Sublime amateurs

Vinyl sleeves 05.05.2023

It has never been easier to share your music than it is today; in the era of Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Youtube, MixCloud anyone who wants to broadcast what they create or play can do so with two clicks (and a registration). Before the internet, it was more complex. 

The famous DIY (Do It Yourself) required a few extra steps: recording yourself or having your music recorded, burning it, distributing it and communicating as you could. A real adventure that the mythical label Le Kiosque d'Orphée illustrates perfectly.
At the end of the 50's, a passionate audiophile named Georges Batard founded in Paris a small independent label open to all musical styles as well as to amateur musicians who wanted to see a concert, a few songs and various sound experiments recorded. Everything was released: French folk songs, amateur religious choirs, jazz, beat, sound illustrations, psychedelic rock, provincial folklore, progressive, memories of particular events, punk, reggae, classical, contemporary, concrete music etc. 

For more than forty years, the Kiosque d'Orphée has offered a unique panorama of French amateur music (but also from elsewhere). For example, there is a record ofspruce from the Vosges, another of theorchestra and the youth choir of the parish of Saint-Claude in Besançon, and a jazz-rock album Algue, mélodie, mélodie - rock by Jean-Luc Hamonet (which has become a cult). Today, many of these records are reissued on various contemporary labels that are adept at cryptic music.

Here are 10 records from this magnificent cave of the underground. 

Mar-Vista - Visions of Sodal Ye (1976)
When these two from Lille (Claude Cuvelier and Jean Skowron) released this rock-prog record in their youth, they certainly had no idea that in 2014 it would be reissued by Strawberry Rain, a Canadian label specializing in rare music and ranked number one for reissues. Somewhere between Tangerine Dream and French-style psychedelia mixed with La Monte Young and Terry Riley, this album is one of the label's nuggets.

Francisco Semprun & Michel Christodoulides - Incantatory worlds and carnivorous spaces (1970)
These two improvising musicians have spent a large part of their lives setting to music the choreographies and performances of the mimes Pinok and Matho. They create a rhythmic and bewitching music that reminds of certain ceremonies and ancestral rites. The two of them play all kinds of instruments and manage to install a dramatic tension that can remind some minimalist (or maximalist) music such as Charlemagne Palestine or Terry Riley .

Danielle - Véro je t'aime (1982)
Véro is the name of the dog Danielle holds in her arms. And it's hers. It's rare to find an album dedicated to her dog containing such beautiful songs with lyrics that border on kitsch - without ever sinking completely into it. Danielle's voice is soft, fair and touching. Once you get past the cover, you'll discover melodies that stay in your head and are well arranged. Special mentions to Véro je t'aime and Le Petit Mozart.

Alain Meunier - Voyage aux fonds de la mer (1979)
Also reissued(Wah Wah Records) and now legendary, this Alain Meunier album smacks of the late Klaus Schulze in Grand Bleu style. It's easy to be won over by these sincere oceanic sounds. "This record is dedicated to all underwater divers, to the "Pagure" club and to all those who fight for the protection of Nature." What better dedication could there be? 

Michel Deneuve - Le Cristal (1987) (cassette)
This instrument of the Baschet brothers continues to fascinate musicians. Used by Pierre Henry, Toru Takemitsu or Luc Ferrari, it is immediately recognizable by its sounds coming directly from space. Michel Deneuve, a former student of Alain Kremski, is one of its greatest masters and has devoted several works and recordings to it. Here is one of his first and rarest recordings containing several of his compositions. 

Olivier Greif - Sri Chinmoy's Music Played On The Piano By Haridas Olivier Greif (1980) (cassette)
This is a very rare recording. Olivier Greif, the French composer who died in 2000, was the disciple of an Indian spiritual master for almost 10 years. This former student of Berio, with a flamboyant musical career, withdrew from the world, his friends and composition to put himself at the service of this guru. He transcribed, orchestrated and directed choirs where the spiritual songs of his master were performed in concerts before thousands of people. Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin were also part of the adventure. Greif's gifts as an improviser were proverbial; to hear him freely interpret these melodies (as De Hartman did for Gurdjieff) makes any Greifian music lover curious...

Vocal group of the Foyer D'Education Populaire De Villefranche De Rouergue - Larzac (1975)
" There are the cries of the rich, there are the cries of the poor, there are the cries that have only known the bastards " On the Causse du Larzac since 1971 a merciless war has been going on against the French state that wants to enlarge a military camp. The nationalist conscience of the Aveyronnais awakens and revolts. Lanza del Vasto emerges in all this fight which makes be born an ecological conscience to a whole country. When a label takes a stand.

Didier Bocquet - Eclipse (1977)
Reissued in 2018 by Caméléon Records, this French synth-cosmic record is the first from one of the pioneers of the genre. For lovers of experimental ambient in search of experimental rarities. Didier Bocquet has now moved on but this master stroke of his youth continues its groove.

Madhya - Meditations on the threshold (1987)
This record has everything to be just a by-product of ambient (the cover is quite a program) and relaxation music. However, when you listen to it, there is a variety of timbres, harmonies and melodies that make it a much richer record than our preconceived ideas would suggest. On the vibraphone, an unknown man named Thierry Guinot (founding member of Madhya) with a subtle and fine playing. Saxophone, flute and gong are added to two synthesizers for 45 minutes of futuristic music flirting with spiritual jazz and a metaphysical music not so far from the Rosicrucian fascinations of a Satie

Claire and Pascal Genneret - The Nuclear Polka (1980)
Certainly the most incredible cover of the entire Kiosque d'Orphée. This committed couple takes a musical stand and insists: " With nuclear power we will all die, with nuclear power we will all die but there will be electricity ". But all this in music, accompanied by Philippe Vézien's accordion and supported by the Mouvement Écologiste Briard and the Groupe Femmes de Troyes. 

François Mardirossian

To go further in this labyrinthine label, the Playlist


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