, as the
sun shines and the sky goes SPRIIZTEB.
CABALO CARAMEL TOC TOC TOC says the Grand Dada as he leads his people
away and we all stand up, on cue, to follow the celebrants through two,
then four, blue cardboard Doric columns. The joy of the Dada Lodgers at
the multiplication of Acolytes is palpable as they all intone their blissful
anthem TRILITITI SCRATCH MOY MOY!
The acolytes march and strut, waving librettos (!!) in the air as percussion
and cricket sounds drip off loudspeakers around the celebration perimeter.
We sit, they circle waving at each others with silly initiated grins MUMBO
JUMBO TICKLE TICKLE MOY MOY, and then we learn that Dada in blue is an
auto mechanic, his red brother a hair dresser while the green thurifer
is a school teacher (applause from the crowd!), and that they will now
engage in a traditional trialogue, complete with dance and incantations
of BLO BLO BLU BLU BLEY.
By then, we’ve reached a blue Gazebo, and a new pair of Dadas make their
Solemn and mysterious, in black and silver apron strewn with crescent
moons, zodiac signs and baleful cabalistics, He hits a cowbell as She
sticks her tongue at the participants as more Mothers/Varese musique concrete
comes out of the sound system. Further bells are rung DING DONG, a bass
drum is hit BOOM BOOM BOOM and the ceremony continues with a fanfare and
ecstatic cries of POM POM MOY MOY, led by the Dadas showing lyric cue
cards for an unison wall of SSS SSS FFF FFF VOOMMM TI ERA ZOUGIGI. They
all squat, FOL FOL FOL go the men, responded to by eloquent OOOOOOOOOOH
COP GOB from the women, who should know!
By then, the sky has gotten itself a thick cover of clouds, forcing the
sun into a loosing struggle to shine through POC POC. Mayhem and turbulence
has gripped the acolytes, as the clarinets wail WAYEEEE WEEEYYY, the chorus
goes OUILLE OUILLE POC GLOCK and the rain starts coming down. Obviously
called by this Grand Dada invocation, the water drops are clearly understood
by the audience to be of arcane and magical origin, so nobody moves. And
nobody gets wet!
After a few more convoluted dances and arkenio-paranoiac strings of runes,
the clouds open up, the sun pours its resuscitating lava upon our heads,
and the crowd breaks into applause as the Grand Dada and its retinue take
bows and cheers in equal good grace!
I stand and walk away as I seem to be hearing sheep and cattle BAAA and
MOOOO at the returning Sol. But that’s just an impression, as Dada turns
surrealist and the subway beckons CLIK CLANK CLONK and Paris tunnels play
with darkness and a blinding invisible light WSSSSSHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I forgot all my problems.
And a musical note with a few fine records and songs working their way
upon me recently.
French/International sampling-heavy VON MAGNET.
The new album MEZCLADOR (Fairplay) is a masterpiece of modern tech used
to create intensely emotional songs of many varied styles and atmospheres.
Gothic drama and Moorish songs meet aggro-industrial percussives, big
Malherian string samples, or Andalucian anguish in a baroque and symphonic
marvel of excess!
A little further inside, and a whole lot less ponderous, is LIMBORG.
Also a blend of tech instrumentation and exotic alien vocals (Java, Malaysia,
India, Cambodia,…France), German keyboardist/percussionist/samplist/vocalist
Limborg actually puts it all together himself. With help from various
others (guitar, hurdy-gurdy, sax, clarinet, and many voices), the music
on KHA (Tangram) is ever changing, multi-colored, warmly odd, danceable
(gently, now!) and space-bound.
The UK, Benelux, Germany and France are all big on that trip hop/hip-hop/
ambient/jungle/chill stuff. And they should! Splendid efforts from the
UK’s Pussyfoot Records and their new compilation CAT SMELL LIKE FISH.
After WALL OF PUSSY and NO PUSSYFOOTING, they’re showcasing here an all-japanese
crew of DJs/mixers/sound makers who certainly can slice up some wonderful
slow techno sushi. Stand outs on the menu are Typhoon Tosh (his 14 minutes
of sound sculpture No.2, Snakes and Ladders and Jane Birkin (?) samples
with electric rock guitar, sounds of female orgasm and W.F.Burroughs aphorisms
make for some brilliant and novel space-pop!), and Kensuke Shina.
Shina works out of Jakarta, Indonesia.
Another great evocation of an ancient and mysterious East finally overcome
by string synths and BPMs! Imagine walking in the Javanese rain forest,
gamelan sounds and temple chants seeping through the luxuriant green moistness.
You turn the corner and all of a sudden, it’s 8AM chill time at a mysterious
Also (and much more!) out of England is SIE.
On RUBAN D’ALPHA (Pussyfoot), using, yet again, similar instrumentation
and sound sources (voice and dialogue samples, beds of lush synth strings
and always moving perc BPMs-between 54 and 150!,…), he (SIE) creates perfect
Eno concept music: it works superbly as mellow background to whatever
endeavor you wish accompanied, and is always captivating, even fascinating,
to hear attentively, what with its dramatic sweeps, aching melodies and
weird sounds popping up here and there.
SOURCE LAB has also released its third compilation, two separate CDs
of french hip hop DJs and remixers.
SOURCE LAB 3, y and x, (Source/Virgin-France) clearly demonstrate that,
if the rap on french guitar rawk was that they couldn’t, the frenchies
have no such limitations with hip hop/trip hop/rap/soul/stuff!
Clever, elaborate sounds mixed in any direction you want, rightly grooving
or lurking darkly in the mix’s shadow.
Ciao, les copains! Next time, things of the sultry summer and Mediterranean
abandon, I hope!