Published in Carbon 14 N°11, June 1997
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 bribery!
So, what better place than this to stage an absurdist performance of Dadaist street theatre.
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 if entranced.
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 entrance.
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 off-world rave!!

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.  

Bon, Ciao, les copains! Next time, things of the sultry summer and Mediterranean abandon, I hope!

Don't be shy.....
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