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French Music - Released January 1, 1989 | Saravah

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Of all the strange records this French vanguard pop chanteuse ever recorded, this 1971 collaboration between the teams of Brigitte Fontaine and her songwriting partner Areski and the Art Ensemble of Chicago -- who were beginning to think about returning to the United States after a two-year stay -- is the strangest and easily most satisfying. While Fontaine's records could be beguiling with their innovation, they occasionally faltered by erring on the side of gimmickry and cuteness. Here, the Art Ensemble provide the perfect mysterious and ethereal backdrop for her vocal explorations. Featuring the entire Art Ensemble of that time period and including fellow Chicago AACM member Leo Smith on second trumpet, Fontaine and Areski stretched the very notion of what pop had been and could be. With strangely charted arrangements and mixing (percussion was in the foreground and horns were muted in the background, squeezed until they sounded like snake-charming flutes), the ten tracks here defy any and all conventions and result in the most provocative popular recording of 1971 -- and that's saying something. For their part, the Art Ensemble hadn't played music this straight since before leaving Chicago, with long, drooping ballad lines contrasted with sharp Eastern figures and North African rhythmic figures built in. The finest example of how well this works, and how seductively weird it all is, is on the two-part "Tanka." Here, Malachi Favors' bass and Areski's percussion meet everything from bouzoukis to clarinets to muted trumpets to sopranino saxophones, courtesy of Joseph Jarman, Roscoe Mitchell, Smith, and Lester Bowie, who play in tandem, using striated harmonies and modal intervals in order to stretch the notion of time and space under Fontaine's vocals. The effect is eerie, chilling, and hauntingly beguiling, and sets the tone for an entire album that runs all over the stylistic map while not adhering to anything but its own strange muse. This is remarkable stuff from a very adventurous time when virtually anything was possible. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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French Music - Released September 1, 1991 | Saravah

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French Music - Released January 1, 1996 | Saravah

Booklet
Brigitte Fontaine and Areski Belkacem's final release before a retirement that lasted nearly 20 years, 1977's Vous et Nous is a remarkable album. A 33-track double album (song lengths range from barely 30 seconds to nearly seven minutes), Vous et Nous often sounds like nothing so much as what Stereolab would be doing two decades later. (The members of Stereolab are acknowledged fans of Fontaine, and the band's lovely "Brigitte" was written in tribute to her in 1995.) The instrumentation alternates between bleeping synthesizers and rattlingly primitive electronic drums on some songs and acoustic guitars and hand percussion on others. For the first time, Fontaine and Belkacem split the vocal duties about evenly; his gruff, mumbled vocals contrast nicely with her much sweeter tone, and the North African and Eastern European influences he had brought to her previous few albums are much more in evidence here. The two versions of the title track, one with a minimal electronic background and the other featuring the same Balkan-style melody played on authentic instruments, are representative of the two stylistic poles of the album. Artistically challenging yet surprisingly accessible (at least more so to a contemporary audience than it might have been upon its initial release), Vous et Nous is an endlessly fascinating cross-cultural experiment. © Stewart Mason /TiVo
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French Music - Released July 3, 2006 | Jacques Canetti Productions

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French Music - Released January 1, 1991 | Saravah

Booklet
Brigitte Fontaine, who started out sounding like a more adventurous version of Françoise Hardy, got steadily further out as the 1970s progressed. By the time of this recording, she was arguably too far out to even be categorized as a popular singer. Collaborating with songwriter Areski (who also takes some of the vocals, both alone and in partnership with Fontaine), this odd assortment of tracks includes pieces in which singsong lyrics are done a cappella or backed by nothing more than an instrument or two (not always guitar); dissonant avant-garde jazz miniatures that could serve as soundtrack material for suspense thrillers, occasionally overlaid with spoken poetry; and highly rhythmic cuts in which African drumming-like percussion patterns support Fontaine and Areski's experimental vocalizing, which can sound like bird noises or early New York "new music" exercises at times. It's not without its folky and melodic elements (particularly in some of Fontaine's singing), but it's tough listening, and not especially rewarding. This is due more to Areski's unattractively gruff and brusque vocals than Fontaine; to quote from the book of the jealous husband, he is not worthy of her. Confusingly, although the front of the sleeve bills this as a Fontaine album with the title Je Ne Connais Pas Cet Homme, the spine and back cover bill it to "Areski et Brigitte Fontaine," and the back cover gives the title Fontaine 4. © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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French Music - Released January 24, 2020 | Verycords

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French Music - Released January 1, 1997 | Saravah

Booklet
This self-titled LP from 1972 is a more successful and listenable bridge between her pop and experimental impulses than Je Ne Connais Pas Cet Homme. For one thing, Areski only co-wrote a couple of these tunes and is not often heard on vocals. More importantly, the content is less jarring and more appealing, though equally eclectic. "Brigitte" has the sort of jazz-pop-makeout music mix that will entice fans of Françoise Hardy's 1971 album La Question. "L'Auberge," by contrast, could pass muster on a classical LP, sounding like a pious church hymn. Most of the material falls between these two poles, including some spoken poetry and pieces on which Fontaine is backed by little more than African-sounding drums. It's worth checking out for fans of fractured '70s art-pop with progressive and jazz influences. © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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French Music - Released August 20, 2012 | Charly Digital

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French Music - Released January 1, 2006 | Universal Music Division Decca Records France

3 stars out of 5 -- "[A]lways captivating....LIBIDO showcases Fontaine's husky vocals with great sympathy." © TiVo
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French Music - Released January 1, 1990 | Saravah

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French Music - Released January 1, 2007 | Universal Music Division Decca Records France

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French Music - Released May 29, 2009 | I'm Single Records

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French Music - Released June 12, 2006 | Charly Records

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French Music - Released October 23, 2009 | I'm Single Records